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Who releases more updates? WordPress or Microsoft?

So I’m sitting here watching some basketball games tonight getting ready for March Madness to begin, and I notice the Windows update icon in the bottom right corner of my screen. So I pull it up and I notice it says there is a Windows 7 Service Pack 1 update. I took a double take because I hadn’t heard of that update yet. I was building a brand new machine for a friend so I thought maybe I just installed an old version of the Windows 7 Operating System. But no, it turns out that Microsoft pushed out a service pack update to all Windows 7 users. Read a good article about the update on ZDNet.

I went to some other machines in my house and started running the updates on them as well. Of course, that pretty much killed my Internet and killed my work productivity the rest of the night. So I thought I would start this blog post as a draft and discuss why we seem to always be bombarded with updates on computers.

This Windows 7 service pack update reminded me of the service pack updates on Windows XP. I hated installing them because it could take hours to download and then even another 30 minutes or an hour just to install it. And then you crossed your fingers to make sure nothing was broken after you restarted your computer. That’s if you were brash like me and already had backups of important files in like 20 different places.

A cautious user would probably wait a little before installing the update. You should probably take a little more caution and watch forums and blogs to see if there are any major issues with the update. Then you should create a manual System Restore point before downloading the updates, and if you’re super conservative, you should even create an image of your drive before pushing “update.”

The fact is… Most normal users throw caution to the wind and just push “update” without thinking twice.

Is that a bad thing? Well, yes and no. If something goes wrong, your computer and files could be toast. All those pictures from your wedding you didn’t backup… gone. What about that resume you’ve been preparing in Microsoft Word? Probably gone too. All that “legally” downloaded music you’ve been rocking out to? Well, that could be gone too. If you don’t have a proper computer backup before you run updates, you could actually lose everything.

But more often than not, you don’t notice a thing and everything continues as normal. You see, companies like Microsoft and WordPress are HUGE. Literally… they have millions of users worldwide and they run a LOT of tests. They typically don’t release major updates like service pack updates without first running through extensive beta tests. Sure there are conspiracy theories that say these large companies purposely want their programs to always be somewhat broken so you purchase newer equipment, software, etc. But I don’t buy into that hype. Have you used Windows 7? In my opinion, it’s as slick as anything those white Apple boys have ever produced. And install it on a top-of-the-line desktop computer, and you have yourself a very nice system.

It’s the same thing with WordPress Updates.

If you’ve ever personally talked to any of the employees at Automattic (the parent company that develops WordPress), you know they genuinely care about producing high quality products. And they take their jobs very seriously knowing the impact they have on millions of wordpress website owners out there. The WordPress 3.0 update this past year was essentially like Microsoft releasing a new operating system. The WordPress team completely overhauled the code, tweaked all the annoying features, and made some snazzy improvements. The smaller releases like 3.1 or 3.2 are more like Microsoft’s service pack updates. Although they aren’t entirely new systems, they have relatively major security updates and other bug fixes to improve the performance of your blog or website.

We absolutely recommend you install WordPress updates.

Umm, if you haven’t noticed the name of this category, it’s titled WordPress Updates. That’s because we feel one of the most important things you can do to keep your wordpress site from getting hacked is by installing the latest updates. The Automattic team is aware of the latest security holes and bugs in the code and they do their best to quickly patch up any issues.

Of course, like we mention throughout this site, you should always, ALWAYS have a backup before you even think of pushing “update”. And it’s also wise advice to have a testing environment or even a duplicate site on your server where you can install the update before pushing the update button on your live website. Just like with Microsoft updates, it’s possible that something in the updates won’t play well with your theme or a plugin, and you could break things and bring down your site.

Is it WordPress’s fault if an update breaks your site?

Absolutely not. Did you not read the paragraph above? It’s your responsibility as the site owner to have a backup and to test the update on a dummy site or in a testing environment. And really, what room do you have to complain if something breaks? There are millions of wordpress users and even more variations of sites, themes, plugins, etc. It’s entirely impossible for WordPress, Microsoft, or any company (no matter how big they are) to test every possible combination of services running on a website.

It’s our belief that the WordPress code is built in such a way that updates will rarely break a site. There will always be minor bugs and problems that arise from updates, but I remember this past summer at WordCamp when Matt Mullenweg was discussing the release of WordPress 3.0. He said that he always gets nervous when releasing a large update like a new WordPress version and he was surprised–shocked actually–that they heard very little negative discussion regarding the 3.0 update after it was released. Days went by, then weeks passed by, and they didn’t receive a substantial number of complaint tickets. It was the most successful release they had ever put out there, and it was downloaded by more people than any previous version.

That’s a testament to the power and high quality of WordPress. So keep building successful sites, and keep clicking that “update” button with more confidence each time.

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