Every operating system will tell you that your computer will run best, and will be safest, if you keep it up-to-date. This is a no brainer, really, and so there are dozens of good reasons to have your system’s automatic update checker turned on, and to have those updates installed automatically as well.
On the other hand, there are too many stories of an update that fixes the bugs it was intended for, but also causes problems for certain users. If that update was installed automatically, then the user would be trading one problem for another, and who’s to say that the second problem – the one caused by the update – isn’t actually worse? So, there are good reasons to have automatic updates turned off as well.
Thankfully, this isn’t a setting that’s too difficult to configure in Windows. The first step to configuring your automatic update behavior is to open the Start menu. Do this by hitting the Windows key on your keyboard, or clicking the Start orb.
Now click All Programs to view all your installed programs, and not just those pinned to the start menu.
Finally, to configure your automatic update settings, click Windows Update (it should be fairly near the top of the list, before all the folders.
Once Windows update has launched, click Change Settings in the lefthand sidebar.
The recommended behavior is to download and install updates automatically. If you do this, your computer will check periodically (every day or on a particular day of the week, at a time of day you set), and will install them once downloaded.
There are three other options available. You can also download all updates, but only install the ones you select. The next step toward doing nothing is to check for updates, but only download and install the ones the user wants. Or, finally, you can never check for updates, which will turn off Windows Update entirely.
Now, assuming you have Windows Update configured to at least do some checking, downloading and installing, there are a couple other options. First is how Windows Update treats recommended updates. There are two types of updates: important and recommended. If you have this setting checked, your recommended updates will be treated exactly the same as important ones, so if you have important updates scheduled to be installed automatically, this will be true of recommended ones as well.
You also have the option to allow any user to update Windows, or with this option unchecked, can keep the privilege for only the administrator.
The first of the last two options allows you to check for extra Microsoft software (such as Microsoft Security Essentials or Silverlight), and allow those to be updated as well.
Finally, in conjunction with the above option, you can choose to receive detailed notice when there is new Microsoft software available.
This will include not just updates, but also software not currently installed on your computer.
Once finished, click the OK button at the bottom of the window and you’re all set. Windows Update will begin using your new settings immediately; no restart necessary.