A few mouse clicks stop unwanted downloads

Ask Jim

Plugged In

December 07, 2006|By Jim Coates | Jim Coates,Chicago Tribune

The other day, I received unwanted downloads for the Microsoft Internet Explorer; it is not my main Web browser. I have heard there are major problems with the new IE and do not want it. Is there a way to get rid of updates? I don't want to install them.

-- Susan Chap, Oak Lawn, Ill.

Stopping those automatic Microsoft downloads that we've learned to hate so well is a matter of a few mouse clicks. But so is, say, dragging the My Documents folder into the Recycle bin and clicking OK when asked if you really want to destroy all of your computer's data in one fell swoop.

Please forgive my clumsy metaphor, but the answer to your question probably should be a quick "Don't do that." The problem is that shutting off browser updates pretty much requires you to stop all other updates, too. That could leave you with security holes by way of e-mail or from stuff your non-Microsoft browser downloads.

This is particularly true because much of the Windows operating system uses the same code that goes into the browser for doing such things as opening, closing and saving files and displaying the contents of the entire computer.

That said, squelch uninvited Windows XP updates by changing the settings in the computer's Security Center. Click on Start, then Accessories and System Tools and call up Security Center.

When you open the Security Center you will find a big display showing items marked Firewall, Automatic Updates and Virus Protection. Give Automatic Updates a click and you'll get a small action box that lets you turn off these Windows patches that, by default, are sent once a day if Microsoft decides they are needed.

You can change that setting to just once per week and specify which day to do it.

You also will find options to specify when the computer will download patches and to ask you to approve or disapprove when upgrades will be downloaded and when they'll be installed.

A lot of folks pick one of these choices because it at least spares them from sudden activity of the computer when they are working on something else.

Thereafter, users get nagged and nagged to click OK and let the installation happen.

Finally there is a big red button that lets users shut off all download activity. If you pick this there also is a link to Microsoft's Windows Update Web Site that you can click to have your machine checked for any missing updates and patches. This at least lets you see all of the items that are going to be installed and read descriptions of what each individual update does. However, these descriptions are way too confusing to let one make a correct choice to selectively order patches to a mass of computer code that is 30 million lines long. Give that last choice a trial and you'll see what I mean.


Jim Coates writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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