In much the same way that it’s important to ensure that data on your PC is properly backed up, it’s equally important to ensure that your operating system is constantly updated with the latest service packs and hot fixes issues by Microsoft. Hot fixes are effectively operating system updates that address different security and system stability issues, while a service pack is a larger update that incorporates many individual hot fixes and updates. Installing these updates regularly is essential towards protecting your system from security exploits and solving known issues with operating system components.
While Microsoft provides hot fixes and service packs for download from their web site, the easiest and most effective way to update your system is by using Windows Update. This tool connects you to the Windows Update web site, which will scan your system and then provide you with a list of the updates applicable to your system. Rather than run this process manually, operating systems like Windows XP include the ability for updates to be downloaded automatically if so configured from the Automatic Updates tab in the System program in Control Panel, as shown below. Selecting the “Download the updates automatically and notify me when they are ready to be installed” option does exactly what the name suggests, and will make your life much easier in the long run. If you choose to use the Windows Update web site, then make a point of checking for updates at least once every two weeks, since staying updated will make your PC less susceptible to any new security vulnerabilities that may be discovered.