Copyright Michael Karbo, Denmark, Europe.

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    Chapter 3. Windows Update

    Windows' programs are continually further developed by Microsoft and users are offered a variety of different free updates in the form of patches and service packs. This is done via Microsoft's own website with the function Windows Update. Some of the program updates are so big that you have to have a fast internet connection (such as ADSL) in order to fetch them.

    I apologize for the Danish screen dumps - but I hope and I am quite sure, you can use the book anyway.

    Figure 13. The website Windows Update itself puts forward suggestions for the update of a computer's software.

    Updating of Windows is necessary for two reasons:

  • General improvement of Windows' functionality.

  • Closing of security holes.

    New hardware arrives on the market all the time and Windows has to be adapted to it. So updates are sometimes sent out, which, for example, can support large hard disks, a wireless network, etc. Windows Update is, therefore, also found under the printer installation in Windows 2000:

    Figure 14. Here I have fetched drivers for all new HP printers for use in Windows 2000 with the help of Windows Update.

    Security problems

    The greatest part of the updates, however, concerns security in relation to the Internet. Windows is an open and very vulnerable system, which thousands of malicious programmers constantly explore trying to find new possibilities for assault with virus and other sorts of malware.

    A short while ago I checked the updates for my Windows XP. There were 14 updates with this text: A security problem has been found, which can make it possible for hackers to weaken a computer operating with Microsoft Windows XP, and gain control of it.

    Each of these updates is called a patch. It is a little piece of a program, which is downloaded into a computer and loaded into Windows. From then on the computer is protected against attacks on the specific security hole the patch has been aimed at. The problem is, there are evidently hundreds of security holes. This is why patches are sent out every week.

    Figure 15. Yet another security patch is being downloaded into a computer.

    Automatic updates

    The easiest thing to do is to let Windows keep itself updated with the latest patches. You do this through the tab Automatic updates in the dialog box System properties:

    Figure 16. Windows ought to be automatically set to download new updates. You can decide yourself how automatic it should be.

    Automatic updates work best if you are constantly connected to the Internet. Windows will then regularly make contact with Microsoft's server and check whether there are new updates to pick up. If there are, then you can decide if you will accept the transfer.

    Figure 17. Windows finds out if there are updates by itself.

    Known errors after installation of patches

    Unfortunately, there are often problems with the patches Windows is updated with. The American writer John Dvorak is a sharp and critical judge of Windows and he has found a number of symptoms of a 'sick Windows', which can be experienced after the installation of patches and service packs:

    The system uses all its strength for nothing. The CPU is evidently working and the system uses all its resources without anything happening. You click and type all over the place without any effect. Suddenly, forces are released and the screen is filled with moving windows, which open and shut and change while all the actions are finally executed.

    You cannot reboot. You can normally restart the computer by typing Control+Alt+Del twice. But this might not work any longer.

    Slow access to the network. The computer is normally logged quickly onto a network during start-up, but now it takes ages.

    Errors in screen display. Several screen images merge and lap over each other (I often experience this myself).

    The command Tracert doesn't work. You can normally trace an Internet address over the net. But now the program reports as timeout, whatever you try to trace.

    Figure 18. The command tracert normally gives a report on the different routers connecting two computers on the Internet. But here the report mistakenly reports on nothing.

    Icons are freshened up. You see the icons as small fast buttons, which disappear from the screen only to appear again. This can repeat itself many times.

    Windows is generally slow. You have to often wait and wait after you have clicked on an icon. This behaviour comes and goes and is terribly irritating. Is far often experience in Windows XP than in Windows 2000!

    Al these are typical examples of inappropriate behaviour in Windows experienced by many people from time to time. There probably isn't anyone who can know for a fact why the errors occur. Whether they are a result of Microsoft's own updates as Dvorak thinks or whether they are the result of a more general wearing down, is really not important. The symptoms point only in one direction: to the reinstallment of Windows.

    Patches create new kinds of viruses

    Although there are side effects with Windows updates, it is important to protect your computer with the latest patches. Particularly if you have a constant Internet connection.

    The thing is that as soon as Microsoft sends out a patch to fill in a security hole, then the update is used to make a new attack. The patch is studied and analysed by virus programmers who take the update to pieces and work backwards through the code (reverse engineering) in order to find the original security hole.

    When the security hole is located, then the programmers can make a new virus, which is targeted against the security flaw, the patch is to guard against. As only about 50 % of all the vulnerable computers are updated with the patch during the first 30 days, then the virus programmers can easily manage to strike lots of Windows users, if they are fast enough with their new virus. This is why you ought to install the latest updates as quickly as possible in spite of all the disadvantages.

    Figure 19. Windows 2000 update is accomplished.

    Service packs

    As mentioned earlier (see Figure 4 on page 9) Microsoft send out from time to time large service packs, which are known as Windows XP SP1, Windows XP SP2 etc.

    Figure 20. Windows XP updated with SP2.

    Service packs are not small patches, which are used to mend individual errors and flaws in programs. A service pack is usually a big installation file sometimes with many hundreds of megabytes that alters the whole of the program concerned. When a service pack is installed it is almost the same as getting a completely new version of the program, so it really is a good idea to look out for the newest service packs.

    Windows 2000 SP4

    If you use 2000, remember to install Service Pack 4 (SP4), which is the latest version. This is a 114 MB file, which you download from Microsoft's site. When you have downloaded the file, just let it run. It is a little program in itself. Afterwards Windows 2000 will maybe run better yet. It's easy to see, which service packs are installed on your computer. Type the Windows key + Pause, then the dialog box System properties will open. On the first tab you can see information about the Windows version.

    Figure 21. Here is Windows 2000 with SP4.

    Windows XP SP2

    Windows XP receives dynamic updates during installation. This means that you install the program from a CD-ROM like you usually do. During this the latest updates will automatically be downloaded from the Microsoft server as long as the computer is online.

    Figure 22. Dynamic updating during installation of Windows XP.

    Since its introduction in 2001 an unbelievable amount of updates have been sent out for Windows XP and the Internet Explorer version 6, which was introduced at the same time as XP.

    All these updates have been strongly criticised, and they cause much inconvenience for every Windows user. This is why Microsoft has invested a great deal in Service Pack 2, which was sent out in September 2004. It can be argued rightly here that there is talk of a completely new version of Windows XP. But the update is free of charge in contrast to new versions.

    Figure 23. A few of the countless security updates, which have been sent out for Windows XP.

    Security problems

    Most Windows users are probably aware of the enormous security problems found in all computers with Windows XP. The problems are varied and comprehensive and they make a computer vulnerable for a great number of malicious attacks with viruses, hacking, etc.

    The security problems are fundamental and the vulnerability is found in:

  • The actual fundament of Windows XP.

  • Internet Explorer, which is popularly described as having as many holes as a sieve.

  • Outlook and Outlook Express.

    As all these programs are used by over 90 % of all Internet's users, then it is these users cyber terrorists aim their artillery against. New forms of virus appear every day, adware, spyware, hacking, phishing and whatever they all are called.

    New varieties of malicious software, which can find loopholes in Microsoft's software, can send malware into a computer, where it can make all sorts of damage. The result is purpose-directed damage to computers with Microsoft's software. Microsoft's latest answer is service pack (SP2) for Windows XP.

    The main part of the new things in SP2 is concerned with computer security, divided between the four areas network security, protection of memory storage, e-mail security and browser security.

    In contrast to the original version of Windows XP, by far the most of the new security functions are default (from the start) activated when SP2 is installed.

    Figure 24. The new Security center in Windows XP SP2, which brings all the computer's security functions together in a common dialog box.

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