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Java, which is developed by Sun Microsystems, is a programming language. It has been popular for many years because it is a language designed to be run on any system. It is very commonly found in many online applications, such as message boards or web-based chat rooms. In fact, Java is all over the web in places you may not even realize. Because of its cross-platform appeal and versatility, the old Java slogan of ‘Write Once, Run Anywhere’ still holds true today.
Since Java has been around for many years, it is constantly being updated. Some Java applets may not even run without the more current version installed, so you should try to keep it updated. If you have a fairly recently installed version, chances are it is already trying to update itself, and you will get a little notice on your taskbar that says ‘Java update ready to be installed’. If not, you may need to manually update the software yourself.
All you have to do is go to the Java website and download the installer file for the latest version of Java. Just go to the download page and get the appropriate version for your system. I prefer to get the Windows ‘offline’ version because it is self-contained. Just watch out for the install options because it will sometimes try to also install other software such as OpenOffice or Google Toolbar with the Java update.
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There has been one time at my work where I actually had to downgrade Java in order to make an online application run. Weird, isn’t it? The Java app was on some government website and it required a specific version to run, so I had to go find that version. Luckily, Sun Microsystems makes the archived versions available on their website, so if you run into this problem you can also get what you need. Just don’t forget to update your Java back to the current version after you are finished.
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Personally, I like to disable to the Java Update Scheduler, especially on older machines. I’ve seen it greatly increase the boot time of older computers that need an update installed because the scheduler checks as soon as the machine goes online, then it pre-downloads some of the installer. On an old PC that may not be so fast or the hard drive may be wearing out, I’ve seen it grind away for several long minutes while trying to run the Java Update after it was detected. This is why I think it is best to just go to the Sun Microsystems Java website and manually download it. The choice is up to you.
To disable Java’s automatic update in either Windows XP or Vista, just go into Control Panel – Java, then click on the Update tab and uncheck the box for ‘Check for Updates Automatically’. Just don’t forget to manually check for updates about once every couple of months after you uncheck that box.