How to Download Updates in Windows 8.1

Knowing how to manually download updates is a critical tool for any PC user.

Windows 8.1 Updates
Image courtesy of Microsoft.

Downloading updates for Windows is a crucial step to maintaining your computer. Updates regularly contain patches for security vulnerabilities that could allow infections in your machine, bug fixes that resolve errors, and features that could make your operating system more useful. Though you should have automatic updates configured, that isn’t always the case. To keep your computer safe you’ll need to know how to manually trigger updates and change your update settings.

New and Improved PC Settings

The procedure for downloading updates in Windows 8.1 is very similar to the process in Windows 8. However, since 8.1 overhauled the PC Settings app, you’ll find the process is no longer broken between the modern app and the legacy Control Panel. Everything you need is in one place.

Open the Charms bar and click Settings to get started. Next, click Change PC Settings to launch the modern settings app. Choose Update and Recovery from the left pane of the window to get to the section you need. Click Windows Update from the left pane and you’re ready to go.

The Windows Update page gives you all the information you need to learn the state of your update settings including whether you are set up to download your updates automatically and whether or not there are updates currently ready for installation. 

Manually Trigger Updates

To manually trigger an update, go ahead and click Check now.

You’ll have to wait while Windows checks for any available updates. It should only take a few seconds, but that will vary based on your Internet connection speed. Once done, you’ll see a message letting you know if there are any updates available.

If there are critical updates available, you’ll be alerted.

If not, you’ll see a message stating that there aren’t any updates to download but you can install other updates. Either way, click View details to see what’s available.

From this screen, you can see all of the updates that are available for your computer. You can select each update individually, or click Select all important updates to save time and install them all at once. Optional updates are also included in this view, so select any you want. Finally, click Install to finish the process.

Windows will download and install the updates you selected. Once that's done you’ll have to restart your computer to complete the configuration procedure. Click Restart now when prompted or close the PC Settings app and restart when it’s convenient.

Change Automatic Update Settings

It's easy enough to manually trigger updates, but this method is not the best strategy for most users. The average person will simply forget to regularly check for updates, and their system will go unprotected missing out on critical security patches. To prevent this issue--and to ensure that your computer always has the latest updates installed--you should enable automatic updates.

As I mentioned above, all the update functions of Windows are baked into the new and improved PC settings.

There’s no need to bounce between PC settings and the Control Panel. To change how updates are installed on your computer, return to Settings > Change PC Settings > Update and Recovery > Windows Update. 

The Windows Update page will show your current update settings. If you want to change them, you’ll find a link below the Check now button that says Choose how updates get installed

Select that and then click the drop-down list to choose how Windows installs important updates. Your options are:

  • Install updates automatically
  • Download updates but let me choose whether to install them
  • Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them
  • Never check for updates

I highly recommend that you set Windows to download and install updates automatically to provide the best protection for your computer.

Next, you can select two additional options below the drop-down list.

  • Give me the recommended updates the same way I receive important updates
  • Give me updates for other Microsoft products when I update Windows

To provide the best protection, select both. When you’ve made your choices, click Apply to finalize them. Provided you’ve selected automatic updates, you won’t have to worry about updates again. Windows will simply install them in the background and ask you to restart your computer when necessary. Though there may be times you want to hurry that process up with a manual check such as when a critical update patch is released.

If you have friends or family using Windows 8.1, share this with them via Facebook, Google+ or Twitter to ensure they know how to keep their operating system up to date.

Updated by Ian Paul.

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