Other than his emotion chip (which was more like adding a hardware peripheral), has Data ever had software upgrades?

I realize his programming was designed to learn and different areas of his positronic brain became "unlocked" (like dreaming) as he "evolved". But I don't think that really counts as a software (or firmware) upgrade.

  • I'm not sure anything qualifies as a "software upgrade" for something like Data. Data isn't just a computer program running on a serial processor; he's got a highly-parallelized brain much like ours. The only "software" he has is therefore things like memories and learned motor control. Specific sub-processors might be reconfigured, or he could upgrade to a newer model, but, like the emotion chip, those are more hardware than software. In fact, he claimed that a pure software design would lose certain aspects of his personality.
    – MichaelS
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 3:53
  • How about in "Fistful of Datas," when tinkering by Geordi allowed Data to wirelessly communicate with ship systems? Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 4:04
  • Yes, the chip itself was hardware, but such hardware requires software (like drivers) and runs software itself. After all, the emotions were programs and sub-routines, remember?
    – user60653
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 4:11
  • What about when he meets Juliana Tainer, who tells him they had to add some modesty subroutines to get him to wear pants? While I admit by definition a subroutine is not a full-system upgrade, it nonetheless adds a dimension to his functionality. Would you say "Streaker Data" got a software upgrade into the Data of TNG?
    – Xplodotron
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 4:19
  • @y0gapants: Chips can have software, but they certainly don't require any. And in the Star Trek universe, a "subroutine" isn't always software. Quite often, they're talking about a chunk of hardware that performs some logical function. Even the "software" in the EMH program is more closely related to a hardware neural network than the kind of code we typically generate nowadays. I don't think you can directly equate modern programming jargon with the terms used on the show. First, because Sci-Fi writers are typically clueless about the Sci, and second, because the tech just doesn't correlate.
    – MichaelS
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 8:15

1 Answer 1


Data's software is positronic and hence continually updated by his experiences. Occasionally Data will encounter a situation that requires a more rapid enhancement of his basic software, at which point he artificially adds additional "subroutines" that he can call upon. You could argue that these represent a software upgrade.

We see this process most clearly in the episode "In Theory" where Data dumps the entire ship's catalogue of back-issues of Cosmo into his brain wholesale, resulting in him becoming the best/worst boyfriend of all time.

DATA: You are much more than that, Jenna. I have written a subroutine specifically for you -- a program within the program. I have devoted a considerable share of my internal resources to its development. - TNG: In theory

and in "Inheritance" where we learn that after trying (unsuccessfully) to use logical arguments to convince Data to wear clothing, Dr. Soong ultimately resorted to simply making him modest by adding additional programming.

JULIANA: We asked you to dress, but you felt it was unnecessary since you didn't need protection from the elements. We actually had to write a modesty sub-routine to get you to keep your clothes on. - TNG: Inheritance

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