It's easy to forget how easy Windows Update makes keeping your system up to date when it reboots your system, knocking it offline so you can't access it remotely or run backup. Learn how to control how Windows Update works - so it works for you.
By default, Windows Update downloads and installs updates automatically, and, depending upon the updates it installs, might need to reboot your system afterwards to finish the job. If you log into your system (as most business and corporate users and many home users do), that means that your system's offline after Windows Update's done until you log back in.
What's wrong with that? Plenty. If you depend upon some form of remote access to connect to your system when you're away from the office, you might be locked out of your system until you get back to the office. If you're on vacation or a long business trip, this is not good news. You probably run backups at night or on the weekends, so backups might be missed if your computer has rebooted itself after running Windows Update. Fortunately, the solution is fairly simple: change how you run Windows Update.
Open Control Panel, and select Security Center from either the default Category View or optional Classic View. To change Automatic Updates, click the Automatic Updates icon at the bottom of the dialog.
Open Control Panel, select the Security category, and click the Turn Automatic Updating On or Off task under Windows Update.
Alternatives to Automatic Updates
If you want to download updates automatically, but don't want to install them automatically, select Download Updates... I recommend this option if you have a broadband connection.
If you have a dial-up connection, and want to control when you download updates because some updates will take a long, looong time to download, select Notify Me... (Windows XP) or Check for Updates... (Windows Vista).
Controlling What Gets Installed
Changing how Windows Update works is only half the battle if you want to control what's installed. Recently, Windows XP users complained that the slow Windows Desktop Search utility was installed automatically by Windows Update. It's not the first time an update installed by Windows Update has left a lot of users unhappy - and it won't be the last. Fortunately, you can control what Windows Update feeds your system.
In Windows XP, be sure to select Custom as the installation type when you are prompted by Windows Update to install updates. Clear the checkbox next to any update you do not want to install.
In Windows Vista, click View Available Updates in the Windows Update menu to see selected and other updates. Clear the checkbox next to any update you do not want to install.
With either Windows XP or Vista, click the empty checkbox next to any update you want to select and install. After installation, be sure to reboot the system to finish the update. Log back in, and your system is ready to roll.