Tips to Updating and Upgrading with Eclipse
There are three broad categories of users when it comes to upgrading, whether we are talking about software applications, operating systems, or hardware. The first category only upgrades when there is a highly compelling reason, such as a new feature that will increase productivity or enjoyment. The second category upgrades on a regular basis because they have found in the past that many multi-generational upgrades are far more difficult than upgrading regularly with each increment. The third category generally prefaces their upgrade path with the words "Ooh! Shiny." Although I will address only the needs of the first two types of users here in relationship to Eclipse, we should be thankful to that third category of user as they are the ones that bought enough LCD monitors when they were outrageously expensive so that the manufacturers could justify increased capacity and reasonable pricing.
For the purpose of upgrading Eclipse, there are two paths. One is the incremental approach; the other is a major version upgrade. Major version upgrades are essentially a migration, because they require a new installation. There was a time when a major upgrade was required only when the full version number increased (i.e., from 2.x to 3.x). This seems to have moved to one decimal point to the right, as in upgrading from 3.3.x (Europa) to 3.4.x (Ganymede).
Using Software Updates for Incremental Upgrades
Incremental upgrades are great for picking up regular enhancements and bug fixes. If you are the daring type who likes to use the pre-release versions, running these incremental updates on a daily basis is pretty painless. I did this myself for 2.0. Even though the regular update process for pre-releases works well for Eclipse itself, not all plug-in projects are able to keep pace with a pre-release, which leads to some of them ceasing to function after a particular update. This is the main reason that I have not gone the pre-release path since version 2.0.
In my own personal experience, I have found the Eclipse releases so stable that I only run the update when I want to try out a new plug-in that is dependant on a newer incremental release. For those times, and for those who just like to make sure they have the latest and greatest installed, here are the steps for incremental updates to Eclipse.
Eclipse provides two interfaces for updating. Both are accessible from the Help menu:
Figure 1: Two Update Paths from Help Menu
Figure 2: Different Screens, Same Options
For most purposes, the two different views provide the same functionality, leaving the choice to your own personal preference. If you are prompted to select a mirror site, use the Automatically select mirrors option to save you from continuously being prompted during high-traffic periods.
Figure 3: Use Automatically Select Mirrors to Avoid Multiple Prompts