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Wyatt Says...

July 10th, 2009

It has to be our most frequently asked question: “When will you guys add automatic updating ability to wyUpdate?”

Our answer: soon Now!. As of v2.5 wyBuild ships with a free AutomaticUpdater control.

Checking vs. Updating

First I need to clarify some confusion. There’s a difference between automatic checking and automatic updating. It’s an important difference.

Automatic checking simply checks for a new version and tells your application if there’s an update. You can do anything you want with that information. Usually, people just opt to distract their users and launch the updater.

Automatic updating is the full shebang. There isn’t an off-the-shelf updater in existence that offers true automatic updating. For an updater to be truly automatic it has to handle everything from checking for updates (the easy part), to quickly and quietly installing the updates (the hard part).

Lies, Damn Lies, and Automatic Updating


Most off-the-shelf updaters tout their ability to do automatic updates. It’s a lie. I’ve personally tried all of our competitors’ products and the best that’s offered is automatic checking with the option of launching the updater to distract the user and, oh yeah, update their product.

Don’t believe me – try them yourself. A quick google search will give you a list of 20 of our competitors. I won’t bad mouth them by name.

What’s currently in wyUpdate?

As of wyUpdate 2.1 neither automatic checking nor automatic updating is included. The reason we don’t include even the bare minimum (automatic checking) is that it introduces a huge usability problem that you, the programmer, have to solve.

Namely, what do you do once the automatic checking reports back that there’s a new version? The easy answer – the wrong answer – is you show your users wyUpdate and force them to update immediately.

This is wrong for 2 important reasons.

  1. It will distract your user. They’re using your program for a reason. If it’s a business app, they have work to get done. If it’s a consumer app like a browser, they have Facebook to visit.
  2. It will piss off your user. They will soon associate your program as the one that keeps bugging them about stuff they don’t care about.

If you bug your users enough they’ll start looking at your competitors products longingly. Don’t push them to the edge.

You should care about updates. Your users almost never will.


That’s not completely true. Your users don’t care about updates, they just want a better experience. They care about bug fixes. They care about the new great feature. But they don’t want to play janitor and keep their programs in tip-top condition. It’s just too much of a hassle.

Frankly, you’ll be lucky if 1% of your paying users actively search your website for the latest installer. It’s your job to deliver it directly to your users.

Or, to put it another way, if you run a supermarket your customers will expect clean floors and fresh food on the shelves. They don’t want to clean the floors or stock the shelves. They don’t even want to see someone doing it. But they expect it done. If it’s not done, they’ll only think about it in retrospect:

“Hey, remember that grimy store with moldy bread?”
“Yeah, thank God we finally have a Wal-Mart!”

How will wyUpdate 2.5 solve this problem?

How do you keep your users up-to-date without bothering them? That’s our problem.

In reality it’s several hundred mini-problems: how do you install an update quickly and quietly when the user’s in a rush?, what happens if the user shuts down the computer mid update?, what if the user isn’t an administrator?, what about Vista UAC?, should the updater be run as a service or a process?, how often should the updater discreetly check for updates?, what happens if the user manually checks for updates when the automatic updating is currently in progress?, what if the files are read-only?, etc, etc, etc.

We’ve solved these mini-problems in wyUpdate 2.5. We’re currently integrating and testing our solution for the thousands of edge cases.

Besides all of the behind-the-scene changes we’re making to wyUpdate, we’re also creating a new open-source component that you can include with your .NET application. It will handle all of the complexity that goes into integrating auto-update directly into your program.

Here are a few screenshots to show what we have in store:

Download the wyUpdate C# source

You can watch our progress as we add automatic updating ability to wyUpdate by checking out the sources from our subversion repository:

svn checkout http://wyupdate.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/ wyupdate-read-only

Or you can wait until it’s finished and read our full tutorial and download the full source zip file. The tutorial will be extra technical and will feature loads of C# code.

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