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Free tool silently updates most Windows software

Secunia's PSI 3.0 hits beta, eliminates the need to run scads of update services

Danish security company Secunia today released a beta version of its PSI 3.0 utility that automatically downloads updates for Windows programs and plug-ins created by thousands of third-party vendors.

Personal Software Inspector (PSI) 3.0, the latest in Secunia's line of out-of-date-software scanners, will ship in final form this June.

Secunia pitched PSI 3.0 as a silent update mechanism for Windows software whose makers, unlike Microsoft and a few other developers, have not created a background tool to keep their programs up-to-date.

"The new version...offers extended automatic patching using the Secunia Package System (SPS), thereby removing the dependency on vendors providing silent installers," said Secunia in a statement.

SPS is Secunia's proprietary tool for creating customized installation packages, and was borrowed from the company's enterprise utility, Corporate Software Inspector.

PSI 3.0 scans a user's Windows PC and examines a slew of files -- primarily .exe, .dll and .ocx files -- to collect meta-data recorded on the hard drive by vendors when one of the applications or other programs are installed. The utility then ships that data to Secunia's servers, where it's matched against a list of file signatures.

When the signatures on a PC don't match those on Secunia's list, PSI 3.0 interprets that as indicating out-of-date software. PSI then assembles the required updates, pushes them to the machine and installs them.

Some user interaction may be required -- when Computerworld ran PSI 3.0 on Windows 7, it asked to identify the language edition of Firefox that should be installed -- but for the most part it's a fire-and-forget tool. There are no settings to modify, for example, and the utility automatically scans the system every seven days.

Secunia hopes that PSI plugs holes left open by users who don't regularly patch all the programs on their PCs.

"We are aiming to make PSI 3.0 the only tool that users need to keep all their software up-to-date," Thomas Kristensen, Secunia's chief security officer, said in a statement today.

Secunia has hammered the update message for years, most recently with a report earlier this month that said the typical PC user has to master 11 different update mechanisms in addition to the one that Microsoft provides.

PSI 3.0 runs on Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3), Windows Vista and Windows 7. It can be downloaded free of charge from Secunia's website.

Enterprise users can purchase Corporate Software Inspector 5.0 , which is able to queue up and deploy updates from third-party vendors patches using Microsoft's widely-used Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) patch management tool.

Secunia's PSI 3.0 automatically scans a Windows PC for outdated software, then silently serves up the newest versions.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is [email protected] .

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com .

Read more about security in Computerworld's Security Topic Center.

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