The Windows Update Site Keeps your OS Current

Keeping your desktop system updated with the most current OS patches can be a tedious task. That statement is even more true when you must keep more than one PC updated. The Microsoft Update function built into various versions of Windows has a few significant limitations, which you can learn about at the Windows Update Site. The site is designed to update the computer accessing the site. It loads an ActiveX control that examines your local computer and recommends which updates you should download to your local system. The control contains information about which updates are available so the system doesn't have to communicate with the Web site beyond that point to tell you what it thinks you need. So if you're concerned that the control is passing information to Microsoft, you needn't worry.

The Update site recommends actions based on your system's current configuration; the most important actions are highlighted as Critical Updates. These updates fix known security holes and serious system bugs. The Web site also offers Recommended Updates to fix less serious security holes and bugs, as well as Picks of the Month, which are free applications and accessories.

But if you have more than a single system to update, this site doesn't do you much good. Because the Update site focuses on updating one computer, it doesn't let you search for and download the patches you might need for multiple OS versions or different Internet Explorer (IE) versions. And it doesn't offer a way to download to a shared directory all the fixes and updates you might want to install at a later time.

At the end of August, Microsoft launched a Web site for users who need to find and download all fixes and updates for all the Windows OSs. The Windows Update Corporate Site lets you pick and choose among the patches and fixes for all current Windows OS releases. The site even tells you how to create a package to install the files that you elect to download. Bookmark this site if you have any need or interest in keeping system software current on multiple desktops.

This week's tip:

If you're like a lot of Windows power users, you have more than one drive installed on your computer. And I'm willing to bet that your location of choice for installing new applications isn't the same drive that hosts your system files. So every time you install a new application, you have to edit the path so the application doesn't install itself in the local Program Files folder. If you want to change the default location to another drive or directory, you can perform a simple registry edit.

  1. Open Regedit and go to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion.
  2. You need to change two values to reflect where you want the default installation directory to be:
    • ProgramFilesDirectory
    • ProgramFilesPath
  3. Double-click those values and edit the value data as appropriate.
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