Automatic Update Feature in Windows XP

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Automatic Update Feature in Windows XP

How do I know if I need an update?

Windows Update scans your computer and provides you with a tailored selection of updates that apply only to the items on your computer. During the scan, a list of categories appears under Welcome to Windows Update and the number of updates that are available in each category is noted in parentheses.

Critical Updates are important!

Any update that is critical to the operation of your computer is considered a "Critical Update," and is automatically selected for installation during the scan for available updates. These updates are provided to help resolve known issues, and to protect your computer from known security vulnerabilities. Whether a critical update applies to your operating system, software programs, or hardware, it is listed in the "Critical Updates" category.

How does it all work?

Follow a simple, three-step process to get the updates you need to keep your computer up-to-date:

1.  When you enter Windows Update, click Scan for updates.
2.  As you browse through the available updates in each category, click Add to select the update of your choice and add
     it to the collection of updates you want to install. You can also read a full description of each item by clicking the Read
     more link.
3.  When you have selected all the updates you want, click Review and install updates, and then click Install Now.

Note: Some updates may require that you restart your computer. Save your work and close any open programs before beginning the installation process.

Have questions about an update?

Each update is accompanied by a brief description and a Read more link. Click Read more at any time to view information that is specific to each update. Included in this information are system requirements and, if applicable, instructions on how to use and how to uninstall the update. To see the list of updates you have installed from Windows Update, click View installation history. For details on Windows Update site support and support for updates you have installed from Windows Update, visit the Support Information page.

Description of the Automatic Update Feature in Windows XP

Automatic Update checks the Windows Update Web site for critical updates and automates the process of downloading and installing the critical updates.  If updates are not available, this feature is reset, and then it checks again in 24 hours for any new updates after the Internet connection is established. If a download operation is interrupted, this feature resumes at a later time when the Internet connection is re-established.

Only the Owner or a member of the Local Administrators group can configure the Automatic Update feature in Windows XP. Updates are only reported when an owner or administrator is logged on. In this article, the word "user" refers to a user
who is an owner or whose account is a member of the Local Administrators group.

Note: Automatic Update always prompts an Owner or Administrator before installing any updates. If Automatic Update is configured to prompt before downloading critical updates, it prompts the Owner or Administrator twice, once before
downloading and then again before installing the critical updates. 
More Information.

Configuring Automatic Updates to Prompt You Before Downloading

When you configure this setting, Automatic Updates checks the Windows Update site periodically for critical updates while the computer is connected to the Internet but the connection to the Internet is not being used.

After Automatic Updates has compiled a list of available updates, a list of updates is displayed. Click any updates that you want to download. Automatic Updates downloads only the updates that you selected. When the download is complete, you are prompted to install the updates. Some updates require that you restart the computer after you install these updates.

NOTE: If you do not select updates from the list, these updates are not displayed in any lists that Automatic Updates generates in the future. To unhide these updates, click Restore Hidden Items on the Automatic Updates tab.

Software Update Incomplete

The Windows Update software did not update successfully. Below are some suggestions to help you proceed:

You may have clicked No when prompted to accept the Trust Certificate. To allow the Windows Update site software to install, click Yes when presented with the Security Warning dialog box.

Your Internet Explorer security settings may be set too high. To install the updated software and access Windows Update, Internet Explorer security must be set to medium or lower, and active scripting and the download and initialization of ActiveX controls must be enabled.

Note: These are the default settings for Internet Explorer. For more information about Internet Explorer security and instructions on how to change your security settings, read Microsoft Knowledge Base (KB) Article

Support Information

If you have questions about or problems with Windows Update or the product updates offered here, online support is available to help you. Just click one of the links below. 

Note: When you select some of these support options, you may be asked to create a Microsoft "Online Profile." Your Online Profile will serve as your ticket to receive Internet-based support from Microsoft.

Support for Software Updates: View support information for the software updates offered on Windows Update.

Support for Drivers: View support information for drivers offered on Windows Update.

Frequently Asked Questions: If you have a question about Windows Update, you may want to first check our list of
Submit Windows Update Support Request: Submit your questions or issues concerning the Windows Update site. You'll
                                                                        be asked to provide an Online Profile.


No-charge e-mail support for the Windows Update site includes: help with Web site navigation, site content quality or error messages, and basic download assistance. All other assistance, including installation and setup issues, is available via the Personal and Professional support offerings at For MSN products, visit


No-charge install/uninstall support is available via e-mail on Windows Update Site Support. For issues beyond the installation/un-installation of drivers, you can find a full listing of support options at


What is Windows Update?

Windows Update is the online extension of Windows that helps you to keep your computer up-to-date. Use Windows Update to choose updates for your computer's operating system, software, and hardware. New content is added to the site regularly, so you can always get the most recent updates and fixes to protect your computer and keep it running smoothly. For more information, go to About Windows Update.

Why do I get a message saying an ActiveX control on this page is not safe?

This message is displayed when your security setting in Internet Explorer is set too high. For Windows Update to work properly, you must change the security settings for the Internet zone to Medium or lower. To do so, go to Internet Explorer, click the Tools menu, and then click Internet Options. Click the Security tab, and then click Internet. To adjust your security level, click Default Level or Custom Level.

What is an ActiveX control?

ActiveX Controls are reusable software components that incorporate ActiveX technology. These components can be used to add specialized functionality, such as animation or pop-up menus, to Web pages, programs, and software development tools. Windows Update uses ActiveX controls to check what software is installed on your computer in order to provide you with a correct list of updates and other software you may want to download.

What is the best resolution for viewing the Windows Update site?

The Web pages on the Windows Update site were designed to be viewed at 800 by 600 or higher screen resolution. To set this resolution, click the Start button, and then click Control Panel. Click the Appearance and Themes icon, and then click Change the screen resolution.

Windows Update Site Support Request

To submit a question to a Microsoft Windows Update Site Support Representative, follow the instructions below. You will receive a reply via the E-mail address you provide below within one business day.  Click Here.

Searching the Knowledge Base

Product Support Center

Download Software

Contact Microsoft Online

Policy Settings for the Start Menu in Windows XP

You can use the Group Policy editor (Gpedit.msc) under the following location to configure Start menu features:

User Configuration \ Administrative Templates \ Start Menu and Taskbar

Note: Except when noted, all of these registry settings are under the following registry key:


The registry entries are DWORD values. A value of 1 is enabled, and a value of 0 is disabled.

Policy: Disable and remove links to Windows Update
Description: Removes the Windows Update link from the More Programs list in Start menu, from the Tools menu in IE, and blocks user access to Windowsupdate.Microsoft.Com. Registry Value: "NoWindowsUpdate"

How To Obtain Windows XP Updates for Installation on Multiple Computers

When you visit the Microsoft Windows Update Corporate Web site, You don't find any Windows XP updates available to download.  If you visit the Windows Update Web site for Windows XP from a non-Windows XP computer, you may not be able to view the site or download updates.

To obtain Windows XP update for multiple computers:

1. Using a Windows XP computer, connect to the Windows Update Web site at
2. Click on the Personalize Windows Update link.
3. Check the Display the link to the Windows Update Catalog.
4. Press Save Settings.

Error Message: Access Denied

Network policy settings prevent you from using Windows Update to download and install updates on your computer. 
If you believe you have received this message in error, please check with your system administrator.

For Windows XP Pro:

Start/Run/gpedit.msc. User Configuration/Administrative Templates/Windows Components/Windows Update. In the right pane, double click, Remove access to all Windows Update Features and set it to disabled.

For Windows XP Home Edition:


HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\WindowsUpdate.  Locate the value in the right pane called DisableWindowsUpdateAccess.  Double click this entry and change the value to 0 (zero) or right click it and select Delete.

For Both Versions

Create a new DWORD value named "NoWindowsUpdate" and set the new value to equal "01 00 00 00".
Refresh your desktop, or restart your Windows session for the modification to take effect.
Note: On some earlier version of Windows this value was a REG_BINARY type. Note: This value can also be set under the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE hive as a system wide restriction.


Value Name: NoWindowsUpdate
Data Type: REG_DWORD (DWORD Value)
Value Data: (0 = default, 1 = disabled)

"Software Update Incomplete"

Windows XP needs to have the Cryptographic Service running in order for Update to work properly. Go to Start/Run/
Msconfig, clicked the Services tab and checked the Cryptographic Option. Reboot.