What Are Windows Updates and Do I Need Them?

This title of this post is somethign that I frequently asked by those new to the PC world.

All versions of Microsoft Windows are supported with automatic download of critical updates via the internet. These updates are provided to address security issues, to protect your system against hackers, viruses and malware and to improve functionality. As such it is very important that you allow your Windows PC to install and configure these updates.

The good news is that the updates are downloaded and installed automatically. The bad news is that the default time for installation is at 3am in the morning so they will not upload at this time if you turn off your system at night. However, the second method used for critical updates is to implement when you shut down your system. This is what is happening when you see that message about ‘not turning off your system’ on shutdown because ‘an update is being installed’. It is the automatic Windows update process that handles this.

Service Packs

New Windows updates are provided on a very frequent basis, a minimum of weekly and sometimes sooner. At infrequent intervals they will also issue an update called a Service Pack. This is a roll up of all the fixes plus additional changes and improvement and is more of a significant change to the system than a simple weekly update.

Hardware and Software companies will always test their new products against the latest service packs so it is essential that you keep your system up to date, not only from a security viewpoint but also to minimise any potential issues with this new hardware and software. The current service pack level for the three main versions of Windows is as follows.

Windows version

Current Service Pack Level Published minimum


Windows XP Service Pack 3 512Mb (0.5 Gigabyte) 1Gb +

Windows Vista

Service Pack 2 2Gb

           2Gb +

Windows 7

Service Pack 1 1Gb

           2Gb +

In general when a service pack is installed you will not need to make any changes to your system, however, there is one important exception to this related to the Vista update to Service Pack 2. Due to the numerous problems that Microsoft had with the Vista system, when this is installed the minimum system memory requirement goes up from 1Gb to 2Gb. It is an important point to note as many Vista systems were sold with only 1Gb of memory so if you are a Vista user, check your installed memory and, if needed, increase it to 2Gb. Less than this will result in your system slowing down when SP2 is applied.

How to Check Your Service Pack level

  • Click on the Computer icon
  • Right Click on it
  • Left click on properties

After a short delay your system will now display a window that shows you some basic information about your PC, including the Operating System and the amount of memory installed.

How to Manually Run Windows Update

You can manually run Windows Update at any time to get the latest patches and/or Service Packs. To do this …

  • Click on the Start or Windows button at the lower left corner of the screen
  • Click on All program and search for Windows Update in the list
  • Left click on Windows Update to run the process
  • Follow the onscreen instructions to search for the latest patches and install them
    (Note that you can continue to use your system whilst Windows Update runs)

On the update window you can also view patches already installed and set the system to carry out updates at a different time to the default 3am. This is useful if you only run your computer system during the day.

Hope this helps those that are in doubt about whether they should install these updates.

Taff Lovesey

About taffybach

Author of the young adult fantasy novel series, The Portal Chronicles, including The Spider Gem and The Shimmering Gate. When not writing and promoting Taff runs a small IT support company, LITES PC based in Bourne UK.
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One Response to What Are Windows Updates and Do I Need Them?

  1. Ranjeet giri says:

    I like this. This good knowledge for me

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