Are all Windows Updates really necessary?

October 31, 2011 by . 2 comments

We return with a new Question of the Week, this time addressing Windows Updates. Lital maatuk asks,

Which of the Windows updates are really necessary?

I downloaded a lot of Windows updates in the automatic mode. Are they all necessary? Can I remove some of them? How do I know which ones are necessary?

Jens Erat, one of our newest users, gave a very detailed and well thought-out answer about the different types of Windows updates and their relative importance.

  • Security updates (by default installed automatically) are necessary and important. Install all of them as they fix major bugs which can be exploited my malware and bad guys. Don’t hesitate to install them as the most-current exploits are usually most active.
  • Optional and recommended updates and upgrades (for the difference between these, see below) usually do some feature-fixes or add small features. Examples would be exFAT for XP and Vista or Microsoft Search. Drivers updates can be included, too. Some are indeed to be questioned – I don’t use any of the “Windows Live” software, so I skipped it. Never saw the Bing Bar mentioned in some other answer, but wouldn’t install that, too. Choose yourself!
  • Service Packs are collections of lots of updates of the above named categories. They bring all windows systems to the same fix level which makes it much easier for software developers (both Microsoft and third parties) and administrators to maintain software and systems. They usually include much optional fixes not even available in Windows Update. Microsoft stops maintenance for older service pack levels after some time, then they change from optional to mandatory updates.
  • Language Packs (available in Windows Vista/7 Enterprise and Ultimate Editions) are absolutely optional. If you want to use a language, install it. If not, save download time and storage and deselect them. If you want to hide them permanently (really not planning to learn about 30 languages?) do a right click on it and select hide. You will be able to recover them later if you want to.

The consensus seems to be that any update marked “important” should be installed at the soonest opportunity, as these can affect the security and stability of the system. Other types of updates may be less important to security, but often provide useful updates which will keep your computer running more smoothly.

Service packs are all-inclusive updates which have every fix – and some additional ones – since the operating system was released. If you install a new system and it doesn’t have the latest service pack (SP1 for Windows 7, SP2 for Vista, SP3 for XP), then that’s the first thing you should do, since it will save you as much as a hundred updates, all bundled into one. It’s also possible to integrate the service pack with your installation media, so that every time you reinstall, you only need to add updates since the most recent service pack release.

Other notable posts

We’ve decided to start recognizing other notable posts from the week when we post the Question of the Week. Remember, the QOTW is specifically voted on by users, but users are already voting for questions and answers all the time! As such, we will be recognizing the question and answer with the highest number of votes each week, and the post with the most views.

This week’s QOTW was the highest-voted question (15), had the highest voted answer (27), and had the most views (663) as well.

The next-highest voted question, with eight votes, was about how effective the Windows power configuration option to spin down hard drives after idle use is. The second-highest voted answer, with fifteen votes, was on how to open a file the first time somebody reboots their computer, but not have it open automatically every time.

Filed under Question of the Week


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  • yudjge says:

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  • Ian says:

    what is it with these windows updates, more than 2 hours this AM, then more this evening.

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