Why Windows Updates Harm More Than They Help

by Nosherwan Khan
Why Windows Updates Harm More Than They Help

Windows machines are notorious for being constantly in need of fixing, and no issue is more prevalent with them than the dreaded Windows Updates, which is one of the most popular software computer repair services. It seems that every time Windows releases a new update to their operating system, something goes horribly wrong for a lot of people. Why is that so, and why do we need to continue to repair systems with these problems?

Origin of the Windows update

Now that digital distribution is the norm and over-the-air updates are commonplace, Windows updates being pushed out is more commonplace. However, the basis for this practice has been laid down since the days of the Windows 98. During that time, Microsoft had set up a system for notifications that would ping the user whenever a “system critical” update was out. The process involved the operating system frequently checking in with Microsoft servers and referencing a list of the updates that were out. While this helped keep components like ActiveX updated, it also resulted in the users slowly having control taken out of their hands.

When Windows XP came along, it introduced a more vigorous Automatic Updates system that would notify you constantly, and throw warnings when you wouldn’t update or turn it off. Not to mention, these updates would drain system resources and cause most machines to become really sluggish. In most cases, users would be taking their perfectly-fine computer to a repair shop just because their updates create a mess.

Why do I need to update anyway?

Nowadays, Windows updates are often mandatory, intrusive, and do more harm than good. The process started back in Windows 7/8, when updates could only be delayed for a limited time, but never truly canceled. With Windows 10, even non-critical updates are downloaded and installed on a system, a practice that has annoyed tons of users. But why are these Windows updates always coming out?

The answer is because of security vulnerabilities and to patch out bugs. In a software as complex as Windows, there are multiple things going on, and it’s not uncommon for bugs to start cropping up that the developers never knew about. These Windows updates often fix those bugs and seal entryways for hackers who intend to perform malicious activities, such as remotely control your computer or attack other online systems. The process of updating in these cases is indeed important, and more or less ubiquitous with iOS and Android systems, which regularly push security patches out.

The main problem with Windows updates

The main problem with this practice is that even though patching security threats is necessary, it becomes a real pain when the updates themselves are buggy. Windows 10 has been notorious for installing updates that break functionality, so much so that it’s now become a common meme. Since Microsoft is forced to push out so many patches so often, they end up creating more bugs than actual fixes with each update. Take, for example, the recent May update for Windows 10, which saw a plethora of issues from missing audio to the OS loading a temporary user profile on startup that deletes files and resets most of the personalized settings for Windows back to their defaults.

These cause some serious grievances with Windows users, as most of their important files (and more importantly, their time) are lost to the ether when this happens. Issues that result in users’ files being lost or data being corrupted are extremely egregious, and it’s these ones that are the most dangerous. It’s one thing to face notifications for restarting your computer, and another to have important data be lost or inaccessible. 

There have also been issues reported of updates failing to even install, which may seem like a blessing, until you realize that your system starts becoming vulnerable to security exploits. With no system updates, a Windows machine is just waiting to be affected by a malicious attack that no amount of computer repair can solve. So even though we absolutely hate them, Windows updates have become a necessary evil if we want to protect ourselves.

What can be done?

To be fairly honest, there isn’t really a way to subvert Windows updates completely. As we’ve mentioned before, they have become mandatory and there isn’t really an option to turn them off. What you can do, however, is use a couple of resources online to deal with the situation as best as possible.

Microsoft catalogs and provides help for known issues on its support website. Their forums host guides to resolve known issues, and have a space where users can post their concerns and discuss them within a community.

Most systems that have issues usually need updated drivers to run better with certain incompatibilities. If your system is an OEM, you can find all your drivers for it on your respective manufacturer’s support website. If not, then you’ll need to find drivers from the individual components’ manufacturers online. Installing these drivers improves compatibility and often resolves issues with any broken functionality caused by Windows updates. While it might not be a solution that works every time, keeping your drivers updated and their online locations bookmarked can really help.

Community discussion also really helps in tracing and identifying issues with new Windows updates. Sites like Reddit, Quora, YouTube, Twitter, etc. have active community members that share tips, stories, use cases and suggested actions that can help resolve matters. If nothing, you can create a post to your troubles there and receive guidance from fellow community members on it. Beats having to bring it to a computer repair shop and still not find a solution.

For now, the best practice is to read up on what each update entails, the response for the community, and being prepared for when certain issues hit you. It’s a real chore, for sure, but unless Microsoft can get a firmer grip on delivering better updates in the future, it’s the best chance you’ve got.

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