Configuring Automatic Updates on Windows XP

As part of keeping Windows XP running smoothly, you’ll want to be sure that you install available updates regularly. As security vulnerabilities and other issues are discovered with XP, Microsoft issues updates via the Windows Update website. Although this website was the primary tool used to obtain and install updates in the past, a new feature found in the XP System applet makes downloading and installing updates easier than in any previous Windows version.

The Automatic Updates tab in the System applet allows you to configure what XP will do when it determines new updates are available from Microsoft. The default setting on this page is to download new updates automatically and then notify you when they are ready to be installed – in other words, XP will not install the updates without your consent. If you’re not happy about the fact that XP is downloading updates in the background, then select the second option on this page, namely the one that will first notify you that updates are available prior to downloading them. If you’re not a big fan of things automatic, then select the option to turn off automatic updates, which means you’ll have to download and install updates manually. When the automatic download or notification options are selected, a bubble in the System Tray will let you know. How’s that for improvement?

Author: Dan DiNicolo

Dan DiNicolo is a freelance author, consultant, trainer, and the managing editor of He is the author of the CCNA Study Guide found on this site, as well as many books including the PC Magazine titles Windows XP Security Solutions and Windows Vista Security Solutions. Click here to contact Dan.