In 2005, Microsoft Update was introduced, unifying the Windows Update and Office Update Web sites, to give users a single update mechanism that made it easier for people to keep their Operating systems and Applications up to date. The initial release in June 2005 provided support for Microsoft Office 2003, Exchange 2003, and SQL Server 2000, running on Windows 2000, XP, and Server 2003.
Previously there were several processes and tools people needed to use to keep their software fully up to date. The Windows Update web site was launched with Windows 95 (August 1995) and included a link on the Windows 95 Start menu. Later, shortly after the launch of Windows 98, a new tool called the “Critical Update Notification Tool” was installed. The tool ran in the background periodically checking for updates and notifying users to visit the Windows Update site.
Automatic updates were introduced with Windows Millenium Edition in 2000. Unlike the Critical Update Notification Tool, the Automatic Update tool was built into the operating system and had the ability to automatically download and install updates.
Until Microsoft update was introduced in 2005, users still needed to download and install updates for software such as Microsoft Office, Microsoft Exchange, and SQL Server seperately. Over time, the list of software supported by Microsoft Update has expanded to include other Microsoft products, such as Windows Live, Windows Defender, Visual Studio, Zune Software, Virtual PC and Virtual Server, CAPICOM, Microsoft Lync, and other server products. It also offers driver updates, Internet Explorer, Silverlight and Windows Media Player as optional downloads if applicable to the operating system.
When first introduced, Microsoft Update was an opt-in. The first time Windows Update was enabled by default came with the release of Windows 7.
In the most recent Security Intellegence Report, many of the computers infected with malicious software were due to unpatched vulnerabilities. More than ever, it is important to test and deploy security updates from all software vendors as quickly as possible. See the Microsoft Security Update Guide, available from the Microsoft Download Center, for guidance and recommendations.