The code that makes up the Windows operating system contains security loop holes, errors, incompatibilities, or outdated software elements. In short, Windows isn’t perfect, we all know that. Security patches and updates fix the vulnerabilities and errors in Windows and associated software, and they occasionally add new features. This essentially summarizes why you should regularly run a Windows Update.
In case you are still not convinced, let me elaborate a little more on the three main reasons why you should install the latest Windows security patches and updates.
1. Protect Your System From Malicious SoftwareHardly any code is perfect and sooner or later weaknesses will be identified. Security issues are the worst possible errors, as they may be exploited by malware to access and potentially damage your system. Here is a description of a cumulative security update published in December 2011:
Security issues have been identified in ActiveX controls that could allow an attacker to compromise a system running Microsoft Internet Explorer and gain control over it. You can help protect your system by installing this update from Microsoft. After you install this item, you ay have to restart your computer.
Security issues are regularly identified in various parts of the Windows operating system, including ActiveX, Internet Explorer, .NET Framework, or the main platform. Even if you do not run the respective software, it is a risk not to patch it, simply because it is installed on your system. Note that these updates are required, even if you are running anti-malware or anti-virus software, as that software may not sufficiently protect you from Windows security issues.
Potential consequences of not installing security updates are damaged software, loss of data, or identity theft. Every year, malware causes damage of millions of dollars worldwide. The main reason is that users don’t install critical software or Windows updates, allowing malware to exploit loopholes that have long been patched. Vulnerabilities can potentially be exploited within hours of them becoming publicly known. So once a security update is available, you should immediately install the fix to protect your system from malware attacks.
2. Resolve General Windows Issues and BugsThe second type of update addresses more general bugs and issues of the Windows operating system. These updates typically contain several fixes in one go. Below is the generic description of an update published in February 2012:
Install this update to resolve issues in Windows. For a complete listing of the issues that are included in this update, see the associated Microsoft Knowledge Base article for more information. After you install this item, you may have to restart your computer.
While these non critical errors are not responsible for security-relevant vulnerabilities, they may still be very annoying as they potentially impact the performance and stability of Windows. So the main reason for installing general updates is to avoid or resolve Windows issues and hopefully have a smooth and pleasant Windows user experience.
3. Access New Windows & Software FeaturesFinally, Windows updates often introduce new features, while also fixing some known issues. A good example is Internet Explorer. Even if you don’t plan on using the respective software, you should still run these updates, considering they often come with significant improvements and you may end up being forced to use the software after all. Moreover, Microsoft will eventually cease support for outdated software, e.g. old versions of Internet Explorer. This means that if new vulnerabilities are discovered, they will not be patched, as users are expected to run the latest version of the program.
ConclusionIt is critical to install security updates to protect your computer from malicious attacks. In the long run, it is also important to install software updates, not only to access new features, but also to be on the safe side in terms of security loop holes being discovered in outdated programs. And it is in your own best interest to install all other updates, which may potentially cause your system to be buggy.
I recommend to download Windows updates automatically, but choose whether and when to install them. Do, however, make an effort to install them as soon as possible. Rebooting really isn’t that bad!
How do you handle Windows updates? Have you ever had to roll back an update or did you ever suffer the consequences of not installing an update? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.