Windows Updates Explained

Do-It-Yourself Tech

All versions of Windows since Windows 98 (meaning 98/ME/2K/XP) need to be updated periodically. The reason for this is that hackers and virus programmers continually find ways to exploit various security holes of which Microsoft often times is not aware at the time. Thus, updates and security patches are required on a regular basis to make sure your computer is running optimally and with full security. Here’s how to configure your computer for this:

The latest version of Windows, Windows XP, has the ability to automatically download and install updates for you. Sometimes these updates are referred to as “service packs.” This happens when enough updates, security patches, and other optimizations are grouped together into a much bigger update. The latest service pack for Windows XP is Service Pack 2 (SP2).

You can check to see what version of Windows XP you are running by right clicking on My Computer and then clicking on Properties. The picture to the right is an example (click to enlarge) of what should appear. Under the “System” heading, the last line (before “Registered to”) will tell you what service pack you are running. It will either be blank (meaning, no service packs are installed) or it will say “Service Pack 1” or “Service Pack 2.” This is great place to find other information as well, including whom the computer is registered to, the computer manufacturer, and certain computer hardware specifications.

To configure your computer to automatically download and install updates for you, right click on My Computer, click Properties, and then click Automatic Updates. In this configuration page, there are four different options, though the recommended option is to have Windows download and install the updates automatically. If you need to change how Windows is configured here, be sure to click “Apply” and then “Ok” to save your changes. Click on the image to the left for an example of how this page should look.

If you have a different version of Windows or would like to manually download and install updates, you can visit Microsoft’s website for this at

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