How to Keep Programs up to Date without Automatic Updates

Here are a couple of interesting tricks for dealing with programs (like Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit) that don’t automatically update themselves …

Automatic updates can be quite helpful at times. While some users prefer to download and install updates manually as it gives them more control over the process and options to test an update first before it is applied, it is without doubt the best option for users who don’t do so. While many programs ship with an automatic update feature or at least inform you when an update is available, this is not the case for all programs out there.

I run Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit on a Windows 7 system for example and this program does not notify you about updates nor does it install them automatically.

The result was that I ran an old version of it that was somewhat outdated.

So what can you do to avoid this situation?

The only feasible option is to automate the process. While you can check the developer website or a third-party site regularly, chance is quite high that you will receive delayed information about the update.

Automation ensures that you are notified the moment the software is updated. It is sometimes possible to subscribe to RSS feeds for that information but that too is not used by all developers.

The next best thing are monitoring tools that inform you when contents on a web page change.

Web Content Monitor

web content monitor

Web Content Monitor is a free extension for the Firefox web browser that provides you with options to monitor specific content areas on websites.

The benefit of this approach is that you are only notified if the selected element on the website changes. If you pick the version number or release date for example, you will only be notified by the extension if one of those changes and not if the developer updates the description or replaces an image on it.

  1. After you have installed Web Content Monitor load the program homepage that lists either a release date or version information.
  2. Right-click after load and select the monitor content option from the context menu.
  3. This makes every element on the page selectable. Just hover the mouse over the version or other information that identify releases and click on the element once it has been selected.
  4. All that is left to do then is to click on the save button.

The extension for Firefox checks for updates every hour. It is possible to modify the interval (down to every minute) and change the notification types (popup, sound or icon).

Distill Web Monitor

distill-web-monitor

The Google Chrome extension Distill Web Monitor works in a similar fashion.

  • Once you have installed it open the web page you want to monitor.
  • Click on the extension icon and select “select elements to watch”.
  • This makes all elements on the page selectable. Hover the mouse over the element, click on it and then on save selections to save it.

I could not figure out how to open the settings page of the extension though which is visible on screenshots on the store page.

Update: You click on Watchlist after you click on the icon to open the settings page where you can modify intervals and such.

Alternatives for Chrome are Page Monitor, which can only monitor complete pages for changes though, or Web Content Monitor which seems to be the Chrome equivalent of the Firefox extension.

All methods discussed have the disadvantage that checks are only performed if the browser is open. While that may not be an issue for many users, it may be for some.

If you prefer a desktop program try WebMon instead. While it is not super easy to set up, it can be used to monitor specific elements on a page for changes.

Check out 5 tools to monitor web page changes for other alternatives.

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