Which Version of Java?

Java logo, trademark of Oracle

Often when I work on a client computer I find multiple versions of Java software installed. And many clients wonder if uninstalling older versions helps anything. It does, but not as much as one would hope.

Java is a software platform owned by Oracle Corp and found in most industries around the world in some form. It's found on desktop and laptop computers, game consoles and mobile phones, Blu-ray players, and a host of other small electronics. But most people only think about Java when it nags them to install the latest version.

Not everyone needs Java. I wouldn't recommend it until you find you need it. But when setting up a new computer, I usually install it. I've had a few callbacks when the client says a website doesn't work that he or she uses regularly. Of course, the site uses Java.

And yes, if Java is installed, you should install those updates when prompted.

java piggybackSidenote: Any installer that comes bundled with other offers (piggyback installers) gets a black mark in my book. That includes Java. You don't have to install Ask Toolbar. Or other well-meaning but useless junk. I'm not alone in this opinion.

Java made the news a few weeks ago when the Department of Homeland Security recommended that users turn off Java because of a vulnerability. Oracle patched that security hole. Then others emerged. Some researchers still recommend disabling Java. Java itself says, "We highly recommend users uninstall all older versions of Java from your system."

Unfortunately, by default Java doesn't remove older versions. That's intentional because some software only works with particular versions of Java. Removing the older version would render that software inoperable. However, most people do not use such software on their computers. The net effect is that Java versions tend to pile up like so many melon rinds in Kipling's Just So Story about the Elephant's Child. No one wants to be untidy, but there they are.

If you need Java, check if you have the latest version (at this moment, Version 7 Update 11). Java offers a website to verify the recommended Java version for your computer.

Then, uninstall older versions of Java. Go to Control Panel > Uninstall a Program (or, Add/Remove Programs, in Windows XP) > Select older versions of Java one by one and remove them.

Updating Java helps. Removing older versions helps. And as always when prompted, only click to run Java applets from websites you know are trustworthy. When in doubt, bug out.

Just for the record: JavaScript is an entirely separate technology. So is jQuery.

The Java logo is a registered trademark of Oracle Corporation.