We look at the reasons why you should update Java for better security, and more.
Java usage isn’t as widespread as in years gone by but it is still susceptible to virus attack. Oracle (formerly Sun) Java is a common programming language – tiny programs run inside a web browser to allow you to play web based games etc.
Java is installed as an add-on or extension into the web browser and is one of the core Windows programs that you should keep updated.
You may already have it on your computer – some websites use Java programs because they are portable (able to be used by different computers with different operating systems) and are used to enhance web pages.
Without it there are still a few websites you may not be able to use fully or they may not display properly – and they’ll keep prompting you to install it.
Note: Java is blocked by default in modern versions of Google Chrome and Firefox but it is still used in Internet Explorer, including the current IE11.
Why Update Java?
We have lost count of the number of computers we have seen with very old versions of Java installed.
Many people ignore repeated reminders to update it because they don’t really know what it is or are afraid updating may cause problems. However, there are 2 very good reasons to keep it up to date:
Better Performance and Reliability
The latest version of Java provides better performance and improved compatibility with new releases of web browsers and Windows security or Feature updates.
Because Java used to be very popular on many websites, it is still often the target of virus attack.
Newer versions with security updates help block any security holes found in Java and make your computer safer – using an old version leaves your computer more exposed to viruses and other malware.
How To Update Java
You can check which version of Java you have installed by visiting Oracle’s website here and clicking the ‘Agree and Continue’ button. Follow the instructions and at the end you should see a message telling you whether you have the latest version installed – as at April 2019 the latest is Version 8 Update 211.
If your version is older (or you do not have Java installed) you will be prompted to download and install the latest version.
Follow the simple instructions but keep an eye out for any other options ticked during the installation process e.g. the Google Toolbar – untick these options if you do not want to install them as well.
The latest version will automatically overwrite the last older version and you will now be up to date. Remember to update Java on a regular basis – a reminder will pop up in your system tray (bottom right of the screen) whenever a new version is available.
Now Uninstall Older Versions
Later versions of Java automatically uninstall the previous version during the installation process so, in future, you should only ever have one version on your computer.
However, older versions did not used to remove the previous version when they were installed – so you may still have older versions on your computer.
Having them there leaves you open to security and performance issues e.g. a virus infected webpage would try to use the oldest (most unsafe) version of Java that was installed on your computer – so it’s a good idea to uninstall any older versions now.
To remove older versions just uninstall them from Control Panel (Programs and Features) as you would remove any other program from your computer.
Note: Really old versions of Java may appear in the list of installed programs as ‘J2SE Runtime Environment’ or ‘Java 2 Runtime Environment’ – uninstall these too.
If you use Java it is always good practice to keep it up to date, for better security and performance.
However, if you don’t actually need Java at all (very few websites still use it) then just uninstall Java for best security – and fewer updates.
Even if you do need it for an offline app like LibreOffice, if you don’t need Java apps to run on websites then you should still disable Java in all web browsers to prevent online attacks.