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Get your Windows Updates Automatically

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Brian Nelson•updated: 12/31/2008

It’s important to keep your PC up-to-date with Windows Updates, and it’s best to get those updates automatically.

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    Although you could visit the Windows Update Web site weekly to check for new updates and install them manually, it’s much easier to simply configure Windows XP to get them automatically (and in the background) while you’re online. If you’re online a lot, you should configure Windows Update to automatically check for updates and then notify you if and when updates are available. Then, you can see what updates there are and decide if you need them or not. If you need them, you can install them.

    It seems logical that using the automatic settings to download updates would slow down your machine, especially if the updates are downloaded during the day and at the same time that you’re trying to download a new screensaver! However, XP’s Help And Support files state that the updates will be downloaded in the background and will not interfere with or slow down network activities such as Internet browsing. If you’d like, though (or if you believe you notice slower response time while Windows Update does its thing), you can easily instruct Windows to search for updates late at night (or some other time) when your computer isn’t being used. This will let you get the maximum benefit of automatic updates while at the same time avoid any (perceived or real) delays due to the system resources they require.

    If you aren’t online very much, having XP or Vista get the updates automatically won’t work for you and you’ll have to make it a point to go online once a week or so and check yourself. Staying updated is a fairly common problem for those who use laptops and travel a lot, those with slow Internet connections, or those who simply don’t go online very much. Automatic updates might be disabled if you are in a corporate environment, too, and you might simply want to get the updates manually if you have an aversion to things being automatically downloaded to your computer. Whatever the case, staying updated is important, and there’s a setting for you.

    Get Updates Automatically

    My computers are configured to get updates automatically, and I think it’s the best option. Here’s how to set it up (or disable it):

    1. Right-click the My Computer icon on the Desktop or the Start menu and choose Properties.

    2. Click the Automatic Updates tab.

    3. Read through the four options. Check Automatic (Recommended). With this setting enabled, Windows Update software is automatically downloaded and installed at a specific time each day or once a week, depending on your personalized setting.

    4. If you do not want to have the updates automatically installed, choose from one of the other options. If another option is chosen, I would suggest the second one, Download Updates For Me, But Let me Choose When To Install Them.

    5. Click OK.

    Windows will now get the updates automatically, and you’ll be better protected and get better performance. When using Automatic Updates, you’ll be prompted that updates are ready with a pop-up balloon and an icon of the world in the System Tray. Click on the balloon to see what updates are available and your options for installing them.