Windows Update is one of the tools which were redesigned completely in Windows Vista. Instead of having to browse to a specific Microsoft web page, the whole update process was managed directly by the operating system. Windows 7 keeps the same approach and introduces a very small number of changes to this process, mostly cosmetic. In this tutorial I will show how to use Windows Update to check, select and install updates. I'll also show how to prevent certain unwanted updates from being installed. If you have skipped from Windows XP directly to Windows 7, then this tutorial is a must read.
Where to find Windows Update
To open the Windows Update window, you have several alternatives: one is to go to 'Start Menu -> All Programs -> Windows Update' while another is 'Control Panel -> System and Security -> Windows Update'.
There are other ways to open it, like using the Start Menu search box or its icon from the Windows 7 taskbar.
How to Check for Updates
By default, Windows 7 is set to check for updates each time you login. You can also check manually. To do this, in the Windows Update window, click on the 'Check for updates' link.
At the end of the checking process, Windows Update will tell you if there are any updates available, how many there are and sort them by type: important or optional.
Important updates are those which fix security, stability and compatibility problems with Windows 7. They can also add functionality, one good example being Service Packs. Optional updates are extras which consist of language packs, additional software or drivers for your computers components.
In the list of important updates you will also see recommended updates (confusing, I know!). These updates can fix stability and compatibility problems for applications which are installed on your computer such as: compatibility fixes for Windows Media Center or Internet Explorer 8, Definition Updates for Windows Defender or Microsoft Security Essentials, updates for Microsoft Office.
How to Install Updates
By default, Windows Update will install only the important updates, excluding the recommended or optional ones. If you want to make sure it installs others on top or just the ones you consider important, click on the area that shows how many updates are available.
If you are OK with Windows Update installing only the important updates, click on the 'Install updates' button.
When you choose to review the updates which get installed, you will see a list split in two categories: important and optional. Review both lists, check the updates you want to install, and uncheck those which you don't want installed. To get more information about an update, click on it, and on the right side panel, Windows Update will show detailed information about what the update is and what it does.
When you are done reviewing the list of available updates, click on the OK button.
You will be taken back to the Windows Update window. Click on the 'Install updates' button.
Windows Update will start to download and install all the selected updates. Depending on their size and the speed of your internet connection, the process can take up to a few minutes. So, please be patient. If you want to stop the installation process, click on the 'Stop installation' button. Depending on when you pressed the button, Windows Update might not have installed anything or, it has and it will stop after the current update is installed.
If the installation process has finished successfully, Windows Update will notify you. Depending on the updates installed, you might be asked to restart your computer. If that is the case, close all your open applications and documents and click on the 'Restart now' button.
After the reboot is done, the installation process is complete.
How to Prevent Updates from Installing
There are scenarios where you might not want a certain update to be installed on your PC. One of them, which I personally encountered on several occasions, is when Windows 7 is proposing as an update an outdated or bad driver for one of my computer's components. Another was when I did not require the functionality added by an update, such as Microsoft's browser ballot imposed by the European Union.
In such cases, it is better to review the available updates before installing them. Therefore, check for updates, click on the link that tell you how many updates are available and check the available updates one by one. When you click on an update, Windows Update will also show you some information about what it is & what it does. If you don't want it, right click on the update and select 'Hide update'.
You will see that update as being grayed out. It will not get installed and it will not be shown by future update checks.
As you can see, Windows Update offers a very friendly way of installing updates on your Windows 7 computer. The process is managed mostly automatically. However, you can also run it manually, as shown above so that you have more control about what gets installed or not. For more information about Windows Update, how to configure it and work with it, stay tuned for future articles.