Windows Update FAQ

Updates often address security vulnerabilities that have been discovered or not previously disclosed. If software updates are not installed in a timely manner it can lead to unauthorized access, theft of information, or the destruction of data.

What are updates?

Updates are additions to software that can help prevent or fix problems, improve how your computer works, or enhance your computing experience.

What are software notifications?

Software notifications will periodically let you know about new programs that can enhance your experiences with your computer and the Internet. You can choose to receive detailed notification messages letting you know when a new program is available for download and installation. When you get a notification, you can review what's being offered, and get more details. You can install the updates if you like what you see. The notification will appear for a limited time, and you can close it if you're not interested. To turn software notifications on or off, follow these steps:

Open Windows Update > Change Settings.
Do one of the following:

  • To turn on new Microsoft software notifications, select the Show me detailed notifications when new Microsoft software is available check box.
  • To turn off new Microsoft software notifications, clear the Show me detailed notifications when new Microsoft software is available check box.

Click OK.

Where can I find updates?

For Windows updates, including those for programs that are included with Windows, go to Windows Update in Control Panel:

In the left pane, click Check for updates.

We recommend that you turn on automatic updating so Windows can install new updates as they become available.

What do the different types of updates mean?

Updates are classified as Important, Recommended, Optional, and Featured. Here's what they mean:

Important updates offer significant benefits, such as improved security, privacy, and reliability. They should be installed as they become available, and can be installed automatically with Windows Update.

Recommended updates address non-critical problems or help enhance your computing experience. While these updates do not address fundamental issues with your computer or Windows software, they can offer meaningful improvements. These can be installed automatically.

Optional updates can include updates, drivers, or new software from Microsoft to enhance your computing experience. You need to installed these manually.

Depending on the type of update, Windows Update can deliver the following:

Security updates: A broadly released fix for a product-specific security-related vulnerability. Security vulnerabilities are rated based on their severity, which is indicated in the Microsoft security bulletin as critical, important, moderate, or low.

Critical updates: A broadly released fix for a specific problem addressing a critical, non-security related bug.

Service Packs: A tested, cumulative set of hotfixes, security updates, critical updates, and updates, as well as additional fixes for problems found internally since the release of the product. Service Packs might also contain a limited number of customer-requested design changes or features.

Do I need to download and install updates?

Yes. Updates do not take effect until they are installed, but to install updates, you must first download them to your computer. You can choose to have Windows automatically download and install updates for you, automatically download updates and notify you so you can install them yourself, or notify you to both download and install new updates yourself. For more information, see Change how Windows installs or notifies you about updates.

How often should I update my computer and my programs?

As often as possible. Updates are the best way to prevent or repair known problems, and they can enhance the security of your computer. For Windows, the easiest way to install updates is to turn on automatic updating. Windows will install new updates as they become available.

What happens if I forget to install an update?

Your computer might be at risk or you might experience unnecessary problems with Windows or your programs. Malicious software is being released all the time which uses vulnerabilities in Windows or other programs to damage or gain access to your data or computer. Windows updates and other software updates correct these vulnerabilities soon after they are discovered. If you delay or don't apply updates, your computer can become vulnerable to these threats.

Can I get updates automatically?

For Windows and programs that ship with Windows, yes. Just turn on automatic updating. For more information, see Turn automatic updating on or off. For other programs, check the website of the publisher or manufacturer to see if you can get updates automatically.

How much do updates cost?

Updates and software from Microsoft for Microsoft products are free as part of maintenance and support services. For other products, check with each program publisher and device manufacturer to see if updates are free of charge. Depending on your Internet connection, standard local and long-distance phone charges and/or Internet service charges might apply while you download and install updates from any publisher or manufacturer.

Why do I need to install some updates separately, before or after installing other updates?

Typically because these updates require you to restart your computer before they can take effect. You might, for example, need to install an update for Windows Update itself before you can check for other updates for your computer. In other cases, an update might be a new version or a service pack for software that you're currently running. To make sure that your computer is ready to install these updates, you must first install all important updates for your computer. After you've installed important updates, Windows will ask if you want to install the stand-alone or "exclusive" update by itself.

I share my computer with other people. Do we all get the same updates?

Yes. Updates apply to Windows and your programs, regardless of who uses them.

Can I remove updates?

You can remove some updates, but not updates that affect important operating system files. You should remove an update only if you're sure that it's causing a problem.

For more information, see Remove an update.

Why couldn't I install an update?

You can remove some updates, but not updates that affect important operating system files. You should remove an update only if you're sure that it's causing a problem.

For more information, see Remove an update.