Update: Please read this blog post before following any instructions below.
I recently had a client who brought me a computer that had a few different issues. They all seemed to be unrelated – odd error messages popping up, the screen not displaying content the way it should all the time, etc. In cases like this, sometimes the issues really are unrelated (especially in older computers). But sometimes, the problems all stem from one source – Windows Updates. Or more accurately, the LACK of some Windows Updates.
In case you didn’t already know this, Microsoft issues updates to Windows each month. They actually do this on the second Tuesday of the month, which has come to be known as “Patch Tuesday”. Your computer is supposed to get those updates when they come in (assuming your computer is powered on and connected to the internet).
There are two types of updates: Important updates, and Optional updates. The Important updates are the ones that are supposed to get installed automatically by default. If you don’t change the schedule, this is set up to happen at 3 am. If the computer isn’t on at 3 am, it should install the updates the next time you power it up.
The Optional updates, however, may or may not be getting downloaded and installed to your computer. They are considered “optional” because they are not critical to the security of the computer – usually they consist of updates to the software for your video card, or information for your antivirus program, that kind of thing.
Don’t consider the “optional” updates as optional – I recommend getting them along with all the others that Microsoft classifies as Important. That way you know you are getting and using the most recent software for your version of Windows as well as for all of the other peripheral items around your computer (audio, video, printer, scanner, external drive, etc.).
Here is how to configure Windows Updates to make sure you get everything you need:
Windows Updates for Windows 7:
1. Click the Start button (Microsoft logo in lower left corner) and then click on Control Panel. In the top right, change the view to “Small Icons”. Look for Windows Update in the list and click on it:
2. In the left-hand column, click on Change Settings:
3. In the settings Window, choose “Install updates automatically” and set the schedule you prefer. Then, check all 4 boxes below that:
4. Click OK
Windows Updates for Windows 8:
1. On the Apps screen, click on the shortcut to go to Control Panel
2. In the top right, change the view to “Small Icons”. Look for Windows Update in the list and click on it.
3. In the left-hand column, click on Change Settings.
4. In the settings Window, choose “Install updates automatically”. Then, check the box that says “Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates”
5. Click OK
Windows Updates for Windows XP:
1. Click the Start button and go to Control Panel
2. On the left side, click “Classic View” (unless you are already in Classic View)
3. Open “Automatic Updates”
4. Choose “Automatic” and “Every day” as well as a time that you prefer to have the updates installed
5. Click OK
Windows Updates for Windows Vista:
(follow the instructions for Windows 7 – very similar, if not identical)
Even if you have the Windows Updates set to automatically download and install both Important and Optional updates, it can’t hurt to sometimes check and make sure you are getting all of them. You can always click Start – All Programs – Windows Update and have the program check for any available updates, then get whatever comes up.