Windows may install updates without asking

Scott spanbauer
By Scott Spanbauer

Windows XP and Vista have started installing updates at shutdown, in certain cases, without displaying a warning or requesting permission, according to reports by several readers.

The forced-install behavior has been witnessed at least three times by Windows Secrets editors, but Microsoft says its procedure for Automatic Updates hasn’t changed in the last 10 months.

The behavior seems to occur only if a Windows user has Automatic Updates configured to “download updates but don’t install them” or “notify me but don’t install them.” If updates are scheduled to occur automatically, with no notice to users, the silent installation of updates would be expected.

Most Windows patches are desirable and have few unwanted side effects. A few updates, however, are known to disable or conflict with other software. For this reason, many individuals and companies require that all upgrades be researched or tested before anything is installed.

Numerous conflicts have caused users to take a cautious approach to updates. For example, WS contributing editor Susan Bradley reported in her July 10, 2008, column (paid content) that Microsoft patch MS08-037 completely disabled the Internet connection of machines that use the ZoneAlarm firewall. Many users can’t afford this kind of interruption of service and prefer to study each update before approving its installation.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2009-06-25: