If It’s Tuesday, There Must Be Updates

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For ten years Microsoft has released security updates for Windows and Office on the second Tuesday of each month, the fabled “Patch Tuesday.” This week Microsoft patched two particularly nasty Internet Explorer bugs, so-called “zero day exploits” that are already being exploited in the wild.

I approved several thousand updates to hundreds of computers this week for Bruceb Remote Management clients. In addition to the endless Patch Tuesday list – multiple patches for every version of Windows and every version of Office – there were updates this week for Adobe Flash, Adobe Air, Skype, Google Chrome and iTunes. If you’re not sure if your computer is up to date, give me a call and get the Bruceb Remote Management agent working on your computer! It’s cheap protection against the bad guys.

This week’s rich crop of updates deserves a couple of reminders.

—  Your Windows 7 computers probably restarted on Tuesday or Wednesday night to finish installing the updates. Windows 8, however, does not restart right away! Look for a small warning in the lower right of your login screen: “Windows Update – Your computer will restart in 3 days to finish installing security updates.” If you ignore that warning for long enough, eventually your computer will restart while you’re logged in. It will give you plenty of warning and it takes elaborate precautions to make sure you don’t lose data, but some people are still terribly upset about it. When you see the update warning on the Windows 8 login screen, take the time to shut down and restart your computer. It will save annoyance later. There’s more information here and here about the way Windows 8 handles automatic restarts.

—  Go to Control Panel, type “update” in the search box, and click on “Windows Update.” Look for updates identified as “Important” or “Optional.” If you see Microsoft Office 2010 Service Pack 2 or an update to Microsoft Security Essentials, install them manually.

There may be other updates that should be installed. Ignore Silverlight and Bing Desktop, but look for things that might be helpful. You might find hardware updates (not necessary if nothing is broken but sometimes helpful for greater stability), security updates that aren’t yet being pushed through to be installed automatically, or bug fixes.

—  If you’re running low on disk space on a Windows 7 computer that has been in service for a few years, look for an optional update from Microsoft that was released this week. It removes older versions of files superseded by Windows updates, which can become quite bulky. This Microsoft Engineering post describes the detailed procedure to use it. This isn’t for casual use! It’s to solve a specific disk space problem. If you think it might help you but you’re not clear on the details, get in touch.

—  Take a minute to go to Control Panel / Installed Programs and remove any vestiges of Java from your system. Java 6 is no longer being updated, and Java 7 continues to be a security mess. Most people no longer need Java on their computers. Removing it is a fast way to improve your security.

Stay up to date, observe the Rules For Computer Safety, and be careful out there!