Get All the Updates
It looks like every other week we hear about another security break in Windows or that another worm has disrupted businesses worldwide. Microsoft Windows has always been known for its many exploitable security holes. New updates are made available for Windows all the time. Make sure you are getting them all.
Thankfully, Windows comes with a great update distribution and installation program, Windows Update. Most people using Windows do not seem to be aware of this utility. Microsoft runs a website which can only be accessed by Internet Explorer. All versions of Windows from 95 through XP can receive updates automatically from this site.
Get Updatin '
To get started open http://www.windowsupdate.com in Internet Explorer. You may have to install a few updates before you can use the service. Just follow the simple on-screen instructions. You will then be given the option of Express or Custom. Express will automatically install all of the high priority updates, so if nothing else at least do the Express update.
If you choose to do a custom update you will be given the option of installing several categories of updates that either increase the performance of your PC or add new features to Windows. The high priority updates will already be selected for download. It is generally a good idea to get everything under the Software category. Do not just blindly add updates though. Give the description of each update a quick glance before checking the box next to it. If it sounds like something you do not want or need, then leave it behind.
I would leave the hardware category to more advanced users. These driver updates tell Windows how to use each part of your computer to its greatest potential, but some driver updates are not updates at all. They may be older versions than the ones already installed on your PC! Certain drivers may make certain functions of your computer stop working or change a setting that you can not locate. If you want the latest driver you should contact your PC manufacturer.
Just checking an update does not install it to your machine. You will need to click the "Review and install updates" link to review your choices. When you are ready, click the Install Updates button to begin downloading and installing all the updates you chose. Typically the updates will be installed without the need for your input, though a few of the updates may ask you some questions. Also be aware, some updates can only be installed alone. If you add one of these to be installed it will save your other updates for another visit. These are usually the big important updates such as service packs and updates to DirectX. After all updates are installed the program will ask you to reboot.
After installing a bunch of updates it is generally a good idea to head back over to the Windows Update site. Sometimes installing updates will cause even more updates to become available to you. So make sure you get all the latest updates as well.
Microsoft bundled Windows XP with Automatic Updates which, as the name suggests, will automatically update your version of Windows with the latest high-priority updates. Some find this program annoying as it can interrupt work or a game at the worst time. It can be useful for users who do not wish to spend the time necessary to keep up with all the updates at Windows Update.
You can make sure Automatic Updates is enabled, change the schedule on which it works, or disable it by double-clicking the Automatic Updates icon in the Control Panel. Keep in mind Automatic Updates only installs the high priority updates. If you want the increased performance or added features optional updates can bring, then make sure you do a custom update at Windows Update .