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Microsoft Security Updates

A Major Pain With or Without Them. Just recently Microsoft released its monthly updates with 53 security fixes. That’s 53 security problems that Microsoft discovered and fixed in such essential systems as Windows itself, browsers, runtimes, and its Office suite. This brings up a number of important considerations about updating your operating system.

Failure to update software has been the source of many of the recent major data breaches recently: Equifax didn’t update their web server application. The WannaCry ransomware worm and related attacks that hit many European systems and FedEx was only effective because of a delay in updating Windows systems. And this problem isn’t going away soon.

On the one hand, everyone knows they should run updates regularly. Your computer nags you about it. Whoever is in charge of computer security reminds you about it. If you are fortunate to work in a large enough environment the I.T. team will manage the updates for you.

But updates are a hassle. If you don’t have someone or something taking care of it for you then you have to remember it yourself. Installing the updates can take a long time. While they are installing they can use a lot of resources (at least on Windows systems) causing your computer to slow down. You could try doing it before leaving for the day, but if there’s a problem there’s no one there to notice much less try to fix it before you get in the next day.

Microsoft has tried to mitigate at least some of this problem. As of Windows 8 the operating system would install updates automatically and reboot the computer as needed. This didn’t go over well at first. People were being forced to reboot in the middle of working on their computer. There are videos online of people using unsavory language directed at Microsoft because their computer is going to reboot while they are in the middle of rendering video, a time-consuming and resource-intensive process that can’t be stopped for a reboot and started later. Similar things were experienced in Windows Server 2012 where as soon as someone with admin access logged in they would get a notice that the server was going to reboot in ten minutes without method to even delay it much less schedule it yourself.

Windows 10 has tried to fix some of this in a few different ways. First those using Windows in an enterprise environment are not forced to update as they are expected to have an I.T. team devoted to just this sort of thing. Second in a smaller environment Windows 10 allows you to choose the time that you allow your computer to reboot itself, e.g. between the hours of 7 PM and 7 AM.

Now, this only partially fixes the issue. If you left a document open on your computer and didn’t save it that data is gone. If you were expecting to walk in and start something important but have to wait for your computer to start up, log in, and get your applications going then your day is delayed at least. If you remote into your computer from home then you might not be able to access it while it is in this process. Worse yet if the update causes a problem you may not be able to remote into your computer at all that night and are then delayed in the morning as it’s being fixed.

The best thing to do is probably to set up a specific time and day of the month for updates to run themselves and reboot as needed. You would then be expecting to save your data and close everything down. You would plan to have a few minutes in the morning as things are opening again and not have anything critical scheduled as soon as you walk in.

One other thing to do is not use Windows. Linux updates easily run in the background and use minimal system resources. They can also be set to only install security updates and do so automatically as soon as they are available. You will rarely even notice that the updates ran unless you set it to give you a notification. You can update your programs and operating system with new features manually if you want to or just keep them as they are as long as you like.

One way or another, updates are an essential part of any computer security setup. It keeps your computer safe from all but the most drastic and dramatic malicious actors.

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