Update your computer

Software isn't perfect, and that's why most software companies give you updates.

The best way to get yours is to set your computer to install them automatically, and you can do that in Windows or Internet Explorer. You can also get updates manually at any time.

Here's how you set automatic updates in Windows 7. Keep going if you need to update Windows 8, Windows Vista, Windows XP, or Internet Explorer 9.

  1. Close all open programs.
  2. Click Start > Control Panel.
  3. Click System and Security (which you see when you view Control Panel by Category).

The Windows 7 Control Panel

  1. Click Windows Update.

The Windows Update link in Control Panel

  1. In the left-hand pane, click Change Settings.
  2. Under Important Updates, select Install updates automatically.

Your IT department might set automatic updates for you. If they do, you'll see the message in the yellow bar, and you won't be able to use the Important Updates list or set dates and times, like so:

Automatic update settings

  1. Select any other options, and remember your computer has to be on at the time you selected to install new updates.


  • If you view the items in Control Panel by their icons instead of categories, you click System > Windows Update > Change Settings.
  • You'll receive updates for Office, Windows, and other products like Zune.
  • Updates come in three flavors: Important, Recommended, and Optional. You'll only get the important updates unless you select the second option Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates.
  • It's a good idea to install the recommended updates. The optional updates may be things you don’t need, like the ability to change the language in your Office programs. It doesn't hurt to install them, but you have to get those updates manually.

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What else do you want to do?

Turn on automatic updates in Windows 8

  1. Open Control Panel by pressing the Windows logo key + X to see a list of commands and options, and then click Control Panel.

Options and commands list see after pressing Windows logo key + X

  1. Click System and Security.

Windows 8 System and Security link in Control Panel

  1. Click Windows Update.

Windows 8 Windows Update link in Control Panel

  1. Click Change settings, and choose or change the settings you want and remember your computer has to be on at the time you selected to install new updates.

Windows 8 Windows Update Settings in Control Panel

Turn on automatic updates in Windows Vista

  1. Click Start, point to All Programs, and then click Windows Update.
  2. Do any of the following:
    • If updates need to be installed, click Install updates.
    • To start checking for updates, click Check for updates.
    • For more information, click View available updates.

In the Windows Update dialog box, click the links to make changes or learn more about the update process.

  • Check for updates     Search for available updates.
  • Change settings     Select options for how your computer receives updates from Microsoft.
  • View update history     View what has been installed and the status of those installations.
  • Restore hidden updates     Hide updates from your computer and install them later.
  • Updates: frequently asked questions     Learn more about the update process.

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Turn on automatic updates in Windows XP

  1. Click Start > Control Panel.
  2. Click Performance and Maintenance, and then double-click System.
  3. In the System Properties dialog box, click the Automatic Updates tab.
  4. Select the settings you want to use.
  5. Click Apply > OK.

 Note   In Classic view, double-click System, and then click the Automatic Updates tab.

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Get updates manually

  1. For your operating system, follow the steps above to start Control Panel and go to the Windows Update page.
  2. In the left-hand pane, click Check for Updates.

Checking for new updates

  1. To see what you're installing, click the links in the middle of the dialog box. If each type of update is available, you'll see links to important, recommended, and optional updates.

Links in the Windows Update pane

  1. Select the updates you want to install and click OK.

Selecting an update

  1. Click Install Updates.

Turn on automatic updates in Internet Explorer 9

  1. Start Internet Explorer, right-click the top of its program window, and click Menu Bar.

Showing the menu bar in Internet Explorer

  1. In the menu bar, click Tools > Windows Update.
  2. In the left-hand pane of the box, click Change Settings.

Why get error message when signing up for Microsoft Update service

When you try to run Windows Update the first time, you might see this message: We cannot sign you up for the Microsoft Update service because there is a problem with the service.

To fix this, log on to your computer as an administrator, and then go to the Microsoft Update site to sign up for the service.

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