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Understand Vista Security Update Types

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 12/31/2008

There are many types of updates, but the updates you’ll mostly be concerned with are critical updates, security updates, service packs, software updates, and upgrades. You may also be interested in Feature Packs, introduced last.

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    Critical updates and simple updates are broadly released fixes for a specific problem that address a critical, but non-security related issue. Critical updates (as well as simple updates) may be released to fix a bug in the software, for instance, a bug that causes a program to shut down an application unexpectedly. You should install all of these updates.

    A security update is also a broadly released fix for a specific problem, but in this instance the problem is security related, and applies to a specific product such as Microsoft Office Word or Outlook Express. Microsoft rates these updates by their severity: Low, moderate, important, and critical. You should get all security updates, even if their severity rating is low.

    A service pack is a collection of all hotfixes (a fix for a specific problem, sometimes only customer or organization-related), security updates, critical updates, and updates. These service packs may also contain design changes to the software itself, including new and improved features. Service Pack 2 for Windows XP for instance, included new features to the Control Panel. You should install all service packs, however, it may be wiser to install the service pack on a test machine first, or wait for a month or so after its release to make sure it will not cause more problems than it’s worth.

    A software update is any update, service pack, feature pack, critical update, security update, or hotfix that will improve Microsoft Office. It may also solve problems related to the software, such as a bug or a known issue. You may or may not need to install these updates. Read about the update if installing manually, and make a decision based on the description.

    An upgrade is an entire software package that replaces an installed version of the software you currently have. The replacement is a newer version of the same product. An upgrade won’t install “clean”, you’ll still have your current settings. An example of a common upgrade is MSN Messenger. Upgrades for this product occur often and generally change the interface by adding new features, and, make existing features more secure, but do not cause you to have to reconfigure MSN Messenger.

    A feature pack is a fun and optional item that you do not have to install. Feature packs provide new functionality for a product, functionality that is usually included in the next release of the product.