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 Make Sure Windows is Really, Completely Up to Date?

“As up to date as possible” is an important recommendation.

Update
(Image: canva.com)
Keeping Windows up to date is normally handled cleanly by Windows itself. There are times you may want to force the issue to ensure your machine is as up to date as possible.
When trying to solve a problem, one of your steps is to make sure “Windows is as up to date as possible.” Doesn’t Windows do that automatically?

Yes.

And no.

Even with Windows Updates turned on and working properly, there are times you might find your machine still has updates available. I’ll show you how to handle that by explaining what I mean when I say, “Make sure Windows is as up to date as possible.”

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

TL;DR:

Windows: As Up To Date as Possible?

You can make sure Windows is as up to date as possible by repeatedly visiting the Settings app, Updates & Security, and checking for updates — manually, if needed — taking all updates, and repeating the process, until no more updates are available.

Checking for updates

Click on the Start button, on the gear icon, and on Settings. In the resulting Settings app, click on Update & Security.

Windows Settings App, calling out Update & Security item.
Windows settings app, Update & Security item. Click for larger image. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

This will bring up the Windows Update settings page.

Windows Update checking for updates.
Windows Update checking for updates. Click for larger image. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

There’s a good chance Windows will begin checking for updates immediately. Let those downloads and installs complete.

If there are optional updates available, as there are in the example above, click on Download and install to take those updates as well.

The key point here is clear: take all the updates that are offered.

Reboot if needed

After updates are downloaded and installed, you may be told that a restart is required.

Restart Required
Restart required. Click for larger image. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

Click Restart now and let the machine reboot.

Lather, rinse, repeat1

Now do the whole thing again.

  • Go to the Settings app.
  • Click on Update & Security
  • If Windows Update doesn’t automatically check for updates, click the Check for updates button to have it check again.
  • Install all available updates, rebooting if necessary.

Repeat this process over and over until Check for updates indicates you’re fully up to date.

Windows Update - You're up to date.
Windows update: you’re up to date. (Screenshot: askleo.com)

Windows is now “as up-to-date as possible.”

Why Windows Update didn’t do this all automatically

There are two primary reasons that you may have available updates even though Windows Update is running properly.

  • The update was made available after the last time Windows Update checked.
  • You’ve elected to configure a delay before taking updates in the Windows Update settings.

The first is most likely, as the second you’d probably already be aware of.

Footnotes & References

1: For those not familiar with the reference, these are common usage instructions on bottles of shampoo in the U.S. Computer programmers will note that it’s an infinite loop.

7 comments on “How Do I Make Sure Windows is Really, Completely Up to Date?”

  1. “Install all available updates”? Hmmmm. Depending on the problem at hand (or the type of update), I usually wait 30 days for the “latest and greatest” before accepting an update. During those 30 days, I’ll “look” on very reputable websites to see if other people have had a problem with an update. Unfortunately, it would be very hard to know if I would have the same problem with an update. Two years ago my other half accepted a Windows update and rebooted. Windows would not boot-up. Had to resort to a Linux USB stick to boot the PC so the update could be reversed. The Windows update was re-issued several weeks later.

    Reply
  2. “Install all available updates, rebooting if necessary.”

    Does anyone remember that one of the improvements in (Windows 95/Windows 98/Windows ME/Windows Vista/Windows 7/Windows 10) was it would require no or fewer reboots to apply updates?

    Reply
  3. Leo, you wrote:

    “If you never update Windows, you are relying on your own selection of third-party tools and personal knowledge to keep yourself safe from malware.”

    If one happens to be using a fully isolated computer — by which I mean a computer that is not now, never was, and never will be, connected to the Internet — then malware is a complete non-issue, as long as there’s no danger that some malicious visitor will insert an infected flashdrive, or (for computers old enough to use them) an infected floppy.

    In that case, yeah, go ahead and refrain from ever updating your computer if that’s what you really want to do.

    But even then, you may be missing out on some occasional nifty new feature added to Windows. 😮

    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.