[YES!] You Really Need Windows Auto-Update
Earlier this week, Microsoft released several security patches rated Critical, which fixed vulnerabilities that could be exploited to give an attacker complete control of a computer. Did your Windows system automatically apply those patches? Read on to learn why you need to use Windows Update, and tweak it with my recommended settings...
Check Your Windows Update Settings
“The early bird catches the worm,” say early adopters who feel that jumping on new tech right away gives them advantages over latecomers. “Yeah, but he doesn’t catch the worm who sleeps late,” respond those who “wait until the bugs are worked out” of anything new. There are pros and cons to caution and daring when it comes to new things, like technology.
But too many people extend their wait-and-see policy to Windows Update. They don’t want to receive the newest updates until they see how the updates work for early adopters. Indeed, Microsoft has issued updates that caused problems; InfoWorld published a roundup of “20 Epic Windows Auto-Update Meltdowns” that occurred between November, 2001 and December, 2014. That slideshow ends with this advice: “... set Automatic Update to Notify but Don't Download on any machine controlled by a reasonably savvy Windows jockey.”
Unfortunately, a lot of people are not “a reasonably savvy Windows jockey.” They aren’t paid to be, and so most them can’t afford the time to read every technical bulletin that would help them decide which Windows updates they need and skip the rest. Most people have only one practical choice: install all important updates or install none.
Installing none of the steady stream of Windows updates is a recipe for certain disaster. An unpatched system steadily deteriorates in performance, reliability, and security compared to a system that is kept updated. That’s not a prediction, it’s an indisputable fact.
Waiting to see if a new batch of updates sparks a wave of complaints is only slightly better than installing no updates at all. At best, this strategy leaves your system vulnerable for a certain period of time to hackers who know where to attack, thanks to Microsoft’s worldwide announcements of vulnerabilities and patches for them.
Sometimes Later Never Comes
At worst, you may forget to install those critical updates “later.” And let's face it -- you'll probably forget most of the time, if you try to manage it on your own. The fact is, there is more to lose than there is to gain by adopting a “wait and see, then do it yourself” approach to Windows updates.
Early this week, Microsoft pushed out 13 security patches via Windows Update. Six were rated Critical and seven of them were rated Important. Several of them affect ALL versions of the Windows operating system, and could allow an attacker to gain full control of an affected system. If you're running Windows Update on auto-pilot, your system was patched automatically. If you're managing things yourself, how long do you think you should wait before applying those patches?
If you happen to be among the VERY few users who are affected by a botched update, it’s not going to destroy your computer - or your credit rating, as identity theft enabled by an unpatched vulnerability may do. In most cases, you can roll back the problematic update with System Restore. At worst, you’ll tear out a handful of hairs while waiting for Microsoft to issue a revised patch, and that generally takes only a few days.
My Windows Update Recommended Settings
My advice, which I follow myself, is to enable automatic installation of “Important” Windows updates, the ones that are urgently needed to patch specific security holes. Setting Windows Update to automatically install “recommended” updates with important ones is optional. The benefit is automatic improvements in performance; the downside is more opportunity for an update to go horribly wrong. Recommended updates do not address security issues.
If you don’t want the “Get Windows 10 Now” nagware and the 4GB Windows 10 installation package to show up on your system uninvited, turn off automatic installation of Recommended updates. If you encounter a specific performance issue (e. g. mouse is behaving erratically), check the available Recommended updates for one that addresses that issue and install it manually.
Click the Start button, type Windows Update, and press Enter. Next, click the Change settings link. Tweak your settings as decribed above, and you're done.
Do You Feel Lucky?
It’s one thing to be cautious about installing updates and quite another to be reckless about clinging to obsolete, no longer supported versions of Windows. Incredibly, nearly 11% of Windows machines are still running Windows XP, and another 1.62% are running Vista. These people are driving on bald tires, endangering themselves and every computer with which theirs come into contact.
No, your 14 year-old operating system is not “good enough” and it doesn’t matter if you think you’ve never caught a virus. It’s just a matter of time until your clunker becomes a bot in some cybercrooks’ harem of malware-distributing, spam-spewing zombies, and you won’t even know what harm you’re doing to the rest of us.
Remember those 13 security vulnerabilities that Microsoft patched this week? Are any of those flaws, which could allow an attacker to "take control of an affected system... install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights" being fixed in Windows XP? No. Could a Windows XP user be duped into opening a document, or clicking on an email attachment, which exploits one of these unpatched vulnerabilities? Yes.
I am relieved and gratified to note that only 6.67% of visitors to AskBobRankin.com are running XP or Vista, according to Google Analytics, about half the rate in the general population. But I would really like to see a zero in that statistics field.
The bottom line here is that keeping your software up to date is more important than ever. I urge all readers on Windows 7, 8 and 10 to check Windows Update settings, and make sure that it says "Install updates automatically" in the "Important updates" section. You do so by clicking the Start button, then typing Windows Update.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 12 Feb 2016
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- [YES!] You Really Need Windows Auto-Update (Posted: 12 Feb 2016)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved