Windows 10: Don’t Skip Your Automatic Updates

Mark Funchion is a network technician at Tech Experts.

Windows Automatic Updates: a simple feature with a name that puts you at ease. Windows is the operating system installed on most of our home and business PCs, and as we often mention, malicious individuals try to make our lives miserable by attacking those systems.

Windows, by default, is set to automatically update and protect itself from new viruses and exploits, which is a great feature.

Granted, some updates may be flawed and may need to be removed, but you can prevent those updates from installing. What’s more important than the errant glitch or bug is keeping your PC up-to-date.

However, how many of you have come in the morning and been greeted with a message that your update failed and changes were being undone?

Then, after a lengthy wait, your system restarts and says it will try again later. Most of us ignore that message. Sometimes, repeatedly.

Microsoft deploys small updates as well as large feature updates, so if you put it off for too long, you won’t only be behind on updates but possibly entire versions. Windows 10 has had ten major updates total since 2015, and there are usually two feature updates released per year.

The four most recent versions are 1909, 2004, 20H2, and now 21H1 – and we’ve seen some computers get stuck as far back as Versions 1903 or 2004.

Version 1903 was released in May 2019 and Version 2004 was released in May 2020; if your updates are that far behind, that’s a lot of time spent vulnerable.

That long of a timeframe means the smaller updates that often work, even when the larger versions fail, are no longer produced. Over time, we have seen systems not only stop operating completely, but left in a state unable to perform certain tasks.

One example we’ve encountered is a problem where users on old Windows versions are no longer able to connect to Office 365 with Outlook.

That means having to use the web-based version, which many do not prefer, or trying to fix the update installation errors.

This is where having a managed service provider such as Tech Experts can help. We follow and encounter these issues and know that simple things such as a particular audio driver or a permissions error can cause these update problems.

We manage your updates and take a proactive approach to resolving them before they impact your daily work. When an update needs some manual tweaking, we can schedule a time convenient to you to resolve these issues, often before you’re even aware of them.

Our service extends beyond just these updates, but like a house, if the foundation of your PC (the operating system) is not strong, then every other part is weakened.

We also inspect the rest of your system on a regular basis to keep you protected. Tech Experts can stay on top of these things – from updates to exploits and bugs to enhanced security measures – and guide you in the right direction as a more informed user.

Windows 10 Updates Are Now Mandatory

For those who have made the switch to Windows 10, there are some changes to how the new operating system updates are handled.

While users were previously notified of the availability of updates and were prompted to install them, these changes are now made automatically. Most Windows 10 users are likely unaware of this change because the only notification from Microsoft is a brief line in the licensing agreement that states users will “receive automatic downloads without additional notice.”

Microsoft doesn’t have any nefarious intentions (or at least we hope they don’t) by making this change; its intent seems to keep the most up-to-date version of the operating system on users’ devices.

There are, however, some potential drawbacks to having automatic updates without user knowledge. While the updates make it easier for Microsoft to keep up with changing technology, knowing its users are basically all on the same page and developers have a consistent target audience, these updates can potentially cause systems to interact differently with other hardware devices that aren’t part of the updates.

A particular printer’s driver, for instance, may lose functionality with an automatic update, and affected users would just be dumbfounded as to what happened, ultimately having to replace that hardware device.

Although Microsoft isn’t making any settings changes widely known, there is a way to configure your device to only install security updates automatically. This keeps your PC or tablet safe from the latest security threats while keeping your computer system as stable as possible.

Unfortunately, this option is not available to users running the Home version of Windows 10. Thus far, only the Enterprise Edition provides this capability, which is an important consideration for business owners.

Why Are Windows And Software Updates Important?

by Jeremy Miller, Technician
Everyone who owns a computer running Microsoft Windows has seen that pop-up alerting you that you have updates to install or that they have been installed. Updates are fixes for a known issue.

Microsoft uses an application called Windows Update Service to look for new updates, and then it categorizes the various updates by how critical they are.

There are security updates which patch vulnerabilities that can compromise your system.

