Secunia has released a beta version of its PSI 3.0 utility that automatically downloads updates for Windows programs and plug-ins created by thousands of third-party vendors.

Personal Software Inspector (PSI) 3.0, the latest in the Danish security company's line of out-of-date-software scanners, will ship in final form in June.

Secunia pitched PSI 3.0 as a silent update mechanism for Windows software whose makers, unlike Microsoft and a few other developers, have not created a background tool to keep their programs up-to-date.

"The new version offers extended automatic patching using the Secunia Package System (SPS), thereby removing the dependency on vendors providing silent installers," Secunia said.

Customised installation packages

SPS is Secunia's proprietary tool for creating customised installation packages, and was borrowed from the company's enterprise utility, Corporate Software Inspector.

PSI 3.0 scans a user's Windows PC and examines a slew of files - primarily .exe, .dll and .ocx files - to collect meta-data recorded on the hard drive by vendors when one of the applications or other programs are installed. The utility then ships that data to Secunia's servers, where it's matched against a list of file signatures.

When the signatures on a PC don't match those on Secunia's list, PSI 3.0 interprets that as indicating out-of-date software. PSI then assembles the required updates, pushes them to the machine and installs them.

Some user interaction may be required but for the most part it's a fire-and-forget tool. There are no settings to modify, for example, and the utility automatically scans the system every seven days.

Secunia hopes that PSI plugs holes left open by users who don't regularly patch all the programs on their PCs.

Corporate Software Inspector

"We are aiming to make PSI 3.0 the only tool that users need to keep all their software up-to-date," said Secunia's chief security officer Thomas Kristensen.

Secunia has hammered the update message for years, most recently with a report earlier this month that said the typical PC user has to master 11 different update mechanisms in addition to the one that Microsoft provides.

PSI 3.0 runs on Windows XP Service Pack 3 (SP3), Windows Vista and Windows 7. It can be downloaded free of charge from Secunia's website.

Enterprise users can purchase Corporate Software Inspector 5.0, which is able to queue up and deploy updates from third-party vendors patches using Microsoft's widely-used Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) patch management tool.

Secunia's PSI 3.0 automatically scans a Windows PC for outdated software, then silently serves up the newest versions.