Step-by-Step: Windows Update Configuration for Automatic Updates
March 8, 2003

Note:  This article assumes that you have already read Step-by-Step: Using Windows Update and have kept your computer relatively updated.

Windows Update is pretty cool, but most people are still too lazy to run the program every once in a while.  Also, it is possible by the time you run Windows Update, you may have already been attacked via the security hole that has gone unpatched.  What's the solution?  Automatic Windows Update.

If you have a fresh installation of Windows 2000 or XP, you might not find the options for automatically updating Windows.  This is because this feature came around after both operating systems were finalized.  So in order to use this feature, you have to run Windows Update and install the update that supports Automatic Updates.  I would basically suggest that you run Windows Update manually until it is finally current, then you can use this Step-by-Step guide to setup Automatic Updates.

Let's get started.

In Windows 2000: Start > Settings > Control Panel > Automatic Updates

In Windows XP: Right click on "My Computer" > Select "Properties" > Select "Automatic Updates" tab.

For Win 200 or XP, you'll end up at a dialog box that looks pretty much the same.

Let's go through the settings.

In the first option, you control whether or not Window Update automatically updates your computer or not.  Check the box.

In the "Settings" options, you have 3 options.

  1. The first one simply notifies you when critical updates are available before they are downloaded and gives you the option to download them or not.  Then it'll let you know when the files are downloaded and ready to install.
  2. The second option (my choice) simply downloads all critical updates in the background and lets you know when you can install them.  Windows Update will run everyday as soon as you boot your computer and start downloading available updates.
  3. The third option is the same as the 2nd option except you can control when Windows Update checks and downloads the updates.  This might be important for people who don't want their Internet connection randomly bogged down with Windows Update downloads.  You can control when your line is bogged down.  :)
Personally, I like the second option because it will keep your machine as updated as possible and I really haven't had any problem with my line being slowed by  the automatic downloads.

Note, the automatic downloads are for critical updates and security patches only.  This will not automatically install optional patches or driver updates.  If you want those to be installed, you still have to run Windows Update manually.

Click "OK" and just use your computer as normal.


When new updates are available and are downloaded, you'll see this little icon in your system tray with this message that new updates are ready to install.


Click on the icon and you'll see this.  You can choose to install it right away or if you want to check out what you are installing, click on "Details".


Now that you know what you're about install, you can click "Install".


You'll see this "Installation in Progress" message.


Once the installation is finished, you'll likely be asked to reboot your computer.  Save your work and click "Yes" to reboot.


Now you computer is setup for Automatic Windows Updates.  There's no excuse for you to be unpatched now!

Back: Using Windows Update

Additional Information
Websites: Step-by-Step