Windows Update is a feature included in Microsoft’s operating systems. In this article, I am going to take a look at what Windows Update is, what it is used for, and why people should use Windows Update. I also will be discussing the different settings available with Windows Update. These settings are used to identify which types of updates should be installed as well as the method by which the updates are installed.
What is Windows Update?
Windows Update is a feature used by Microsoft in their operating systems to update the Windows operating system. Windows Update also can be used to update other Microsoft software such as Microsoft Office as well as update the software and drivers for some hardware devices. In order for companies to have their software or drivers included in Windows Update, the companies have to submit the software and drivers to the Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) for testing and approval. After the software or driver is approved by Microsoft, it is then made available in Windows Update for users to install.
Why Should People Use Windows Update?
As mentioned above, Windows Update is used for updating software and drivers on user’s computers. These updates are used to improve performance for existing features and functionality as well as improve the security of the Windows operating system and other software on the PC to protect against malware and malicious attacks. Malicious attacks, such as viruses and other threats, could allow an attacker to take over the computer. An example of such an attack would be an attack in which the computer is taken over to become part of a botnet. Botnets have been used in distributed denial of service attacks against many companies as well as send spam emails to addresses on the user’s computer. Installing Windows updates can prevent help malicious software from infecting the computer. Software or driver updates for some hardware also can be installed on the PC using Windows Updates to help improve the PC’s performance. An example of drivers that can be updated are the video card drivers. I also have had software for my Logitech webcam show up in Windows Updates in the past. One trick I have used in the past for updating drivers after installing/re-installing Windows on my computers is to use Windows Update to get the most current WHQL drivers and software for my hardware devices when I update other Windows and other Microsoft software immediately after I install Windows on the PC. By using this method, it helps to get the current WHQL drivers installed. These drivers help improve the computer’s performance as generic drivers, such as drivers installed during the Windows operating system installation, may not have all of the features and functionality that the hardware manufacturer’s software and drivers does. Microsoft also uses Windows Update to add new features and functionality to Windows. Microsoft uses service packs to combine many updates into one install. Some of the service packs also add functionality to Windows but the new functionality can be added in standalone updates as well.
What are the different Windows Update levels?
Microsoft has three main settings used in Windows Updates. These options identify how Important updates are installed, whether or not to include Recommended updates in with Important updates, and whether or not to include other Microsoft programs during the Windows Update process.
The Important updates setting is used to select how updates to Windows are installed. Important updates are typically updates that relate to improving the security of the operating system so that it is less vulnerable to malicious attacks as well as improve reliability and improve privacy for users. There are four options available in the dropdown list shown in the image above. To change options for how updates are installed, click on the dropdown list and click on the needed option. The first option, the one recommended by Microsoft, is to install updates automatically. When this option is used, Windows downloads updates to the PC automatically and then installs them in the maintenance window. To change the scheduled time for the maintenance window, click on the link titled “Updates will be automatically installed during the maintenance window.” The window shown in the image below will appear. This Automatic Maintenance window allows users to change the time each day that maintenance is performed as well as allow the computer to be woken from Sleep or Hibernation modes at the scheduled time so that maintenance can be performed.
The second option from the dropdown list in the Important updates section is used to download updates automatically but not install the updates until the user chooses to install them. The third option is to check for updates but not to download updates. Users must download the updates themselves from Windows Update and then install them. The last option in the dropdown list is Never check for updates. Microsoft states that this setting is not recommended. For most users, this Not recommended warning would be true but for companies who use Windows and manage their Windows updates through other methods, Windows Update may need set on the option to Never check for updates.
The Recommended updates and Microsoft Update settings are checkboxes that users can select to choose whether or not to include the Recommended updates and updates for other Microsoft programs with the Important update. Recommended updates are typically updates that address non-critical problems or otherwise improve performance on the computer that Microsoft thinks users should install but these updates are not required. Microsoft Update allows other Microsoft programs to be included in the updates available through Windows Update.
My personal preference used to be to use the “Download updates but let me choose whether to install them” option but after I started using Windows 8.1, I have used Microsoft’s recommended option to install automatically. I also include the Recommended updates and I allow updates to other Microsoft programs as this saves me time and allows me to know my Windows operating system is updated. I found out about another reason recently to install updates automatically. On Microsoft’s tablets such as the Surface Pro, they update the tablet’s firmware (such as the BIOS) through Windows Update. On the Surface Pro tablets we have at work, we have noticed improvements in performance after the firmware was updated.
In today’s article, I discussed what Windows Update is, what it is used for, and why people should use Windows Update to keep their Windows operating systems up to date. I also looked at the different options for how to install updates. In two upcoming articles, I will be providing steps for how to use Windows Update on the Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1 operating systems. I hope this article has helped explain why Windows Update is an important part of Windows to use for keeping the Windows operating system updated and secure. If there are any questions or comments, please comment below or email me at the link in my bio.