When a computer is running software, it loads much of the program into its memory.

If we managed to update that same software on the hard disk or solid state drive (SSD), then the program may panic as everything will be different – it won’t be able to find the files that were there a moment ago. The version in memory will not be compatible with the version on the hard disk or SSD. Lots of errors will be thrown and your computer may crash.

To prevent this, operating systems usually insist that when major updates are needed, we shut down the software being updated, then restart with the new software installed.

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Asked by: Betty Dixon, Stoke-on-Trent

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Dr Peter Bentley is a computer scientist and author who is based at University College London. He is the author of books including 10 Short Lessons in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics and Digital Biology: How nature is transforming our technology and our lives.