Part 1 – My PC Says It’s Up-to-date

Five Reasons Why You Don’t Need IT Support

In recent weeks you may have seen our advert in Wiltshire Business Magazine or you may have stumbled across our social media posts outlining the five reasons you don’t need IT Support. This is the first of five blog posts about the myths surrounding the need for managed IT Support.

Today’s lesson – Why Windows updates can be misleading.

The Basics

Windows generally downloads the following updates on a regular basis (usually a Tuesday):

  • Critical Updates – anything where Microsoft has deemed an update as urgent
  • Security Updates – where a security issue is patched (fixed).
  • Service Packs – not a complete upgrade but a major feature change (not Windows 10).
  • Feature Packs – similar to a service pack but only with Windows 10 – twice per year
  • Driver Updates – updates for any hardware which you may have installed.

These updates are vital to ensuring we are all able to use our PCs/laptops efficiently and safely.

What Windows Update Doesn’t Do

However, Windows doesn’t update everything on your PC. It doesn’t usually keep any software other than Microsoft Software up to date.

For example it doesn’t update Java. Oracle’s most popular platform requires updates regularly. Most of us may have seen (and perhaps dismissed) the notification warning us of this when we log in to our PCs.

The other issue is that Microsoft can only download drivers for hardware which it knows about.

While this may be the case for the majority of manufacturers, some may only have specialist updates available on their websites and therefore will need to be manually updated.

As many of us don’t run the pre-installed software which comes with purchased PCs, it’s therefore possible to miss updating something important. Windows Update will not know that we have missed vital updates of non-Microsoft software, and will inform us everything is OK and up-to-date. But this really only applies to Microsoft products installed on our machines.

What Can We Do?

As users we can visit individual manufacturer’s websites – e.g. Dell, HP, Asus etc – and download their support tool. This will scan your PC for driver updates – other than those offered by the Windows Update – and ensure that everything is ticking over nicely.

Java and other similar software (e.g. Flash Player and web browsers) will let you know when it’s update time. Don’t dismiss these as there could be something underlying which needs fixing. Do the updates at the first opportunity.

It is important to factor in the BIOS (Basic Input and Output System) updates when considering your update schedules. Updating BIOS can cut boot-up times, fix any compatibility issues and improve the overall performance of your PC.

Back in the early 2000s IT administrators were on edge about flashing a BIOS in fear that it would brick the PC (i.e. prevent it working). In today’s world, updating the BIOS is as simple as any other update out there. The key rule is to follow the instructions carefully, especially when the software asks to keep other applications closed during the process.

With the majority of updates, even if something goes wrong it is not the end of the world. A backup is taken of the BIOS beforehand so unless there is a kernel crash, it will simply revert back to a previously known configuration.

The Updates Always Come Up When I’m Busy

Yup! This can be frustrating for sure. Microsoft can be quite aggressive, especially with major feature updates, prompting a restart during the day. This is becoming less prevalent in Windows 10 where you can set active hours to decide when Windows updates. These are set dynamically based on when the PC is being used – so usually between 8am and 6pm (unless you work at SupportWise where we are always available) – or this can be set manually between 7am and 6pm.

However, this is not such an easy task with Windows Server 2012 and lower, where the prompt comes up regularly during the day. This is worse with a Terminal Server (where if not configured correctly, a user could easily reboot the server in production). With these (especially for sysadmins) set a reboot policy for out of hours (through Group Policy or through whichever RMM flavour takes your fancy) and the updates should be in check 99% of the time.

Don’t These Updates Break PCs Regularly?

If Twitter is anything to go by, one would say ‘yes’. But if experience is your go-to then, ‘no, not really.’ There have been cases of the odd update causing issues (e.g. logging in after an update and your PC gets stuck on ‘Personalized Settings (Not Responding)’) but this is in the bottom 5th percentile and Microsoft usually patch this quickly.

If something does go wrong, and you’re able to get into the Settings or Control Panel after an update – uninstall the latest updates and then sit back, relax and wait for Microsoft to fix it. Sending stats regularly (as is an option when starting Windows for the first time) is a good way to keep them informed of any issue.

If you want to check that your PC is truly up to date then give the team at SupportWise a call.