Windows Vista and later provide a Control Panel to configure update settings and check for updates.The Windows Update Control Panel also has the function of downloading Windows Ultimate Extras, optional software for Windows Vista Ultimate Edition.
With the release of Windows ME in 2000, Microsoft introduced Automatic Updates as a replacement for the Critical Update Notification tool.Unlike its predecessor, Automatic Updates includes the ability to download and install updates without using a web browser.Microsoft routinely releases security updates on the second Tuesday of each month (Patch Tuesday), but can provide them whenever a new update is urgently required to prevent a newly discovered or prevalent exploit targeting Windows users.System administrators can configure Windows Update to install critical updates automatically so long as the computer has an Internet mobile connection, without the user needing to install them manually, or even be aware that an update is required.The Active X component then executes the downloaded installation files in their silent/unattended mode to install or update those components, and to report the success or failure of those installations back to Microsoft's servers.
The first version of the Windows Update web site (usually referred to as "v3") did not require any personally-identifiable information to be sent to Microsoft.
For previous versions of Microsoft Windows, users can download updates from the Windows Update website, using Internet Explorer.
Windows Update was introduced as an Internet web site with the launch of Windows 95.
Windows 95 and Windows NT 4 were retroactively given the ability to access the Windows Update website, and download updates designed for those operating systems, starting with the release of versions of Internet Explorer 4 for those operating systems.
The initial focus of Windows Update was on free add-ons and new technologies for Windows; security fixes for Outlook Express, Internet Explorer and other applications appeared later, as did access to beta versions of upcoming Microsoft software, most notably Internet Explorer 5.
Fixes to Windows 98 to resolve the Year 2000 problem were distributed using Windows Update in December 1998.