Software Applications: What are Microsoft Updates?

Microsoft Update is a service that allows for the periodic patching of system files to address known issues with Microsoft products.

Microsoft Updates are organized into several categories:

Security Updates - These updates patch security vulnerabilities that could allow a system to become compromised. Security updates are classified as Critical, Important, Moderate, Low, or non-rated. Critical Security Updates are perhaps the most important updates to apply to your system. Ignoring these could leave your computer or server extremely vulnerable to hackers and malicious code.

Critical Updates - Critical Updates fix any major issue that is found in Microsoft products that could cause software errors or unexpected behavior. Together with Security Updates, they form the "High Priority" category of updates from Microsoft and should be set to download and install automatically.

Software Updates - Non-critical issues, such as extended features and minor bugs, are addressed using Software Updates.

Service Packs - Service Packs contain a rollup of all patches to date for a specific piece of software or operating system and usually have additional feature changes. For example, Windows XP Service Pack 3 is the latest service pack for XP and addresses all updates prior to its release as well as a small number of new features.

Why Should I Update?

Simply put, Microsoft Updates prevent problems. Not only do Microsoft Updates fix known bugs in software and operating systems, but they plug critical security holes that could drastically affect your security. Microsoft vulnerabilities are actively exploited in countless viruses, which could have been easily prevented by maintaining updates. When computers don’t have the most up-to-date security in place, the results can be harmful and expensive—crippled networks, slow Internet traffic, disrupted business activities.

Installing Your Security Updates

Updates are downloaded into our management system from Microsoft every month on what is known as “Patch Tuesday”, the consistent time each month of the year. The updates are distributed to a group at the University of Maryland University College for testing the week that the updates are released

After the testing is verified and accepted by this group, the patches are set to be sent out the following week to all machines.

Note: Please keep in mind that you can evoke the restart any time before the deadline once the updates have been downloaded to your computer, thereby avoiding any haste or panic to save open work at forced reboot time.

Also remember that you should log off every night, as per policy agreement, but leave your computer on, so that any changes or needed updates can reach your computer in a timely and unobtrusive way.