Getting patches is critical


May 13, 2004|By James Coates | James Coates,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

I'm running Windows XP, and, until recently, my system would automatically check for XP updates whenever I connected to the Internet. After installing the latest set of patches, however, the auto- update stopped working.

How do I reactivate this valuable feature?

With nearly every week bringing another story about how some loophole in Windows code permits yet another worm or virus attack, these so-called "critical updates" have become essential. I'll show you how to restore the automatic updates, but it doesn't hurt to point out that Microsoft also uses other tactics to reach customers with security fixes. (For example, there is a good chance that your Web browser occasionally will come up with the Windows Update page instead of your normal home page.)

As you note, many computers are set to make these checks daily. Since you are on a corporate network, your company's computer staff may have changed this setting because they handle the chores for the whole network. So check to make sure it is OK to reactivate the feature.

If so, right-click on the My Computer icon and pick Properties. There you will find an Automatic Updates tab. Click that, and you can pick when and where to access the Microsoft Web site and check to see if your machine has all required critical patches.

You can set the machine to ask you before going online to check for new patches, or to automatically download patches and ask you whether to install them, or simply download and install in the background without bothering you.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper. Contact James Coates at

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