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Update Microsoft Windows

How to turn on automatic updates can differ depending on your operating system and your programs. This guide walks you through turning on automatic updates on a desktop computer for the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system.

Why updates are important

Software updates improve the security of your devices. They help fix security flaws or vulnerabilities that have been found in your device’s software. Cybercriminals and malware can use these vulnerabilities to access your device or personal information. New vulnerabilities are discovered and fixed all the time, so install updates regularly to keep your devices secure.

Much like a thief attempting to break into a home, cybercriminals will always look for the easiest way in. If your software is not updated regularly, it is like leaving your front door unlocked.

Automatic updates

Turning on automatic updates is the easiest way to keep your device up-to-date and secure. Automatic updates are a “set and forget” feature that installs updates as soon as they are available. The ACSC recommends turning on automatic updates wherever they are supported. Not all updates can be installed automatically so you will still need to keep an eye out for update notifications.

Sometimes, your device will need to restart or shut down to install updates. If you see prompts to Update and shut down, don’t put it off. Installing the updates promptly is good for your security.

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Software that no longer receives updates

If your operating system, programs or apps are too old, they may no longer be supported by the developer. When software has reached this ‘end of support’ stage, it will still work, but will not receive security updates. This could leave you vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Windows XP, Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010 are examples of older software that have reached end of support.

If your operating system or other software are no longer receiving updates, you should consider upgrading to a newer version or switching to an alternative product to stay secure.

Refer to Microsoft’s guidance to determine the version of your operating system, and if it still receives updates.

Schedule automatic updates

By default, Windows updates your operating system automatically. However, you can change when Windows installs your updates, allowing you to keep working without interruption.

1. Open the Start Menu by selecting the Windows icon in the bottom left of your screen.

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2. Select the Settings cog icon.

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3. Select Update & Security (Windows Update on Windows 11).

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4. On the Windows Update screen, select Change active hours (First select Advanced options then Active hours on Windows 11).

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5. Windows will avoid updating your device during your active hours to minimise disruptions to you.

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a. If you would like to let Windows set your active hours turn on Automatically adjust active hours for this device based on activity.

b. If you would like to set your active hours yourself, select Change then set the time that you typically use your Windows device.

Install feature updates

Feature updates are major updates to your operating system. They give you new features and improve your security. Typically, feature updates are not installed automatically. You can download and install them manually when they become available.

1. Follow the same steps as in the previous section ‘Schedule Automatic Updates’, up to step 3: Select Update & Security (Windows Update on Windows 11).

2. Select Check for updates.

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3. If an update is available, select Download and install.

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Turn on Microsoft product updates

Windows can automatically update your Microsoft programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The ACSC recommends you enable this option to keep your Microsoft programs secure.

1. Follow the same steps as in the section ‘Schedule Automatic Updates’, up to step 3: Select Update & Security (Windows Update on Windows 11).

2. Select Advanced Options.

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3. Turn on Receive updates for other Microsoft products when you update Windows (Receive updates for other Microsoft products on Windows 11).

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Turn on automatic Microsoft Store app updates

App updates don’t just give you new features, they often include security improvements too. The ACSC recommends that you enable automatic app updates for your Windows device. You can do this through the Microsoft Store.

1. Open the Start Menu and type in “Microsoft Store”.

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2. Select the Microsoft Store icon to open it

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3. In the top right hand corner, select your Account icon.

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4. Select App settings (App Settings in Windows 11).

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5. Make sure App updates – Update apps automatically is turned on.

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Programs and apps that can’t update automatically

Be aware that some programs and apps can’t update automatically at all, including some programs and apps from the Microsoft Store. Some apps will update themselves, or will update through your device's app store, but other apps might need you to install updates yourself. In most cases you will receive a notification, but it is good practice to keep an eye on updates periodically to see if they are available.This is usually done from the Settings menu of your software.

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