Denver Bar Association
October 2003
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Update Windows to Avoid Computer Viruses: The worms crawl in; the worms crawl out

by Geoffrey E. Godwin-Austen

Since its release on August 11, many people running Windows NT, 2000, or XP have been inconvenienced by the Blaster worm. Everyone infected could have avoided lost productivity and untold frustration by using Windows Update, Microsoft’s free and easy tool to keep your system updated. The patch for the flaw that Blaster exploited was released on July 16th, almost a month before Blaster.

Windows Update can be used on any version of Windows newer than Windows 95. If you’re running it for the first time, you should run it manually. After that, you can set it to run automatically. Connect to the Windows Update Web site at http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com. There is a link toward the top of either the Start menu or the All Programs menu.

You may be asked to allow the Windows Update software to install. Then, in the main window of the site there’ll be a green button with a white arrow next to a link that says "Scan for updates." Clicking this link will scan your computer for three types of updates: Critical Updates and Service Packs, non-critical updates (listed under the name of your OS), and Driver Updates.

Next, a screen will come up that will either tell you that you have no critical updates or link you to "Review and Install Updates." Clicking this will take you to a list of critical updates with an "Install Now" button. Here, you can choose which updates to install. Updates from the other two categories can be seen by clicking the corresponding links on the left of the site. Installing updates can take some time, and some updates can install together while others need to install individually and reboot before continuing. So you may find yourself in the situation of rebooting and revisiting the Update site a few times before all updates are installed. Also, some of the updates can be quite large, so use a broadband connection when you can.

Once your system is up-to-date, you can set updates to run automatically. Automatic Updates properties are found either as an item in the Control Panel, or as a tab in the System properties (which is also in Control Panel). You can choose not to use automatic updates, or choose from three levels of automation. The default, and probably most convenient, is to let your computer download the updates automatically and notify you before installation. Once downloaded, you can review them and choose whether to install them. Updates often require a reboot, so be warned. Windows Update goes some way toward keeping your computer secure from attacks and viruses, but a good anti-virus program is always a good idea too.


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