Windows XP Service Pack 2 (Part 4): Automatic Updates


This article is Part 4 of the Windows XP Service Pack 2 - Step by Step guide. This article discusses the Automatic Updates function.

To view the other topics of the Windows XP Service Pack 2 - Step by Step guide, see the Microsoft Knowledge Base articles that are listed in the "References" section.

The Windows XP Service Pack 2 - Step by Step guide includes the following topics:
Part 1:  Better security with Service Pack 2 Part 2:  Installing Service Pack 2 Part 3:  The new Security Center Part 4:  Automatic Updates Part 5:  Virus protection Part 6:  Windows Firewall Part 7:  Protecting against buffer overflows Part 8:  Improvements in Internet Explorer and Outlook Express Part 9:  Uninstalling Service Pack 2 

More Information

Part 4: Automatic Updates

Security updates and service packs correct programming errors, add new features, and protect against newly detected security vulnerabilities that could harm a computer.

When you use Windows Update, the update software examines which updates are required and makes them available for installation. You can specify one of the following methods of installation:
  • Automatic
  • Semi-automatic
  • Manual

How to configure Automatic Updates

  1. In the Security Center, click Automatic Updates under the Manage security settings for section.
  2. Alternatively, click Start, click Control Panel, and then double-click Automatic Updates.
    Automatic Updates icon
  3. Select a method of installation, and then click OK.
    Automatic Updates window

Automatic (recommended)

Automatic is the recommended default setting. (You can specify this setting when you install Windows XP SP2.) If this method is selected, Windows automatically searches for updates when you connect to the Internet. If a new update is available, Windows downloads and installs it at the specified time or at the next system startup. The Windows Update icon appears in the taskbar when Windows is performing this function.

Automatic Updates taskbar prompt (updates available, click to install)


You can visit Windows Update and manually install the updates, but this step is not required. You only have to take action if a restart is required. If this is the case, click Restart Now, or restart the computer later.
Automatic Updates progress bar (installing updates) and Restart prompt

Download updates for me, but let me choose when to install them

In this case, Windows also searches for relevant updates. If a new update is available, it is downloaded but not installed. You must perform the installation manually.
  1. Click the Windows Update icon.

    Automatic Updates taskbar prompt (updates available, click to install)
  2. Select Express Install, and then click Install.
    Express/Custom Install window


If you click Custom Install, you see a list of the updates to be installed. You can then select which updates to install.
Custom - Choose updates to install window

Notify me but don't automatically download or install them

This option enables Windows to search for relevant updates and only notifies you if a new update is available. You must download and install the update manually.
  1. Click the Windows Update icon.
    Automatic Updates taskbar prompt (updates available, click to download)
  2. Select the updates that you want to download, and then click Download.
    Choose updates to download (Update for Windows XP)
  3. When the download is completed, you can start the installation. Click the Windows Update icon again, and then click Install.
    Automatic Updates taskbar prompt (updates ready, click to install)
    Express/Custom Install window

Turn off Automatic Updates

If you select this option, Windows does not search for updates. If you want to update a computer, you must do so manually by using the Update Web site. To do this, click Start, click All Programs, and then click Windows Update.

Update options in the Security Center

Your security status is only considered acceptable by the Security Center if you select the Automatic (recommended) option.

Security Center - Automatic Updates ON (green)
Both semi-automatic options (2 and 3) are considered less appropriate. If either of these is selected, you are prompted to start the automatic updating option.
Security Center - Automatic Updates CHECK SETTINGS (yellow)

If Automatic Updates is deactivated, this situation will be classed as a security risk.

Security Center - Automatic Updates OFF (red)


For more information about this topic, click the following article numbers to view the articles in the Microsoft Knowledge Base:
889735 Better security with Service Pack 2 (Part 1)

889736 Installing Service Pack 2 (Part 2)

889737 The new Security Center (Part 3)

889739 Virus protection (Part 5)

889740 Windows Firewall (Part 6)

889741 Protecting against buffer overflows (Part 7)

889742 Improvements in Internet Explorer and Outlook Express (Part 8)

889743 Uninstalling Service Pack 2 (Part 9)
This article is a translation from German. Any subsequent changes or additions to the original German article may not be reflected in this translation. The information that is contained in this article is based on the German-language versions of this product. The accuracy of this information relative to other language versions of this product is not tested in the framework of this translation. Microsoft makes this information available without warranty of its accuracy or functionality and without warranty of the completeness or accuracy of the translation.

Article ID: 889738 - Last Review: 23 Oct 2008 - Revision: 1