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Microsoft Windows Security Updates

I love computers and technology. E-mail, the Internet, and the power of computing have made my life easier and more interesting. Yet, since we are still at the beginning of the technology tsunami, we sometimes have to deal with major computer stumbling blocks.

One of these obstacles is updating software. I wish that all software were so well written that it was completely effective, efficient, and secure. This, however, is far from today's software scenario. Today's software is rushed to market. Inefficiencies and security holes are found after the software's release. A security hole is an entry point through which hackers and virus creators can infiltrate a computer, steal personal information, and perform other devious tasks. When a software manufacturer finds a hole or deficiency in their software they develop a software update to correct the problem. This update is often called a patch since it is like putting a band-aid or patch over the hole to repair it. After the patch is developed, the manufacturer posts it on their Web site and the computer end user is expected to download and install the patch.

We tend to live in a world that is guided by the old "If it ain't broken, don't fix it." mentality. Most people feel that once they get your computer up and running, they should just leave everything as it is. To many, updating the software means increasing the possibility that something will get screwed up.

Unfortunately in today's world, often the software really is broken and desperately needs to be repaired. The number of Windows updates that Microsoft has released this year to patch its deficient software is well into double digits and many of these are listed as Critical Updates. I agree with this statement I read online, "any reasonable user will conclude it (Windows) was designed by the same German officer who created the prison compound in Hogan's Heroes."

Updating Windows is critical and the task falls squarely on the shoulders of the end user. If you do not patch your Windows software by downloading these updates (patches), you leave your computer open to hackers, worms, and destructive viruses. The recent Blaster and Sasser worm epidemic is an example of what happens to people who do not patch their operating system. Blaster infected more than 700,000 unpatched computers in a week leaving affected computer users with a massive cleanup job. Blaster continues to spread and now there are new variations and other viruses that are also gaining access to unpatched systems through the hole in the Microsoft Windows software.

The easiest way to access the Microsoft Windows updates is to open Internet Explorer, click Tools, then click Windows Update. Once at the Windows Update screen, Microsoft will automatically scan your computer and tell you which updates you need. You will see different categories of updates. It is imperative to install the ones in the "Critical" category. The others can be installed at your discretion, but most users will want to install all of them to keep their computer as up-to-date as possible.

ArrowFor those needing more detailed instructions, here they are:

  1. Connect to the Internet. Open Internet Explorer
  2. Click on Tools on the Menu Bar, and select Windows Update in the Drop down menu.
  3. Your system may download a small application that scans your configuration to detect which programs to be updated and which patches it should apply. If you are asked to approve the download of this small application, just allow it to proceed by clicking Always Trust Microsoft and than select the Yes button.
  4. In the next window you will be presented with the "Welcome to Windows Update" page. Select Express Install.
  5. The next window will list the Updates available.
  6. Left click on Review and Install at the top.
  7. In the next window Left click on Install Updates at the top.
  8. This will bring up the Download dialog box. The update process has begun. This may take considerable time depending on your download speed, so judge your download scheduling accordingly.
  9. Once downloaded the updates will be installed automatically. You will be advised once all is install and you most possibly will be asked to reboot your machine.

You can choose to download the windows ME or XP updates if you wish, by selecting them on the left. Review the Updates and remove those you do not want.

Do NOT select Driver Updates, I have too often seen incorrect drivers downloaded and systems rendered inoperable.

Your computer may be already set up to alert you when an update is ready to be installed. Unfortunately, Microsoft does not automatically install the updates, but only reminds you that an update is available. (They are currently reconsidering this strategy.) When you see that an update is available, don't delay. You should download and install it immediately.

If your computer does not alert you to available updates you can set it to do so by clicking on Start, then Control Panel, then clicking on the System icon. Click on the Automatic Updates tab and click to put a checkmark in the box at the top that says, "Keep my computer up to date." There will be three choices of how the updates can work. Choose the method that you prefer.

Keeping Windows updated is a task that I would rather not have to perform, but one that is necessary to prevent viruses, worms, and hacker attacks. It is always better to be safe than sorry.