Critical updates fix major issues found with Microsoft products that can cause errors or unusual behavior. Software updates are non-critical issues such as more features and minor bug fixes.

Service packs contain all updates and patches prior to the service pack. You can install a service pack to apply a large amount of updates at once. Also service packs can determine which software you can run.

It is important to update your computer to keep your computing environment stable. If you allow your computer to get too out of date such as not installing a service pack, you may not be able to run a lot of software.
Even worse if you do not install security updates you will have a larger “known” attack surface for exploits.

Windows is not the only software that updates. You have probably seen Adobe Reader, Flash Player, or Java letting you know that there are updates available for install in your system tray. They update for the same reason that Microsoft updates Windows.

Updates are important to keep your system secure and relatively issue free. Updates can also cause issues sometimes. It is better to install the update on a computer to see if there will be an issue before deploying it to the entire network.

A good example of this is if Internet Explorer 10 has just been installed on your computer and now all of a sudden you cannot print a report, the latest update may be the issue. You should first attempt to work with the new update.

Internet Explorer 10 has compatibility mode to work with older websites, if that does not work you may have to uninstall the update and use Internet Explorer 9. This happens because the company you are printing the report from is not compatible with the new Internet Explorer 10 browser.

You will have to wait until either the company updates their server to be compliant with Internet Explorer 10 or you will have to wait until Internet Explorer 10’s compatibility will work with the site.

Keeping your software up to date is an important part of secure computing. Threats and security holes are discovered every day; it is critical you apply any updates the manufacturer releases.

Not all updates apply to every environment, which means that not everyone will get the same updates; it is based on the software you have installed and when you installed it.

The only software that you should always update would be any anti-virus software. This software usually updates automatically several times a day. The moment your anti-virus gets out of date you are not protected with the latest anti-virus definitions.

If you are having trouble with updates and patching or if you have any questions give us a call. We can make sure your computers are up to date and keep you worry free.

Automatic Updates: Be Safe by Being Secure

We are all well aware of how  popular the Microsoft Windows operating system has become. Not only is this  operating system popular for the business world, the vast majority of home computers run this operating system in various forms.

This popularity can make you a prime target for hackers and other criminals looking for a way to take advantage of a security risk in the operating system. Microsoft is keenly aware of this issue and takes steps almost instantly to make security patches and updates available for you, or your IT professional, to download and install.

Depending on how you have the automatic updates setting configured, these updates may or may not download and install themselves automatically, or you may have to initiate the process yourself manually.

While this feature is nice, most IT pros would rather pick a time to download and install these updates in a controlled situation, where the loading process can be monitored for any problems or issues that may arise.

The automatic updates utility can be accessed through the control panel. Once you open up automatic updates, you have the option there to select automatic updates, but even if you have automatic updates turned on, it is always a good idea to visit Microsoft’s update website occasionally and have the update center scan your computer to check and make sure you have all the latest updates available.

Microsoft also has a very thorough program called “Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer 2.1.” This tool written for IT professionals provides a streamlined method of finding common security misconfigurations.

This tool allows our technicians to quickly scan your server or workstations and identify any missing security patches and provides a quick link to the supporting white paper that will explain to the technician exactly what security issue is being addressed with the particular security patch. Once enough of these security patch releases become available, Microsoft bundles them all together into what is called a service pack. This allows IT pros to download this patch to portable media and deploy it very quickly in a network environment.

I cannot stress the importance of keeping up with these service packs and security patches. A case in point, I went to a client’s office and checked every one of their workstations to see how “up to date” they were.

One of the stations required a service pack installation that has been available for months now. In addition, it
required 59 additional updates to bring it up to date.

You can imagine the risk that this system was to the client’s network. We now have this client’s network under our Managed Services Plan. This plan is offered for a nominal monthly fee and encompasses their server and all  stations.

Now these stations are monitored around the clock by our network operations center, and updates are downloaded and installed after hours, as soon as the updates are available.

So make sure to keep your computer and your information safe by being secure and contact Technology Experts to get your network protected by our Managed Services Plan. It’s the best way to make sure your network is safe and  secure.