Windows Update updates itself; people shocked

Written by Phil Cogar

September 14, 2007 // 5:24 p.m.

Tags: #microsoft #secretly-download #windows-update

Yesterday, a slew of websites reported that Microsoft's Windows Update secretly downloads files when the update is disabled. It all started when Windows Secrets posted an article titled "Microsoft updated Windows without users' consent." Supposedly, Windows Update downloaded and installed a combination of nine DLL and executable files.

Reports had come in earlier from some eagle-eyed forum poster so Windows Secrets decided to check its machines. On machines that had the Automatic Updates setting set to not do anything, WU updates were downloaded and installed anyways. A search was done on Microsoft's Knowledge Base but there was no reference to the update to be found.

A reply on a Microsoft Communities forum stated, "Windows Update Software 7.0.6000.381 is an update to Windows Update itself. It is an update for both Windows XP and Windows Vista. Unless the update is installed, Windows Update won't work, at least in terms of searching for further updates. Normal use of Windows Update, in other words, is blocked until this update is installed."

As it turns out though, you can stop WU from downloading the files automatically and Microsoft has made a blog post to help clear up some of the confusion.

On all the the systems that were reported to have downloaded the updates without any notification, the Automatic Updates options was set to "Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them." That however, is only one out of a total of four options that are given to a user. "Install updates automatically," "Download updates but let me choose whether to install them," and "Never check for updates" round out the rest of the list.

On all of these options except "Never check for updates," Windows Update will automatically download and install files that are crucial to keeping the updater working properly if Microsoft changes something on their end of the system. So if you're wanting none of your system files altered without your consent, that would be the route to go.

So there we have it. Microsoft is not attempting to install files on your computer without your consent, but rather just trying to keep everything working properly. No harm, no foul but perhaps the company could have been a little clearer on how WU operates in the background from the get go.

Discuss this over in the forums or in the comment section below.

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