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How To Keep Your Windows PC Updated

If you’re moving from XP to Windows 7, you probably know that keeping the OS and other software updated is very important for patching security holes and improving performance. Today we take a look at methods to keep your software and hardware up to date. 

Windows Update

The Windows Update feature had come a long way since the days of XP and is much improved in Vista and Windows 7. To access Windows Updates type Windows Update into the search bar in the Start menu.

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In the new Windows Update it’s easier to review, install, manage, and check updates. It also shows updates for MS Office products without having to check them separately.

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It would be nice if it gave detailed info versus a generalized description to save time. But if you aren’t sure about an update or want to find out more information, click the link in the right column.

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It brings you to the MS site where you can read up more on what you’re installing.

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Some updates will require that you agree to a MS EULA.

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Some updates will require a system reboot, but you’ll have the option to postpone the restart for a few hours or until you reboot manually.

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It also allows changing the settings for how Windows installs updates from completely automatic to turning them off and settings in between. Important updates should be enabled by default on a pre-installed system but if you want to make sure you can select that option here.

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It’s also easier to uninstall Windows Updates if one breaks another application or makes the system unstable. They’re listed in their own section and you can right click and select Uninstall.

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To stop seeing unwanted updates, highlight them, right-click and select Hide updates. If you want to install them later you can always restore them.

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Update Third Party Apps

Keeping Windows updated is very important, but it doesn’t end there. You also want to make sure your other applications are updated as well, and not just for the reasons of stability and new features. Security holes can pop up in common third party applications like Adobe, Flash, Java…etc. 

You can certainly go through each app individually and check for updates, but that can be tedious and you may not remember to update them all. To save time, use a utility like Secunia Personal Software Inspector which will check apps installed on your computer for updates. The really neat thing is that it also provides direct links to patches and updates for you to download and install. You can also set it to run in the background for continuous monitoring for updates.

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Another popular and free solution is Belarc Advisor. It won’t actually update problems for you, but it gives a detailed report and points you to where updates can be found.

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Hardware Driver Updates

Keeping your drivers up to date is important for system stability and performance. With newer hardware I have noticed Windows Update will sometimes include new driver versions, but not for everything. You can check out your computer manufacturers website to check for new updates for your hardware.

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Some computer manufacturers include a utility to check for your system updates that you can run from time to time.

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Or you can use a utility like DriverMax which will find updates for your drivers and will also backup and restore them.

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Other Update Tips

If you have any Apple apps on your system such as iTunes, it includes its own software update utility. You might want to monitor these updates closely because they tend to add a bunch of unwanted apps during an update.

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It should go without saying to update your Antivirus program, but it is surprising how often this can be overlooked.

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By keeping Windows, drivers, and other software updated you will keep your system secure and running smooth.

Download Secunia PSI

Download Belarc Advisor

Download DriverMax

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 11/3/09

Comments (8)

  1. Sasa

    I’m suggesting Filehippo update checker that can search for software updates. More info on http://filehippo.com

  2. Andy - The Digitante

    One note: If you leave on the automatic updates, Windows 7 WILL wake up your computer at 3am every day to try and check for and install the updates. This is a problem for my hibernating laptop since it turns on, but no password is entered.

    Consequently, I changed to the option to “download and ask me if I want to install.”

  3. lesle

    At least in XP, a Windows update only updates Windows; a Microsoft update updates both Windows and MS Office.

    They are not the same thing. If you have Office, you should use the Microsoft update, not the Windows update.

    It’s reasonable to check if Vista and Windows 7 are the same.

  4. Grant

    Why must this be so much harder on Windows. I can just click one “Update” button on Synaptic (or set it to update once a day automatically) and every application on my system is up to date.

    Even the command line version is easier than Windows. Maybe someday Windows will get caught up with being easy to use and maintain, then it will be ready for the desktop of the average user.

  5. Zachary

    Or use Ubuntu and use the all-in-one Update Manager or Synaptic Package Manager, and single-click to install every update, no reboot required.

  6. 1fastbullet

    I’m glad you included Belarc Advisor in your options.

    Every Windows machine I work on I run Belarc to insure it gets the missing updates. I regularly re-run Belarc on my own Windows machine for the same purpose.

    Good article, by the way.

  7. Eats Wombats

    Good article. I had overlooked DriverMax. Currently I use VersionTracker which permits a number of machines to log into an account. It’s not clear if this is possible with DriverMax.

    (They give interestingly different results on occasion; for example DriverMax tells me that my Widcomm bluetooth driver can be updated with a later Broadcom driver — and it works).

    Between Windows Update, the OUTSTANDING Lenovo ThinkVantage System Update on my laptop (why I will never buy anything but a Lenovo–for as long as I run Windows, currently Windows7), Microsoft Security Essentials (which disables the no-longer-needed Windows Defender), and Secunia PSI, plus of course Apple’s Software Update… this all gets to be a hell of chore.

    In addition I have software from HP, Logitech and others doing update checks.

    The contrast with the simplicity and ease of use of Ubuntu is staggering.

    Correction, it’s STUPENDOUS.

    I’ve just spend two days moving all my apps and finding updates en route from Vista on a desktop to Windows 7 on a laptop.

    You used Windows Mail? Goodbye. It’s gone. Try Windows Live Mail with lots more crud to tie you into the Microsoft universe. (Solution: Thunderbird 3 beta 4 plus the extension to import folder contents).

    etc.

    Microsoft has made this nightmare problem for updating and moving software and it needs to find a solution by way of an application center. The current model, even without the added hassle of updates for dealing with malware, is unsustainable. It’s just too complicated.

    Furthermore, it’s a huge drag on hardware sales. The vendor who makes it possible to restore and migrate OS+apps and data from Internet and local clouds respectively will have my business.

    Sample scenario: Dead hard drive?

    1. Blue button boot (ThinkVantage model)
    2. Reimage OS and apps from the web (drivers and apps synced with latest)
    3. Resync data from local cloud storage (NAS with some intelligence)

    Q. Why is Windows Update so hopeless when it comes to driver updates?

  8. Mike Hanson

    Hello! I installed Microsoft update and it is showing a bunch of office updates for Office 2010 for 32 bit but my machine is 64 bit. Why would it do that?

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