Best Ways to Get Microsoft Windows Updates

March 11, 2009

in computer performance,privacy & security,Vista,Windows

by David Hakala

Microsoft Windows needs to be kept up to date to close newly discovered security vulnerabilities and patch bugs that can degrade performance or crash your computer completely. There are several ways to get Microsoft’s frequently released Windows update packages, including one that works with Web browsers other than Internet Explorer.

The easiest way to get Windows updates is to “set it and forget it,” as Ron Popeil says. Turn on Automatic Updates and Windows will periodically check Microsoft’s Windows Update site for new releases. You can set Automatic Updates to: automatically download and install updates as they become available; download update packages but let you choose when to install them; or simply notify you that new updates are available and let you decide when to download and install them.

To turn on Automatic Updates in Windows XP:

Click Start, and then click Control Panel.

Click Automatic Updates.

Choose Automatic.

To change the automatic update settings in Vista:

Open Windows Update (click the Start button, click All Programs, and then click Windows Update).

Select Change Settings and choose how you want Windows to install updates.

Note that automatic updates do not include everything, only critical security patches and high-priority operating system enhancements. Certain optional updates need to be downloaded from the Microsoft Windows Update Web site at:

Go to that site and let it scan your computer to see which updates you do not yet have. It will then offer the opportunity to select critical, high-priority, and optional updates. You should check for low-priority updates about once a month.

Vista, but not XP, can also automatically update other Microsoft products you may have installed on your computer, such as Microsoft Office.

Open Windows Update as above.

Click the “Get updates for more products” button. (Note: If this button does not appear, it’s likely you’ve already enabled Microsoft Update.)

The Microsoft Windows Update works only with Microsoft’s browser, Internet Explorer 6 or later. Some people would rather spit on a playground than use IE. For them, there’s a handy Web site called Windiz Update. You install a plugin in your non-IE browser, visit this site, and get only the updates you really need, downloaded faster than Microsoft’s site. The one downside is that Windiz Update receives update packages several days after they become available on Microsoft’s site.

David Hakala has perpetrated technology tutorials since 1988 in addition to committing tech journalism, documentation, Web sites, marketing collateral, and profitable prose in general. His complete rap sheet can be seen at