A subscriber wrote me to ask about having multiple versions of Java:
Hello Terry, What is Java? I know it is required in order to open and use certain types of programs, but there are so many versions and variations of it that it becomes confusing. Of all the options available, what would be recommended for just day to day computering? I have “Java Runtime Environment 5.0 Update 11″ and ” Java(TM) 6 update 13″. What do these versions do for me? Are there any of the multitude of versions that I should have? As an update becomes available and installed, should I delete the older version?
For a quick answer: You would probably be OK to delete the earlier versions. However, you may have a program that uses Java and is tied to the earlier version that was on your computer when you installed that program. You might have to reinstall that program after deleting the earlier version of Java. I had that problem with early versions of the home theater PC software I use called SageTV (i.e. v1 and v2, while v6 is the current major release).
You can check to see what version you have by going to www.java.com . Click on the Free Java Download button and then the Test your Java Virtual Machine (JVM) link. For Windows XP, Version 6 Update 13 is the latest/current one.
If you need to download Java, click on Downloads and then the “all Java downloads here” link. Save the file to your computer – and then install it. That’s my recommendation for any program that you download – save to the hard drive and then install. That way, if you need to reinstall, you’ve got the installation program available.
Ultimately, you should only need one versions of Java installed — they’re not different software packages. They’re really the current version (assuming you’ve installed the current) and older versions. Like any software upgrade, things that used the earlier version might break when you upgrade to a later version.
Java is one of those rare programs that will install the new version into its own version folder, rather than replace the older version. That’s the nature of Edwin’s question. The user has to remove the previous versions, if they want to — and they should, as upgrades are often include both functional and security fixes. If you don’t remove the older version, you have not fixed the security problem.