Any seasoned Windows user has experienced the constant interruption of computer updates – the tiny patches, fixes and replacement files that act as a sort of plaster, fixing issues discovered in a program after its release. In an ideal world, software would work as intended out the box, and updates would seldom be required. In reality, it seems the most popular software vendors rarely let a month go by without releasing yet another update for us to deal with. Knowing which are important and which can be ignored is a bit of an art.
Update notifications annoy me. I tend to delay them, avoid them, switch them off, or click “Remind Me Later” every time I am prompted. This is because I don’t like being distracted while I’m focused on a particular task. Still, I’ve been doing this long enough to know which updates I can ignore or postpone, and which are critical if I’m to remain safe online. Here are my tips to help you identify the updates you shouldn’t ignore:
Antivirus: Always install antivirus-related updates, but first make sure they are legitimate update messages from your installed program, and not scams designed to scare you into installing a fake antivirus product.
Antivirus or “internet security” software is a necessity on any Windows computer, but it’s only as good as its last update – new viruses and malware are released daily.
Because so many people are scared of computer viruses and similar threats, a host of fake antivirus programs exist online, sold via scams that pop up messages and scary warnings to make you think your computer is infected with something nasty when it isn’t. These scams have increased exponentially in recent years, so it’s more important than ever before to be completely sure of what antivirus software you are using and how to keep it updated. If you’re unsure, have a suitable professional show you how.
Most antivirus programs update themselves automatically via the internet and need little user intervention, but if your program prompts you to allow an update, make sure that you do. If your antivirus program is too fiddly or complicated to use, you can install something that’s more or less “set it and forget it”.
An example is Microsoft Security Essentials, which is free, effective and incredibly simple to use.
You can download it from www.tinyurl.com/msesa2012
Get some advice from a professional if you’re unsure or inexperienced with adding or removing programs, because antivirus software is important and must be installed correctly.
Windows Updates: Install these updates when prompted, or as quickly as you can. Frustratingly, they regularly require an immediate restart of your computer.
Microsoft Windows is the predominant operating system on the world’s computers – it has been for more than a decade. As a result, Windows and Windows programs are the target of most hackers, virus writers and cybercriminals.
Microsoft releases updates for Windows monthly, sometimes sooner if the need arises. No sooner does Microsoft announce an update to fix a new security issue (thereby advertising its existence) than the criminals start devising ways to exploit it on systems that are not yet updated, so installing new updates promptly is important – especially those marked “Critical”.
To visit Microsoft’s site that explains more about how Windows Update works, and allows you to check your current update settings, open Internet Explorer and browse to www.tinyurl.com/wusa2012
You should use Internet Explorer even if you normally use another browser. Windows Update doesn’t work properly when opened in a browser other than Internet Explorer. Also read Wikipedia’s article on Windows Update at www.tinyurl.com/wuwiki2012
Next week, I’ll continue on this topic and show you some tools that can help you keep your entire computer protected by identifying any programs that are missing important security updates. This can turn a haphazard, one-at-a-time update nightmare into an automated, painless process. See you then!