Engineer blog: The importance of Windows updates

Gary Sparg, Senior Technical Analyst at Zenzero, explains the importance of Windows updates

Your PC, or your server, maybe even your IT department are asking you to reboot your equipment. Rebooting of your systems is required to allow Windows updates to install. You may ask, “What are these updates and do I need them?”- You may also want to know long it will take.

We will deal with WHY first..

Humans create all the software we use on a computer. Unfortunately, humans make errors with software and these errors can be used to make our computers do things we don’t want them to do. Sometimes vulnerabilities in an software package or Operating System can be used to install viruses or ransomware on your system, putting your data at risk and exposing you and your organisation to a significant amount of downtime. Your system could also be used to attack someone else, causing your computer and network to run slow.

To combat this, security expert’s around the world test the software we use and report issues that they find. Microsoft then looks at these issues and develops fixes. Microsoft release updates once a week on a Tuesday.

Now the difficult question – How long?

There are so many variables involved that there is no way to give an exact time for how long these updates will take. The first part of installing updates is to download the update. The speed of this depends on how quick you internet speeds are. In some cases, your computer can download the updates while you work. The second step is to install the updates. Time taken here depends on the size of the update and the speed of your computer. Finally, the computer will reboot. Rebooting takes a little longer as updates are applied.

For a laptop or a desktop, updates normally take fifteen minutes. For a server, updates can take to up to half an hour, sometimes longer. In the case of servers, updates can be a little more complicated. The majority of on-premise servers used today will use a form of virtualisation. You may have one physical server – but this physical computer may run one or more virtual environments. Installing updates at the same time is not possible.

I like to install updates on the virtual servers first, let them reboot and then, an hour later, install updates on the physical host and let it reboot. For an example, if I start updates at 19:00 I expect the virtual servers to be back online by 19:30. At 20:00 I would then update the physical server. All server would go offline but I expect them to be all back up and running by 20:30.

Updates protect you and your data – It’s definitely worth the downtime!