The highs and lows of Windows Updates

As with all large companies, Microsoft's every move is highly scrutinized by external observers. Although some people are just there for the bashing, this is actually a normal and healthy situation that allows a large community to give feedback and raise concerns when the Redmond giant heads into the wrong direction.

One always highly anticipated moment is the so-called “Patch Tuesday”, when the company releases its monthly security updates and fixes. Over the years, there have been interesting - to put it mildly – events around the release of those updates.

Those security fixes are critical to making sure millions of computers worldwide don't get infected, leak information or get abused in other ways.  Indeed, “Keep your computer up to date” is one of those things security professionals have repeated countless times over the past several years.

Despite all of this, Windows Updates remain one heavily discussed topic. While many users still don't seem to understand the importance of patching, others badly want to but are often denied. The search query “checking for updates stuck” returns over 4 million results on Google and reflects the pain many Windows 7 users have experienced. Some people speculate this is because Microsoft really wants people to upgrade to Windows 10 (remember the incessant upgrade notifications?). Perhaps there is a little bit of truth to it as we discover that running a newer processor on anything but the latest OS means you won't receive updates, period.

Now what about those forced Windows Updates on Windows 10, even for those on a metered (paid) connection? Well, you can't make everybody happy but for once we should look at how this has reduced the time frame attackers have to exploit vulnerabilities (that is if Microsoft doesn't skip a Patch Tuesday) therefore keeping us safer.

Getting such a large user base to always be on the latest OS and with all patches applied is no small feat (Apple's track record in this regard has long been envied). If Microsoft wants to achieve this tour de force, it will also need to be more transparent on how it goes about it. People don't like to have their hands tied and the lack of control over automatic updates can be both a blessing and a curse.

But then again it depends on the users. Those that would never apply updates (either because of a lack of technical knowledge or of a careless attitude) need to be handled differently than those who like to be in the driver's seat. If Microsoft doesn't offer a little more latitude, users may make poor choices anyway by trying to break something they don't like.

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