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Do You Need All Those Windows Updates?

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

Not all updates are appropriate for all computers. Configure updates to download automatically, but keep an eye on what’s being installed. You may not need it.

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    As you read the descriptions for some of the available Windows updates, you might wonder if all of the updates in each category are really necessary. They aren’t, and you’d be right to wonder! If you keep close tabs on your PC, you may choose to read what each Windows update contains before installing it. If you are getting the updates manually from the Windows Update Web site, the description of the update is included on the Web site. If you are getting an update automatically, click Details in the Automatic Updates dialog box to see what the update involves.

    If you need some help deciding what to install and what not to, take a few minutes to read the descriptions for each update. If the update is written specifically for developers (people who write software) and you aren’t a developer, there’s no need to install the update. If the update isn’t defined as “High Priority”, you can choose not to install them without any repercussions.

    If you read the description of the update and it looks like it applies to you or you’d like to be able to access the specific feature addressed, add and install it. A while back we added and installed the Windows Error Reporting: Recommended Update. This enabled us to automatically view responses to Windows error reports. After an error occurred, we could immediately view the fix, workaround, or other information, which was quite helpful. We do not regret installing that update. If ever in doubt, install all high priority updates, and browse through the software and hardware updates, checking only what you recognize and think you need. Leave the rest alone.

    Sometimes you'll run across some rather interesting and unexpected items from Windows Update. The Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool is one of them. Made available in 2005, once downloaded, this application runs one time to check your computer for malicious software. This includes a check for well-known viruses and spyware and tries to remove anything malicious it finds. A new version is available each month, providing a sort of anti-virus program that you can use to keep your computer clean (that is, if you're not on the Web very much!). (Still, a third-party tool is best.)