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Windows Update \windows\system32\wupdmgr.exe

Use Internet Explorer to download updates to Windows XP over the Internet.

To Open

Start Windows Update

Internet Explorer Tools menu Windows Update

Internet Explorer open http://www.windowsupdate.com

Command Prompt wupdmgr


The Windows Update feature allows Microsoft to make updates to Windows XP available publicly. It also allows Windows XP users to download and install those updates quickly and easily.

When you open the Windows Update site in Internet Explorer, it looks like any other web site on the surface. In addition to links to other portions of the Microsoft web site, including a similar Office Update site, the main link of interest here is “Scan for updates.” When you initiate the scan, Internet Explorer retrieves a list of all available updates from the Microsoft web site, and then compares it to a list of already-installed updates. Any new updates are shown in the window, from which you can select items to download and install (see Figure 4-119).

Figure 4-119. Use the Windows Update tool frequently to make sure you have the latest bug fixes and security patches

There are three categories of updates: Critical Updates, which are typically new versions of shared files that fix problems and patch security holes; Critical Updates typically don’t contain newer versions of software, so it’s generally safe to install them. The Windows XP category contains new versions of some of the components discussed in this chapter, such as Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player, and are typically considered optional. The last category, Driver Updates, compares your installed drivers with the ones that Microsoft has on file (see Notes).

Windows XP also has an automatic update feature, where the Windows Update site is routinely checked for critical updates; if any are found, they are automatically downloaded and installed. To change your preferences regarding automatic updates, go to Control Panel [Performance and Maintenance] System Automatic Updates tab.


  • Windows Update requires Internet Explorer, and unfortunately will not work with any other web browser.

  • By default, updates are installed only on the computer accessing the site. However, if you have a slow connection or have several computers to update, you may wish to “package” the updates so that they can be repeatedly installed without being repeatedly downloaded. Click About Windows Update for more information.

  • One of the features in Windows Update is its ability to update some of the hardware drivers in your system (the Driver Updates category). This category is unlike the others, as these updates may or may not be applicable. In fact, Windows Update often recommends that you update a driver when, in fact, the driver is totally wrong for your system. Your best bet here is to update drivers only for Microsoft products, such as their mice and game controllers. Drivers for all other products should be downloaded from the manufacturer’s web site. Naturally, if you see an update available here, it’s only prudent to check with the manufacturer see if a new driver is indeed available; but don’t be alarmed if there’s a new driver available at Windows Update, but not on your manufacturer’s web site.

  • Updates to Windows can be numerous and time consuming to download, especially over a slow connection. If you have several computers, you may find it handy to download the updates once and then install them manually on all your systems. You can also put the updates on a CD so that Windows machines without Internet connections can be updated as well. On the Windows Update site, click the “Personalize Windows Update” link under “Other Options,” turn on the “Display the link to the Windows Update Catalog under See Also” option, and then click Save Settings. Then click “Windows Update Catalog” to view the listing of downloadable updates and any applicable instructions. You can also go to http://corporate.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/.

  • If you’ve used Windows Update before, you can click View installation history to see a list of the previously installed updates.

See Also

“Internet Explorer”

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