The term upgrade refers to the replacement of a product with a newer version of the same product. It is most often used in computing and consumer electronics, generally meaning 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. Contrast update and replace. See also laptop upgrade.

Audiophiles use the word upgrade to describe the replacement of a product with a better-quality product with the aim of bringing enhancements to sound quality.


Computing and consumer electronics

Common hardware upgrades include (for example) installing additional memory (RAM), adding larger hard disks, replacing microprocessor cards or graphics cards, and installing new versions of software. Many other upgrades are often 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 scepticism for a short time after release (see "Risks").[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.

When one replaces a product made by one supplier with a product made by a different supplier, one carries out a competitive upgrade.


Although developers 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.[2] Similar gaffes have occurred: from important government systems[3] 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.


The hobby of audiophilia offers a rich playground for potential upgraders and tweakers.

Audiophile circles use the noun "upgrade" to describe the replacement of a system component or components, for example a low quality or low powered electronic amplifier, with a better quality or more powerful amplifier from the same or different manufacturer's product range ostensibly to improve on the quality of reproduced music from a hi-fi system.

However, the description generally excludes the modification to the sound using different types of interconnect cables, or the replacement of electronic components within the system components by the owners in order to customise the sound, as this would constitute DIY or tweaking.

The word "upgrade" has spawned the noun upgraditis, used to describe a person's obsession, compulsion, or addiction (akin to a disease) to perpetually changing his/her hi-fi system components in order to obtain ever greater enjoyment and fulfillment through enhancements to sound quality. Although the original aim is to improve the sound quality, persons with extreme manifestations of this disorder may completely lose sight of the objective and make frequently and highly expensive component changes for their own sake.


  1. ^ Lea Rush (2007-08-07). "Windows Vista patch ready for download". News Digest IT News Digest. (Web link). Retrieved 2008-07-30. 
  2. ^ Williams, Martyn (2005-11-01). "Software glitch halts Tokyo Stock Exchange". InfoWorld. http://www.infoworld.com/article/05/11/01/HNtokyoexchange_1.html?APPLICATION%20PERFORMANCE%20MANAGEMENT. Retrieved 2008-07-30. 
  3. ^ Associated Press (2006-04-20). "Official: Software glitch, not bomb, shut airport". MSNBC. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12411853/. Retrieved 2008-07-30. 

See also

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