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What Information Does Microsoft Obtain through Windows Update?

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

If you’re worried about what information Microsoft collects while it’s updating your computer with Windows Updates, this article is for you.

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    About Windows Update

    Windows Update is the easiest and most efficient way to keep your computer safe and sound and up-to-date. Windows Update is Microsoft’s way of making available all of the security patches, fixes, driver updates, software updates, and other important items that your computer needs to stay in good working order. It’s important that you either visit the Windows Update Web site regularly or configure XP or Vista to update on its own, in the background.

    Keeping your computer up to date with high priority updates and software and hardware updates is crucial to maintaining a well-running, high-performance, and secure computing environment because without these patches and fixes, your computer is vulnerable to all of the newly found security holes to which hackers and attackers have an open door. These rogues can access your computer remotely (if they know how) and do damage in a number of ways. While some folks are a bit suspicious of the monitoring and downloading process, the information collected from your computer is not information that could personally identify you, your e-mail address, or your surfing habits.

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    Is Windows Update Secure?

    There’s no reason you should be concerned about your PC's security and Windows Update. "Although Windows Update must scan your computer to provide you with the appropriate files, patches, and security updates, it does not collect your name, address, e-mail address, or any other form of personally identifiable information. The information collected is only used during the period of time that you are visiting the Web site, and it is not saved." (This is taken directly from the Windows Update Privacy Statement.)

    If you are concerned about what is collected when your computer is scanned, the information it acquires is listed here:

    Operating-system version number

    Internet Explorer version number

    Version numbers of other software

    Plug and Play ID numbers of hardware devices

    Region and language setting

    Product ID and Product Key (As with other information collected, the Product ID and Product Key are not retained beyond the end of the update session, but if the Product ID is not valid, that information is retained.)

    In addition, the site and transmissions are protected and well maintained, so there’s no need to be worried about hackers, viruses, worms, or getting the wrong updates. You can imagine the uproar if the Windows Update site was not secure! So, if you’re using a legal copy of Windows (which you should be), if you log on to the Internet frequently, and if you want to get your updates automatically, configuring automatic updates is definitely the way to go.

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    No, You Won't Get Caught

    Even if you are using an unlicensed copy of Windows XP or WIndows Vista, Microsoft can't find out who you are just because you check for updates. For the most part, you simply receive a message stating that you do not have a valid copy of Windows, and until you do, updates are not available to you.