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Windows Vista

Maintaining Your Windows Vista System : Checking for Updates and Security Patches

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Microsoft is constantly working to improve Windows Vista with bug fixes, security patches, new program versions, and device driver updates. All of these new and improved components are available online, so you should check for updates and patches often.

Checking the Windows Update Website

The main online site for Windows Vista updates is the Windows Update website, which you load into Internet Explorer by selecting Start, All Programs, Windows Update. You should visit this site regularly to look for crucial new components that can make Windows Vista more reliable and more secure.

Windows Vista also comes with a vastly improved automatic updating feature, which can download and install updates automatically. If you prefer to know what’s happening with your computer, it’s possible to control the automatic updating by following these steps:

1.
Select Start, Control Panel, Security, Windows Update. This displays the Windows Update window, which shows you the current update status and enables you to view installed updates.

Note

To view the updates installed on your computer, click the View Update History link.

2.
Click the Change Settings link to display the Change Settings window, shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Use the Change Settings window to configure Vista’s automatic updating.

3.
Activate one of the following options to determine how Windows Vista performs the updating:

Install Updates Automatically— This option tells Windows Vista to download and install updates automatically. Windows Vista checks for new updates on the date (such as Every Day or Every Sunday) and time you specify. For example, you might prefer to choose a time when you won’t be using your computer.

Caution

To go into effect, some updates require your computer to reboot. In such cases, if you activate the Automatic option, Windows Vista will automatically reboot your system. This could lead to problems if you have open documents with unsaved changes or if you need a particular program to be running at all times.

Download Updates, but Let Me Choose Whether to Install Them— If you activate this option, Windows Vista checks for new updates and then automatically downloads any updates that are available. Windows Vista then displays an icon in the notification area to let you know that the updates are ready to install. Click the icon to see the list of updates. If you see an update that you don’t want to install, deactivate its check box.

Tip

An update that you choose not to install still appears in the View Available Updates window. If you’d prefer not to see that update, right-click the update, click Hide Update, enter your UAC credentials, and then click Cancel. If you later want to unhide the update, display the Windows Update window and click the Restore Hidden Updates link. In the Restore Hidden Updates window, activate the update’s check box, click Restore, and then enter your UAC credentials.

Check for Updates but Let Me Choose Whether to Download and Install Them— If you activate this option, Windows Vista checks for new updates and then, if any are available, displays an icon in the notification area to let you know that the updates are ready to download. Click the icon to see the list of updates. If you see an update that you don’t want to download, deactivate its check box. Click Start Download to initiate the download. When the download is complete, Windows Vista displays an icon in the notification area to let you know that the updates are ready to install. Click the icon and then click Install to install the updates.

Never Check for Updates— Activate this option to prevent Windows Vista from checking for new updates.

4.
Click OK and enter your UAC credentials to put the new settings into effect.

Checking for Security Vulnerabilities

Microsoft regularly finds security vulnerabilities in components such as Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player. Fixes for these problems are usually available via Windows Update.

However, to ensure that your computer is safe, you should download and regularly run the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer. This tool not only scans your system for missing security patches, but it also looks for things such as weak passwords and other Windows vulnerabilities. Download the tool here: www.microsoft.com/technet/security/tools/mbsahome.mspx.

After you’ve installed the tool, follow these steps to use it:

1.
Select Start, All Programs, Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer 2.0. The program’s Welcome screen appears.

2.
Click Scan a Computer.

3.
Your computer should be in the Computer Name list. If not, choose it from that list. Alternatively, use the IP Address text boxes to enter your computer’s IP address.

4.
Use the Options check boxes to specify the security components you want to check. For most scans, you should leave all the options activated.

5.
Click Start Scan. The program checks your system and displays a report on your system’s security (and usually offers remedies for any vulnerability it finds). Figure 2 shows a sample report.

Figure 2. A sample report generated by Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer.
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