Most people could remove Java and not notice a difference. If you do use Java, you should be aware of the security problems and take proper precautions. You’ll also need to know whether you need the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) or the Java Development Kit (JDK).
You May Not Need To Install Java
Do you use a specific website or program that requires Java? If not, you don’t actually need it installed. Java just allows you to run software written in Java, and you may be surprised by how few websites and programs actually require Java.
JRE vs. JDK
The main Java download website offers the Java Runtime Environment, also known as the JRE. This is the one you probably need. It includes the basic software that lets you run Java applets and desktop applications on your computer.
Update Java Often
If you need Java installed, you’ll want to update it often. By default, Java checks for updates once every month – not a very reassuring default setting for a program that’s so frequently exploited. You can fix this, though.
To do so, open the Control Panel from the Start menu, click the Programs category, and click the Java icon.
Use the Advanced button on the Update tab to select a better update frequently, such as “Daily.”
Some Software Requires Older Versions
Depending on the the software you use, you may not be able to run the latest, secure versions of Java. Some websites and applications specify a specific version of Java and force you to use an outdated, vulnerable version of Java. This is why it’s possible to have multiple versions of Java installed on the same system, although Oracle recommends against this.
Oracle maintains an archive where you can download older versions if you need to, while noting that they’re full of security holes and vulnerable to attack.
Installing Java Applets Can Be Dangerous
Web browsers and plugins such as Flash isolate web content from your computer. A website with a Flash-based video player can’t break out of your browser and tamper with your computer (barring security vulnerabilities). Java does the same thing for most applets, which it runs by default – but it also allows applets to prompt you for full permissions.
If you see a security warning box and click the Run button, your computer could be at risk. Think of clicking the Run button like downloading and installing an application onto your computer – it’s basically the same thing. Only do this if you trust the publisher.
Do you use Java, or did you not even install Java on your computer? Let us know in the comments. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask those, too.