Which Windows Update patches should I download and install?

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UPDATES ARE CONFUSING because Microsoft throws a lot of stuff at you. Some items you need; some you might like; and some Microsoft wants you to have for its own purposes. The fact that most of the updates’ names are meaningless certainly doesn’t help. For any Windows Vista update, double-clicking the update will summon a pop-up window with a description. In XP, click the + next to the update name to expand the list and show details.

Vista updates come in three levels:

• Important: Most of these updates are essential security fixes. Unfortunately, Microsoft occasionally throws something into this group that it wants you to have for its own benefit—not yours— such as Windows Genuine Advantage.

• Recommended: Nothing horrible will happen if you skip these items, but you might miss something that will make your PC work better. Read the descriptions and decide for yourself.

• Optional: You might occasionally discover a useful driver update here, but more likely you’ll find marketing hype. XP has just two levels:

• High Priority: As with Vista’s Important category, most of the content here is crucial. For example, if you still use Internet Explorer 6, the upgrade to IE 8 is high-priority. IE 8 is significantly more secure, but it’s a big change and some people hate it.

• Optional: Divided into separate Software and Hardware sublevels, this group combines useful but nonvital updates, drivers (though not many), and useless hype. Use your judgment.

Most individual Windows updates—even Important and High Priority ones—aren’t cumulative. If they were, you’d need to update your PC with only the most recent of them. The big service packs, however, are always cumulative. In fact, Microsoft just recently replaced a long list of Vista updates with one: Service Pack 2.

Source of Information : PC World December 2009

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