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The Frustrations of Windows Updates

October 29, 2013

If you use Microsoft Office 2010 Starter Edition for the free versions of Word and Excel, you most likely experienced first-hand the good and the bad of the Windows Update process last month.

September’s Windows 7 patches and updates killed Office Starter 2010 with a prompt to buy one of the paid Office products like Home & Business 2013 or Office Professional 2013.

For those who didn’t know the”trick” to repairing Office Starter 2010 to restore its functionality, the Windows update that crippled Starter probably cost them a couple hundred bucks or more.

windowsupdateOther updates in the past two months have caused issues with Windows, too. Probably everyone reading this has at one point been unable to view a web site properly in the past year because of an upgrade from Internet Explorer 9 to IE 10.

And no doubt, everyone reading this has wondered if Windows would finish “Configuring Updates” as the screen seems to hang forever while updating as the computer restarts.

The same can be said of updates from companies like Adobe. We helped more than a dozen clients recover from a bad update from MalwareBytes last spring. Now, Java is blocking computers that don’t have its latest patch from using sites and applications powered by Java.

So if these operating system and software updates can cause such headaches, including crashing your system, why should you update? After all, if the machine is working and isn’t “broken”, why fix it?

All of these updates serve three purposes:

  • Patching security holes that have been discovered by hackers
  • Providing additional functionality
  • Fixing bugs

With hackers so active today, not just on corporate networks but on home networks, the first purpose is the one that IT consultants most concern themselves with.

A failure to patch security holes can cause far more harm than an occasional computer glitch from a bad update.

Hackers who discover these security holes share them readily with other hackers. This results in a loosely-connected network of hackers all over the world working on ways to exploit the holes for financial benefit or to support a political or social cause.

Professional hackers know what the holes are, know how to exploit them, and if you haven’t patched your system, they will find you through direct (i.e., targeting your network specifically) or indirect attacks (i.e., infecting web sites you visit, spamming infected emails to computer users).

If you don’t patch, you become much more likely to fall victim to these attacks.

Then again, if you do patch, you will probably, at some point in time, fall victim to a bad update that crashes your system or cripples functionality as in the case of September’s Office Starter 2010 glitch.

So what’s a computer user to do?

Simply put, you MUST patch. Not patching is far more dangerous than any possible ramifcations from a bad update. Not a week goes by that I don’t sit down at a computer that has been infected for months and the user didn’t even know.

Leaving your computer exposed to hackers can result in data loss or large financial losses that may or may not be recoverable. A summer 2013 report by anti-virus developer Kaspersky and B2B International revealed that 61% of malware attacks result in at least some data loss. In some cases, those losses have bankrupted small businesses.

Businesses, whose financial losses from a downed system will be much higher than those for a home computer user, need to assign a staff member to review the latest updates for potential problems or in the case of small businesses, outsource this task to a managed services provider such as FlexITechs.

Home users probably can’t afford that luxury and in most cases don’t have the expertise to review security updates themselves. They need to allow Windows to install updates automatically and accept the possibility that an update can cause problems, maybe even a problem that necessitates a visit from a computer repair service.

Still, that will be a lot less painful than being hacked.

Those interested in learning more about Windows Updates can click here.

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