Network Security

Another important step in securing any computer or device is setting up automated updates. Your device’s security relies on your operating system, apps, plug-ins, and programs always being up to date. For example, using outdated Internet browsers and plug-ins like Adobe Flash, Java, or Silverlight represents a big security problem. There are many websites on the Internet that exploit security bugs in your browser or the plug-ins you have installed.

Also, popular programs like Adobe Reader are heavily targeted by malware creators, and there are many forms of malware that infect your system through the use of specially crafted PDF files. Therefore, in order to keep your system’s security at good levels and have as few issues as possible, you should keep your apps, plug-ins, and programs up-to-date.

Luckily, there are tools that will help you with this task. First, you have Windows Update which keeps the operating system up-to-date and can be set to automatically install updates also for Microsoft software like Microsoft Office or Silverlight. You will learn how to do this in this lesson.

If you use Windows 8.x and modern apps, the Windows Store is set to keep your apps updated automatically. You can also use it to manually check for updates and installed. You will learn how this works from this lesson.

Last, but not least, there are solutions like Ninite which help in keeping your favorite desktop programs up-to-date, as well as the plug-ins we have mentioned earlier: Adobe Air, Java, etc. We will end this lesson by sharing how to use Ninite to keep these programs up-to-date.

Set Windows Update to Keep Microsoft Software Up-to-Date

One of the most important steps in keeping your system secure is to leave Windows Update turned on and working on a regular basis. Each week Microsoft delivers fixes for all kinds of problems, including lots of security hotfixes. Without them, the operating system is vulnerable to all kinds of attacks and malware. Since Windows Update is turned on and working by default, we won’t spend any time sharing how to use it. It literally does its job in the background.

However, we do want to show you how to set it so that it delivers updates automatically for other Microsoft software that is installed on your device. For example, updates for Microsoft Office or Silverlight. They are just as important in keeping your device safe from harm.

First, let’s see how you do this on a Desktop with Windows 7 or Windows 8.x. Open the Control Panel and go to “System and Security,” and then to “Windows Update.”

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In the Windows Update window, click the link that says, “Change settings,” on the left-hand column.

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In order to maximize the security of your system and get all the updates that are available, we recommend that you enable the following settings:

  • Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates – this will make sure that both recommended and important updates are installed automatically.
  • Give me updates for other Microsoft products when I update Windows – this will enable the distribution of updates for software products made by Microsoft, including Microsoft Office and the Silverlight plugin.

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Only in Windows 8.x you can also set the hour when all updates are automatically downloaded. In order to change it, click the link that says, “Updates will be automatically installed during the maintenance window.”

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The “Automatic Maintenance” window is opened. This is where you set when the automatic maintenance is performed by Windows 8.x. The automatic maintenance includes downloading and installing Windows updates, making a secure scan of your system, and performing automated system diagnostics including the Action Center checks that were mentioned in the previous lesson. Unfortunately, this feature doesn’t exist in Windows 7.

Change the hour when you want the maintenance tasks to be run daily and click “OK.”

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Don’t forget to also click “OK” in the “Change Settings” window so that updates for Microsoft software are also installed.

If you have a tablet with Windows 8.x, then you can configure Windows Update also from PC Settings. Open it and then go to, “Update and recovery.”

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Select “Windows Update” and then tap the link that says, “Choose how updates get installed.”

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We recommend that you enable the following settings:

  • Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates – this will make sure that both recommended and important updates are installed automatically.
  • Give me updates for other Microsoft products when I update Windows – this will enable the distribution of updates for software products made by Microsoft, including Microsoft Office and the Silverlight plugin.

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Tap “Apply” so that you settings are saved and Windows Update also delivers updates for Microsoft products.

Set the Windows Store to Keep Your Apps Up-to-date

If you are using Windows 8.x and apps from the Windows Store, you will be happy to learn that the Windows Store automatically checks for updates for your installed apps and updates them accordingly.

You can also use the Windows Store to manually check for updates for your apps and install them if they are available. To do this, first open the Windows Store by clicking or tapping its tile on the Start screen.

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Please note that, in order to use apps and the Windows Store, you have to sign in with a Microsoft account. If you need a refresher on the types of accounts that are available in Windows, don’t hesitate to read our How-To Geek School class on Windows Networking.

While in the Windows Store, bring up the charms by swiping from the left side of the screen or pressing Windows + C on your keyboard, then click or tap the “Settings” charm.

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In the Settings charm, go to “App updates.”

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Now you can see whether the Windows Store is set to automatically update your apps. By default, it should be set that way. If it is not, then set the “Automatically update my apps” switch to “Yes.”

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If you want to manually check for updates for your apps, click or tap the “Check for updates” button.

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If there are updates available, they will be displayed and you can then choose to install them. In order to do so, press “Install” on the action bar at the bottom of the Windows Store.

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Your apps are now updated. You don’t have to keep the Window Store open in order for the procedure to finish.

Use Ninite for Keeping Your Desktop Programs Up-to-date

Unfortunately there are many products that check for updates for most of the programs that you have installed but none of them are as easy to use or crapware-free as Ninite. Most programs of this type only give you download links for the latest updates or install crapware alongside the latest version of your programs.

For those of you that don’t know, Ninite is a service that you can use to install some of the world’s most popular free programs for Windows, without strings attached, with one single installer and as few clicks as possible. Open your favorite browser and go to https://ninite.com.

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To create one installer for all the free programs that you want to use, select them from the Ninite website. When done, click or tap “Get Installer” and download it to your computer or device.

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Now run that installer and wait for it to automatically download and install all the free programs that you have selected. You can learn more about the whole process by clicking or tapping “Show details.”

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This opens a list with all the programs that are downloaded and installed where you can view their status one by one.

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When all your programs are installed, click or tap “Close” and you are done.

Now you can use the same installer file that you have downloaded from the Ninite website as an automatic updater for those programs. Each time you run it, the Ninite installer automatically checks if there are any new versions for those programs. If there are any, they are installed automatically without any intervention on your part.

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You can also use the Task Scheduler, as shown in our Using Windows Admin Tools Like a Pro How-To Geek School class and create a task that runs it automatically once every few days.

There is also a paid version, named Ninite Updater. It is designed for home users and it costs $9.99 for one year on a single machine. With Ninite Updater it’s one step to download and install all your updates in the background at once. This program runs at startup and when an update is available, you are informed.

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If you go for this option, you can disable all the updating services that are installed by other programs, including web browsers like Firefox or Chrome and use only Ninite Updater. This way your Windows device boots faster and all your free programs are kept up-to-date by this one updater.

Coming up next …

These are the most important tools that you can use to keep all your apps and programs up-to-date. Don’t hesitate to employ them in order to improve the security of your system as well as to get access to the latest features they have to offer.

In the next lesson we will discuss third-party security products, including free antivirus programs and commercial security suites. You will learn about the compromises you make when using free antivirus software and the marketing gimmicks used to sell you “ultimate” security products.