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How to check for Windows updates and install them

Keeping Windows up to date is an important part of warding off malware, exploits, and other attacks. If you’re not running the latest version of your OS, it can give cybercriminals the leverage they need to compromise your system.

Unfortunately not all machines are running automatic updates by default, depending on your operating system. This used to primarily be a problem on older versions of Windows. With something like Windows 10, you can’t hold back the update tide forever. The best you can do is pause updates for up to 35 days, at which point the only way you can pause again is to install new updates.

Outside of the pause/repeat cycle, most folks would resort to registry edits for longer periods of going without an update. This isn’t recommended for most users. If you’re a regular home user, there’s probably not many specific edge-case reasons why you’d want to have updates switched off.

How to check your Windows update status

Your updates should in theory be running in the background.

If you want to check whether they are, type “Windows update” into the search bar from the Start menu, and click into the Updates section. There, you’ll find a wide range of options and information.

At the very top, you’ll see if you’re up to date or not along with the time the computer last checked. From here, you can also manually check for updates.

If there are additional updates soon to be coming down the pipeline, you’ll also be able to see what they are, along with some details about the update. You can download and install manually before the updates are grabbed automatically.

If your system isn’t compatible with Windows 11, there’ll be a big box letting you know, along with the option to grab the Microsoft PC Health Check App. This will explain in more detail why you may not be able to meet system requirements for Windows 11.

Check your Windows update settings

Underneath the Windows 11 status box is a selection of fine tuning options related to Windows updates. These are:

Pause updates for 7 days. The length of pause required can be altered to your liking in the advanced options (to a maximum of 35 days).

Change active hours. This is for letting Microsoft know which time is best for updates, downloads, and so on. Many folks leave their PCs on overnight, so having all the update heavy lifting take place while asleep is ideal for them. Will you be out during the day? No problem, maybe daytime updates would fit your routine better.

View update history. This can be useful for troubleshooting or just keeping up to date with what’s been going on. Maybe a specific update went AWOL somehow. This is where you’d likely begin your search.

Advanced options. This is where you can alter the pause length for updates. You can also tell the device to receive updates for other Microsoft products when you update Windows. There are additional options for downloading over metered connections, restarting the device “as soon as possible” when a restart is required to install an update, and also various rules for on-screen notifications.

Is Windows update free?

Absolutely, and we recommend you make full use of its capabilities. Your devices will be that little bit more secure with regular automatic updates enabled.