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 Are you remembering to keep your PC updated?
Sep 5 2009, 08:19 AM
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Just recently a friend of mine asked if I could take a look at their XP computer as it was running slow. I didn't manage to get round for a couple of days by which time the PC was virtually unusable. You would log on and in the time it would take to be of any use you could have made the tea, cleaned the house, done the shopping and walked the dog!. However, after blitzing the computer with a variety of cleaning tools and boot scans we were almost at the usable stage again but what did shock me was my friend didn't even have SP3 installed.

When I asked why they didn't have the service pack installed they asked "what's a service pack?".

Then I thought, just because we all know how to maintain a PC it obviously doesn't mean others do, but just like we would service our cars and know to check the oil and water it still does miff me a little when people can't actually perform the basic functionality of maintaining a computer after using it for a while, I mean there are no end of sites with advise and guidance, least of all like this and other articles on FreewareBB!.

But then I made another quite alarming discovery when I found automatic updates were actually disabled. My friend told me that they used to have a shield pop-up every now and again and they would run those updates, so my theory out of the window then regarding not maintaining their computer because by the sounds of it someone or something has obviously disabled the update service without them knowing about it, possibly a bug or a virus.

So, I thought, how many other unsuspecting PC users are in the same position? Well, here's how to check and make sure your computer is receiving automatic updates ...

First of all, if you suspect your computer to be running slow or you haven't seen a shield pop-up in your taskbar for a long while (or ever!) check the service is enabled by hitting the start menu, then choose 'run' and in the box that appears type "services.msc" and press 'OK'. From the list that appears, look for "Automatic Updates" and make sure it says "Automatic" under the "Startup Type" column. If it doesn't, 'right-click' on it and choose "Properties" then in the "Startup Type" drop-down box choose "Automatic", hit "Apply" then "OK". Your updates should now be set to download automatically.

Another way of checking or configuring your automatic updates is to go through the Control Panel. Hit the start menu again and choose "Control Panel", look for "Automatic Updates" and double click on this. Here we can configure how updates are downloaded and applied to our PC and for those who basically want Microsoft to do it all for them just make sure the first option it ticked "Automatic (recommended)".

Now personally I like to know what Microsoft are installing and that's why I don't have updates installed automatically on my PC but for those who wouldn't really know the difference between a recommended update or critical update I would certainly recommend the above procedure and it has been known for Microsoft to get it wrong at times sending updates down to PC's that either disable or conflict with other services or applications but the risk associated with not having critical updates installed is far greater than the inconvenience of having something screw up now and again, and it really doesn't happen that often anyway!.

If you're a Vista user you can enable automatic updates in much the same way but please note I'm describing this from memory so if anyone using Vista can tell me different please feel free to update me:
1. Press the start menu and in the 'search' box type "Windows Update" and then hit enter OR choose Start\All Programs\Windows Update
2. On the new window that appears, click "Change Settings".
3. Choose "Install update Automatically" and then hit "OK" or "Apply" and you're done!.

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