Servicepacks, Patches and Windowsupdate
Software is not clever, it is not aware of its own shortcomings and bugs. People are clever though. Sometimes, clever guys find mistakes in programs like Internet Explorer or operating system software. If virus or trojan writers find a problem they will exploit it and you end up with damaged files. If a software manufacturer finds out about, or is told about the problem, the manufacturer should provide an update for the software to remove the exploitable code with secure code. This results in the manufacturer releasing a patch for your software. Microsoft also calls them security or critical updates. You are always advised to install all available patches for your software to make your PC as secure as possible.
Service Packs are several patches rolled into one. Service Packs are normally available on CD either from the manufacturer or on CDs supplied with PC magazines or you can download them from the manufacturer's website. This saves having to download a myriad of different patches and making sure you have them all in the right order - just downloading the latest patch without the previous patches or service pack may still leave your PC vulnerable to attack. Microsoft usually roll up the patches into a service pack in 6 to 12 month intervals. Servicepack 4 for Windows 2000, for example contains more than 600 (!) corrections which were not included in the previous service packs.
Microsoft provides the Windowsupdate website to search for available service packs, security and critical updates easily. It will scan your software and find what updates you require and then install and then install them for you.
Go to windows update website periodically to update your windows operating system.
Ensure that the service packs are installed on your the PC.
Newer Windows versions come with an integrated windows update and are able to search automatically for available updates and patches.
"You can thwart 95% of all possible risks from the internet by just keeping your operating system up to date."
The updates prevent a lot of well known internet worms like "Nimda" or "Klez" as well as emailed worm attacks from "Sobig" and "Blaster".
Important note about Microsoft and other manufacturer's patches:
Unfortunately patches are not always perfect. Sometimes the patch needs
patching!. Occasionally patches don't remove all the problem or create problems
with other software. It is strongly advised that you always backup your PC
to ensure that if a problem does occur, you can restore your PC to its previous