Technology in terms you understand. Sign up for the Confident Computing newsletter for weekly solutions to make your life easier. Click here and get The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet — FREE Edition as my thank you for subscribing!

How Do I Know What Updates to Install?

//
How is a novice to know what is useful and what is not when it comes to receiving, downloading and installing Windows 10 OS UPGRADES? (recommended updates or not) I don’t want laptops loaded with crap not needed.

Updates versus upgrades, recommended or not, the world of keeping your Windows computer and all the software on it current and secure is complex.

Factor in media reports about the risks of taking updates, and it’s not just complex, it’s downright scary.

Let me outline what I recommend.

Become a Patron of Ask Leo! and go ad-free!

My advice for most folks

For novices and those who consider themselves a less-than-technical user of Windows, my strong recommendation is simple:

Windows 10 -- All up to date
Windows 10 — All up to date.
  • Make sure you’re backing up regularly, but especially prior to taking updates.
  • Take all Windows 10 updates and upgrades as they’re offered.

I know this flies in the face of what the “Windows 10 is awful” crowd will tell you. They’d at least have you wait a while before taking updates, and might even provide you with lists of updates to avoid completely, and many more details.

The problem is that all that information — all those details — are far more than is reasonable to expect the average user to have to pay attention to, much less understand.

Put another way: you shouldn’t have to think about it; it should just work.

And, honestly, most of the time it really does.

When it doesn’t work

The reality is that for most people, most of the time, it does work. Taking all updates as convenient, as they’re offered, or especially as they’re pushed onto your machine, is a fine approach.

But I’d be a fool if I said that it always works. You don’t have to go far to read comment sections and forums loaded with complaints of failures. You won’t hear from the people for which it just works, but you’ll definitely hear from those experiencing problems.

And, yes, there’s a risk that might be you at some point.

That’s why I started by recommending that you back up, particularly prior to taking updates. And since updates seem to arrive on a schedule of their own, to me that means backing up every day.

That way, if you should be one of the unlucky minority, you’ll be able to recover.

Where crap comes from

The concern that updates include unneeded “crap” is unfounded, at least when it comes to Windows itself. Windows’ update process takes steps to only update what’s installed on your machine, right down to the feature level. No crap gets added.

In general, unwanted software comes from two places:

  • The initial installation. There are always things we don’t want when Windows is cleanly installed, and, indeed, Windows 10 seems to have gotten worse when compared to prior versions. Games we don’t play, apps we don’t use, and who knows what else. The solution is simple: uninstall what you don’t need or use. They won’t come back due to a Windows update.
  • Things we install ourselves, outside of Windows Update. This breaks down into two sub-categories:
    • Things we choose to install. These are decisions we make, and the solution is simple: think twice about installing anything. In addition, seriously consider uninstalling things you don’t use.
    • Things that come along uninvited — meaning “PUPS”, or Potentially Unwanted Programs. The only solution here is to always remain vigilant when installing software, always choose custom installations, always download only from official sources, and always pay careful attention to all options offered along the way when installing any software.

Updates matter

The reality is that taking updates matters. Not only is it important for your security, it’s an important step to making sure Windows 10 continues to be supported on your machine for as long as possible.

Unless you have concrete knowledge to do otherwise, keep taking them.

Podcast audio

Play

Video Narration

Posted: January 15, 2020 in: Windows Update
Shortlink: https://askleo.com/108443
Tagged: , , ,
« Previous post:
Next post: »

New Here?

Let me suggest my collection of best and most important articles to get you started.

Of course I strongly recommend you search the site -- there's a ton of information just waiting for you.

Finally, if you just can't find what you're looking for, ask me!

Confident Computing

Confident Computing is the weekly newsletter from Ask Leo!. Each week I give you tools, tips, tricks, answers, and solutions to help you navigate today’s complex world of technology and do so in a way that protects your privacy, your time, and your money, and even help you better connect with the people around you.

The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet – FREE Edition

Subscribe for FREE today and claim your copy of The Ask Leo! Guide to Staying Safe on the Internet – FREE Edition. Culled from the articles published on Ask Leo! this FREE downloadable PDF will help you identify the most important steps you can take to keep your computer, and yourself, safe as you navigate today’s digital landscape.



My Privacy Pledge

Leo Who?

I'm Leo Notenboom and I've been playing with computers since I took a required programming class in 1976. I spent over 18 years as a software engineer at Microsoft, and after "retiring" in 2001 I started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place to help you find answers and become more confident using this amazing technology at our fingertips. More about Leo.

3 comments on “How Do I Know What Updates to Install?”

  1. I’d decided a few years back to use the “Pro” versions of Windows rather than the “Home” versions, primarily because I wanted the option to use Bitlocker and some other functions available under Group Policy. When I went to Windows 10, I went along with the feature updates until the 1903 version came along. That one caused problems on my laptop and I ended up going back to the 1809 version. Using gpedit.msc, I’m able to set my computer and my wife’s PC to delay feature updates while still accepting quality updates, which are designed to fix issues with how Windows works. I now have my laptop set to accept all updates and my wife’s PC set to delay feature updates. This way I can see what changes and figure out what might happen when the updates come out. I’ve noticed that going from 1809 to 1903 versions that some of the games my wife plays would get removed, including the data. Before updating her computer, I’m working on locating where Windows stores that information so that I can attempt to restore it from the backups. Just seems to be an area that Microsoft overlooked when planning updates.

    Reply
  2. I’ve been in IT for 30+ years and have *always* had the latest Windows OS and *always* accepted all updates (major and minor) as they’ve arrived. Never have I had a major issue. Sure, some updates broke features and even functionality, but they always got quickly resolved, or I could roll back.

    I’m well aware of the many problems Windows users experience, but from my experience, most Windows users run relatively problem free. Oh, and of course, I *always* have current backups (drive images and data).

    Reply

Leave a reply:

Before commenting please:

  • Read the article.
  • Comment on the article.
  • No personal information.
  • No spam.

Comments violating those rules will be removed. Comments that don't add value will be removed, including off-topic or content-free comments, or comments that look even a little bit like spam. All comments containing links and certain keywords will be moderated before publication.

I want comments to be valuable for everyone, including those who come later and take the time to read.