The Importance of Windows Updates
We have all seen the notification flag of Windows 7 or the classic yellow shield and exclamation point of XP that indicates there are Windows Updates available for installation, but do you know how these updates actually affect your computer?
What are Microsoft Updates?
Microsoft Update is a service that allows for the periodic patching of system files to address known issues with Microsoft products. Originally called Windows Update, it was specifically focused on Operating System patches for Windows. More recently however, it has been expanded to include all Microsoft products and the name has changed to Microsoft Update, allowing the automated patching of non-OS software such as Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office.
Microsoft Updates are organized into several categories:
Security Updates – These updates patch security vulnerabilities that could allow a system to become compromised. Security updates are classified as Critical, Important, Moderate, Low, or non-rated. Critical Security Updates are perhaps the most important updates to apply to your system.
Critical Updates – Critical Updates fix any major issue that is found in Microsoft products that could cause software errors or unexpected behavior. Together with Security Updates, they form the “High Priority” category of updates from Microsoft and should be set to download and install automatically.
Software Updates – Non-critical issues, such as extended features and minor bugs, are addressed using Software Updates.
Service Packs – Service Packs contain a rollup of all patches to date for a specific piece of software or operating system and usually have additional feature changes. For example, Windows XP Service Pack 3 is the latest service pack for XP and addresses all updates prior to its release as well as a small number of new features.
Why Should I Update?
Simply put, Microsoft Updates prevent problems. Not only do Microsoft Updates fix known bugs in software and operating systems, but they plug critical security holes that could drastically affect your security. Microsoft vulnerabilities are actively exploited in countless viruses, which could have been easily prevented by maintaining updates. Ignoring these could leave your computer extremely vulnerable to hackers and malicious code.