Windows 7 - Understanding Automatic Updates

Many people are afraid of Windows Update. They’re afraid that the changes to their system that the updates make will break something that they can’t fix. It’s certainly true that any change to your system could create a problem. But it’s unlikely that keeping up with updates will cause any significant problems — certainly nowhere near as many problems as you expose yourself to by not keeping up with updates. In addition, Windows Update creates restore points before installing many updates (but not for all updates), so you have the added security of being able to restore the system to a point prior to the update.

Others fear that Microsoft will somehow exploit them through automatic updates. That’s not the way it works. Microsoft has tens of millions of customers and tens of billions of dollars. It doesn’t need to exploit anybody to be successful. Desperate people (and companies) do desperate, exploitive things.

Microsoft is as far from desperate as you can get. Microsoft is also a publicly held company on the stock exchange, which means it is subject to constant scrutiny. Such companies are not the ones that distribute malware. Most malware comes from e-mail attachments and free programs from unknown sources. When it comes to knowing who to trust and not to trust, large publicly held companies are by far the most trustworthy, if for no other reason than that they can’t afford to be untrustworthy. A third common fear of automatic updates centers around the question ‘‘What’s this going to cost me?’’ The answer to that is simple: Absolutely nothing. This brings us to the difference between updates and upgrades.

Updates versus upgrades
People often assume that the terms update and upgrade are synonymous. We certainly use the terms interchangeably in common parlance. But in the computer world, there is a big difference. Upgrades usually cost money and involve a fair amount of work. For example, upgrading from Windows Vista to Windows 7 will cost you some money and take some time. You might even need to hire someone to verify that the upgrade will work, and do the upgrade for you. Updates are much different. Updates are small, simple, and free of charge. Some people turn off automatic updates because they’re afraid they’ll get some mysterious bill for something they downloaded automatically without realizing it. That will never happen. Turning on and using automatic updates will never cost you a penny.

Why updates are important
Automatic updates are an important part of your overall security. Many forms of malware, especially viruses and worms, operate by exploiting previously unnoticed flaws in programs. The term exploit, when used as a noun in computer science, refers to any piece of software that can take advantage of some vulnerability in a program in order to gain unauthorized access to a computer. Some hackers actually publish, on the Internet, exploits they discover, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. The bad thing is that other hackers can use the exploit to conjure up their own malware, causing a whole slew of new security threats. The good thing is that the good guys can quickly create security patches to prevent the exploits from doing their nefarious deeds. Automatic updates keep your system current with security patches that fix the flaws that malware programs attempt to exploit.

Source of Information : Windows 7 Bible (2009)

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