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Renewals, Updates, Upgrades: What’s the Difference?

Posted on May 10, 2011
Renew Your Software! Upgrade to the Pro version! Remember to update your software! All these messages can be confusing, especially with two or all three at once. There are important distinctions between a renewal, an update, and an upgrade, and this guide will explain.
Renewals, Upgrades and Updates

Software is often licensed, not bought. For a product like Windows, the license is for one computer, but has no expiration date. For other products, especially products that have a need for new versions on a regular basis, the software is often sold with a license for one year, and given out as a trial version for 30 to 60 days.


If you download a trial version of a security application for your computer, expect messages from the software company during the trial period, especially as it nears the end. When the software runs, you may see a link inviting you to upgrade. An upgrade is purchasing a license for a full, pro or extended subscription period. A trial version of an anti-spyware program will stop protecting your computer after the trial period, unless you upgrade and purchase a license for a subscription.

You could also upgrade to a full version of a product if a company has a free product (different from a trial product, which ‘expires’), with less capability. If you find you like the free version, but would like to use the additional functionality found in their full product, you buy an upgrade to it. If they have more than one version of the application, you might decide you need the pro version instead of the full version, so you have extra tools, advanced settings or more ability to customize.

Another good reason for upgrading from a free version to a full version would be to get automatic updates to your software. A free version of anti-virus software will do a good job looking for viruses it knows about. An upgraded version would check the company database for new virus signatures regularly and often—perhaps multiple times a day. So your computer protection is kept very up-to-date.

Another type of upgrade that is especially common with security software involves moving from a basic product to one that is much more comprehensive in terms of both features and functionality. For instance, you may start out by purchasing a standard anti-virus program that offers great protection against viruses but doesn't address other security concerns such as spyware, phishing, or privacy issues. If you decide you want this added protection, you can upgrade to a full Internet security suite offered by the same developer—often for a substantial discount.


Getting updated virus definitions for the free version might involve you getting on the Internet, going to the company website, and getting a download of the new anti-virus information. If you don’t think of it, you could go a month without updating the anti-virus definitions on your computer. A month is quite long enough for a new virus to be released on the Internet and find its way onto your computer, where it can do incalculable damage to your files, or ruin your operating system. On the other hand, automatic regular updates of information on viruses, malware, spyware and dangerous websites are part of the service provided by a subscription for various security software products. The licensed software will take care of downloading and installing any updates without your intervention.

Updates may also mean you are sent a new version of the software, if the version is released during the course of your subscription. If your license was bought in August 2010, for a year, and the company releases their 2011 product in November 2010, many times the new version will automatically be made available to you.
And finally, an update can also be a patch from the company providing the software, to fix an issue that was discovered after you obtained the software. For example, if many users give feedback to the company that an anti-virus program is slowing down their computer, the company may release an update (or patch) that addresses this problem. Free software versions may not receive support.


When your year’s license for a security product is coming to an end, you can expect to receive renewal notices from the company, so your anti-malware or anti-virus protection does not lapse. If you renew your license to the software early, or for a longer period of time, you may find the renewal will be discounted. A renewal for a software license is no different than a renewal for your driver’s license—when the time period ends, you pay to get a new license, or extend the one you have.

In short:

·    Renewals get you access to software for another period of time;
·    Upgrades give you access to a more complete or better version of software—or to an entirely different product that is more comprehensive in nature;
·    Updates are additional information such as new virus definitions, a new version of a product you have, or even a patch for a product you already have.

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