Friday, October 22, 2010

Windows Update

Microsoft windows updates are an important part of any Windows user’s life.  It seems like there is always some update or another just begging to be installed.  Some people get frustrated at how often Windows updates come up that they may ignore them for long periods of time or flat out disable them.   This is never a good idea though.

Did you know that many computer issues can be prevented from occurring simply by installing Microsoft Windows Updates?  Security updates (also known as critical updates) are routinely released to help eliminate vulnerabilities that malicious software exploit while other updates correct small bugs in the operating system or enhance its overall functionality.   Sometimes you may even see driver updates come up as an optional update, but optional Windows updates do not usually have to be installed with the same urgency as the critical security ones.   Occasionally they update so many things at once that they release a large update known as a service pack. 

Microsoft Windows updates can be also used for more than just updating the operating system.  If you have other Microsoft products such as Microsoft Office, you can choose to integrate that product’s updates in with the updates for the operating system.  All in all this is a very handy tool.

Once Windows XP SP2 has been installed, users will be presented the screen shown below on the first reboot after the SP2 installation.

Automatic Updates is in new Windows Security Center (WSC) that is supposed to monitor essential security elements of the system. If you chose the first option shown in the above screenshot, WSC will report that Automatic Updates is ON. If you chose the second option, WSC will report that Automatic Updates has not been configured as shown in the screenshot below.

There are four options available for Automatic Updates. Obviously I can't tell you which option is right for your situation. I will tell you what I think about each option and why I would or wouldn't use it.

1. Automatic (recommended) Option - There is no way I would ever allow this option. Just because a security update, service pack or critical update is issued, it doesn't mean it's absolutely necessary for every system. Giving any application or utility the right to download and install something automatically on your system is just asking for trouble.

2. Download Updates for Me, But Let Me Choose When to Install Them Option - This is a better choice than the first option but still not ideal. On the plus side, the user is at least consulted about when (or if) the downloaded updates will be installed. The downside is that bandwidth and hard drive space are wasted if an update is downloaded that you don't need and will never be installed.

3. Notify Me But Don't Automatically Download or Install Them Option - To me, this is the ideal option. Let me know there is an update available. From there I can go to Windows Update or look it up on the Microsoft site to get more information and determine if it's necessary and appropriate for the system and how it is used. Even if the update is appropriate, I may want to delay downloading and installing it until I see how it's impacting other user systems and this option provides that opportunity without wasted effort.

4. Turn Off Automatic Updates Option - There are certain situations where you really don't want any updates at all. If one or all of your systems fall into this category, you'll know. The option is available if needed, but it will likely be a very small percentage of users that should select this option.

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