What is the Windows XP Automatic Update?

A. XP's Automatic Update replaces Windows 2000's Critical Update Notification utility, which notified users when software updates were available on the Microsoft Web site. Automatic Update takes the next step and lets the system automatically download the updates and prepare them for installation at the user's convenience.

To access the Automatic Update settings, go to the System Control Panel applet and select the Automatic Updates tab.

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The tab provides three options:

  • "Download the updates automatically and notify me when they are ready to be installed"--This option instructs Automatic Update to periodically check the Windows Update site and download critical updates in the background when the Internet connection is idle. After download, an Automatic Update icon will appear in the notification area at the bottom of the screen. The user can then get details about the downloaded updates, choose to be reminded about the updates later (from 3 minutes to 3 days later), or choose to install the updates.
  • "Notify me before downloading any updates and notify me again before installing them on my computer"--This option works similarly to Win2K's Critical Update Notification and instructs Automatic Update to notify the user when a critical update is available so the user can select which updates Automatic Update should download.
  • "Turn off automatic updating. I want to update my computer manually"--This option disables Automatic Update and lets the user manually check http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com. Even when the user selects this option to disable Automatic Update, the service (wuaserv) still runs.
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