The Google Nexus 7 tab pictured here runs on Jelly Bean.

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Cupcake, Donut, Éclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean. Either we're talking about a stash of confiscated food items from a Weight Watchers group picnic, or we're about to spend some time discussing Android operating system (OS) upgrades. Thank goodness it's the latter of the two.

Whereas Apple computer OSes get named for man-eating felines (Mountain Lion, Snow Leopard) and Microsoft chooses a seemingly incoherent assortment of letters, numbers and words (XP, 7, Vista), Google's Android line goes for a subtler, tastier approach. But don't let the friendly naming distract you; the company's schedule of releases is as aggressive as it gets. Those eight versions were released between 2009 and 2012.

That speed causes a common problem for tablet users who are prone to comments like this: "My hardware is running on Honeycomb (version 3.0). Can I upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.0), or can I leapfrog right to Jelly Bean (version 4.1)? Can my tablet even handle it?"

Those are all great, common questions. But before we even talk about upgrading anything, take a few minutes to back up your entire tablet using Android's built-in tools. It's easy enough. Just go to Settings, then Privacy and check the boxes for "Back Up My Data" and "Automatic Restore." This way, if the upgrade goes badly and you have to reset your OS, at least everything from photos to apps and settings will be saved off your tablet.

Now that we have that formality out of the way, we're ready to talk about upgrading your Android software.