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Windows Critical Updates, Step-by-Step


Keep Your System "CURRENT"

With great regularity, vulnerabilities are discovered in various components of the Windows operating system. Once such a vulnerability has been discovered, armies of pimple-faced youths undertake to create a software tool (or develop the means to use existing tools) for exploiting that vulnerability. The product of such efforts is called an "exploit". Due to the fact that these exploits typically induce an abnormal condition within the target computer in order to effect their skullduggery, there's a good chance your antivirus software will *not* detect that your security has been compromised. This means that anti-virus software alone is not enough!

When Microsoft learns of a vulnerability, they release software patches for end users to download onto their computers to be safe from the latest exploits. These updates are collectively referred to as "Critical Updates", and are available for free at the Microsoft Product Update Web Site.
 

Here's how to do it!

  1. Close any programs which may be running on your computer. Ideally, you would suspend your Task Scheduler and Anti-Virus Protection. This is commonly accepted to be a Good Idea when installing software of any type.

  2. Connect to the Internet

  3. Click on the Windows Update Icon in your programs menu
    (How?? Click on the [Start] button - then look for the globe icon in the upper section of your start menu)
    Alternately, you may enter: http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com in the address field of your browser and click "Go".


  4. Windows XP Users can use the Windows Update link in their Control Panel ([START]->Control Panel)
  5. Now that you are on the Microsoft Windows Update home page, please notice the Microsoft Office Product Updates link. If you are a Microsoft Office user, this may be of some value to you. Now click on the "PRODUCT UPDATES" link.

  6. If this is the first time your computer has visited this page, there will be a prompt advising you to download an application for accessing the Update service. Accept the download and wait a few moments while that installs. Note also that this application is itself updated periodically. A subsequent prompt to download it is not indicative of a problem.

  7. After a brief time spent "Checking Available Updates", you have before you a customized list of downloads available for your particular Windows configuration.

  8. Examine the list. It is organized into sections. From the top, they are:
    • CRITICAL UPDATES AND SERVICE PACKS
    • PICKS OF THE MONTH
    • RECOMMENDED UPDATES
    • ADDITIONAL WINDOWS FEATURES
    • DEVICE DRIVERS
    I recommend that most users restrict themselves to the CRITICAL UPDATES AND SERVICE PACKS section, except for the "Windows Critical Update Notification" component, which is in the RECOMMENDED UPDATES SECTION.

  9. To the left of each Update is a checkbox. This is used to select (or deselect) the associated update. Some updates must be installed one at a time, others my be downloaded and installed in a single operation. Once you have a Critical Update selected, click the Download Button. It will only be active when an update is checked for download.

  10. Hou are now viewing the Download Checklist. Review your selection(s) and click "Start Download"

  11. You will be prompted with a small dialog box containing a Supplemental End User License Agreement. To proceed, you must agree to the terms of the agreement by clicking "Yes".

  12. A Download and usually, an Installation Dialog will follow. Some updates may prompt you to reboot so the installation may be completed.

  13. Repeat these steps until you have CHECKED and there are no Critical Updates remaining to be downloaded. This is important because often when a critical update is installed, it contains components which must be updated once once installed.

Use the Critical Update Notifier

  • Goto the Windows PRODUCT UPDATES page

  • Select Windows Critical Update Notification from the RECOMMENDED UPDATES section

  • Click Download, Click Start Download, Accept the License Agreement and follow any additional prompts

  • After rebooting, the Critical Update Notification will be active. When you have an active Internet connection, you will be prompted with a pop-up window informing you in the event new Critical Updates have been made available. Your options are to either visit the update site now, or be reminded later - usually the following day. If you are too busy to install the updates at the moment, you can either wait to be reminded again, or visit http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com when convenient.

In Conclusion

In addition to keeping your computer current with all the latest security updates, having current Anti-Virus software is very important. I recommend Norton Anti-Virus, from Symantec.


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