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For the facility that upgrades bitumen (extra heavy oil) into synthetic crude oil, see upgrader. For academic upgrading, see remedial education.

Upgrading is the process of replacing a product with a newer version of the same product. In computing and consumer electronics an upgrade is generally a replacement of hardware, software or firmware with a newer or better version, in order to bring the system up to date or to improve its characteristics.

Computing and consumer electronics[edit]

Examples of common hardware upgrades include installing additional memory (RAM), adding larger hard disks, replacing microprocessor cards or graphics cards, and installing new versions of software. Many other upgrades are possible as well.

Common software upgrades include changing the version of an operating system, of an office suite, of an anti-virus program, or of various other tools.

Common firmware upgrades include the updating of the iPod control menus, the Xbox 360 dashboard, or the non-volatile flash memory that contains the embedded operating system for a consumer electronics device.

Users can often download software and firmware upgrades from the Internet. Often the download is a patch—it does not contain the new version of the software in its entirety, just the changes that need to be made. Software patches usually aim to improve functionality or solve problems with security. Rushed patches can cause more harm than good and are therefore sometimes regarded[by whom?] with skepticism for a short time after release.[1] Patches are generally free.

A software or firmware upgrade can be major or minor and the release version code-number increases accordingly. A major upgrade will change the version number, whereas a minor update will often append a ".01", ".02", ".03", etc. For example, "version 10.03" might designate the third minor upgrade of version 10. In commercial software, the minor upgrades (or updates) are generally free, but the major versions must be purchased. See also: sidegrade.

Companies usually make software upgrades for the following reasons: 1.) to support industry regulatory requirements 2.) to access emerging technologies with new features, and tools 3.) to meet the demands of changing markets 4.) to continue to receive comprehensive product support.[2]


Although developers usually produce upgrades in order to improve a product, there are risks involved—including the possibility that the upgrade will worsen the product.

Upgrades of hardware involve a risk that new hardware will not be compatible with other pieces of hardware in a system. For example, an upgrade of RAM may not be compatible with existing RAM in a computer. Other hardware components may not be compatible after either an upgrade or downgrade, due to the non-availability of compatible drivers for the hardware with a specific operating system. Conversely, there is the same risk of non-compatibility when software is upgraded or downgraded for previously functioning hardware to no longer function.

Upgrades of software introduce the risk that the new version (or patch) will contain a bug, causing the program to malfunction in some way or not to function at all. For example, in October 2005, a glitch in a software upgrade caused trading on the Tokyo Stock Exchange to shut down for most of the day.[3] Similar gaffes have occurred: from important government systems[4] to freeware on the internet.

Upgrades can also worsen a product subjectively. A user may prefer an older version even if a newer version functions perfectly as designed.

A software upgrade can be a downgrade from the point of view of the user, for example by removing features for marketing or copyright reasons, see OtherOS.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lea Rush (2007-08-07). "Windows Vista patch ready for download". NewsgroupNews Digest IT News Digest Check |newsgroup= value (help). Retrieved 2008-07-30. 
  2. ^ Marini, Paul. "Best Practices for a Successful Software Upgrade". Sparta Systems. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  3. ^ Williams, Martyn (2005-11-01). "Software glitch halts Tokyo Stock Exchange". InfoWorld. Retrieved 2008-07-30. 
  4. ^ Associated Press (2006-04-20). "Official: Software glitch, not bomb, shut airport". MSNBC. Retrieved 2008-07-30.