Step-by-Step: Using Windows Update
March 8, 2003

The biggest complaint about Windows by most people is how buggy and insecure the operating system is.  This is especially true if you are using your Windows machine in a server role where it may be the subject of various types of attacks.  The best thing you can do as a system administrator is to constantly keep your machine current with the latest patches, drivers, and updates.  This is true whether you use your computer as a workstation or server.

Back in the day, people who wanted to keep their operating system patched to the most current level would have to scour Microsoft's website for news bulletins for updates and briefs.  Then you would have to find the proper patch, download it, and install it.  This was a real pain in the butt since it was very difficult to remember which patches you installed, whether the patch was critical or not, and it was simply time consuming.  Things are much better now.

You can still do things the old way as I described above, but I'm not sure why you would want to since we now have Microsoft Windows Update.  Windows Update is a very handy web tool that will scan your computer and keep track of which updates you need to install.  You can choose between critical updates, optional updates, and the latest drivers.  Let's see how this thing works.

 There are two ways to start Windows Update.  The first way is to double-click on the icon on your desktop labeled "Windows Update".  Sometimes this icon is on your Start menu as well.

What if you were a genius and deleted the Windows Update icon?  Don't worry, all you have to do is open up Internet Explorer and go to  Simple.  This only works in Internet Explorer and not any other web browser (Netscape, Opera, Mozilla).  Both methods of starting Window Update are essentially the same thing.

The first thing you'll see when Windows Update starts is this message.  It is checking if you have the latest plugin for Internet Explorer to run Windows Update.

If you have never used Windows Update or haven't used it for a while, then the plugin is likely missing our outdated (as is the case with this computer) so you'll be prompted to install the latest version.  Click on "Yes".


Okay, now that the plugin is ready, click on the "Scan for updates" button.  This will begin the process of checking your operating system to see which patches have already been installed and which patches still need to be installed.  If you are worried about privacy, Microsoft adds a little note at the bottom which states: "Windows Update does not collect any form of personally identifiable information from your computer".  Whether you believe this or not is up to you!  :)

Scanning is now done.  Under "Pick updates to install" are 3 different sections with the number of patches in each section that are available.

  • Critical Updates and Service Packs - These are very important security patches that must be installed.  They are so important that Windows Update automatically puts them in the "Review and install updates" section.
  • Windows XX - These are optional updates that might be nice to install but aren't super critical.  For example, you'll find the latest version of Windows Media player here.  However, it is up to you whether or not you install these.
  • Driver Updates - The latest drivers for your hardware are listed here.  This way you don't have to go hunt down each manufacturer individually.

In this example here, I'm not going to install any optional updates.  If you want to, all you have to do is click on "Windows XX", select which updates you want by clicking "Add".

Once you've added all the updates you want to install, click on "Review and install updates".

This is a summary list of the updates you will be downloading and installing.  Click  "Install Now".

After a few moments, you'll see a dialog box which contains the License Agreement for the updates you're about to install.  After you read them, click "Accept".


Then the update files will begin to be downloaded.


The files have been downloaded and are in the process of being installed.



Now the installation is complete.

As with almost all Windows patches, you'll have to reboot your computer.  Save your work and click "OK".

If you are running Windows Update for the first time, there will be a lot of Critical Updates to install.  Some of these Critical Updates have to be individually installed from the rest of the updates.  This is true especially of Service Packs.  All you have to do is run Windows Update multiple times until the program shows that you have zero critical updates left.

Windows Update makes keeping your computer up to date much easier.  However, there is even an easier way that I'll show you in a separate article.  You still have to use Windows Update like I just showed you, but once you get all those updates installed, you can use Automatic Windows Update.

Here we go!

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