Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

"This seems like a fairly simple question…"

“Hi Paul, I’m just a single user with a question I apparently can’t get answered very easily by searching for it via the Internet. I’m hoping maybe you can ‘square me away’ by answering it. On it’s face, this seems like a fairly simple question.

If I’m using an excellent antivirus program (which I am; it’s the Avira antivirus program) is it still necessary for me to install Windows so-called critical security updates to my computer…? I have a computer that so far still works very well but was built in 2001 and so, although I still have more than 75 percent of free space remaining on the hard drive, it doesn’t have tons of memory (and as you know, a lot of ‘critical’/?mandatory windows updates can use considerable mb’s of space).

Wouldn’t critical updates also be downloaded by/through the antivirus programs/companies, without having to separately download them as individual users…? I realize this is a two-part question and appreciate whatever appropriate response you may have.
Thank you
,” ~ Anon

A: Your questions indicate that you are “mixing apples and oranges”, twice.

A program – and Microsoft Windows is a collection of programs – needs to receive security patches (these are usually called “updates”) to close holes and fix programming errors in the (program’s) code that hackers are (already) using to gain administrative control of the PC. (Currently, Apple  and Adobe software are the most exploited.)

You ABSOLUTELY want them.
(Each program author will write their own ‘updates’, and you want those too!) See, What’s With All These Updates?!*

They have nothing to do with AV.. and the ‘virus definition updates‘. Your AV will receive “fingerprints” (samples) of virus/trojan/keylogger/etc. from the authors so that it can have something to use (for comparisons) to find such code on your machine. You want those too.. which is why letting your AV subscription “expire” is a very bad thing (not an issue for you and Avira).
Though the word is the same, it is being used to describe two different things. You’ll find that a lot when dealing with tech and “geek speak”.

You are mixing your “memory”.
There are two kinds — the dynamic RAM.. which you don’t want to load up unnecessarily, and “storage memory” (your hard disk — “c:\”). Windows Updates use the latter. And so they do not “slow down” your aging machine. Okay?

Windows Updates closes holes (in Windows) the bad guys are using to climb in through.
I like to use this as an analogy — think of a program as a house made of brick and mortar.. the hackers are like little tiny bugs, trying to find a crack to get in. And they find them. Updates are mortar patches that fill those cracks.

Also — I don’t mean to alarm you, and certainly not offend you, but I am the type of person who speaks what is on my mind. I would not connect a vintage 2001 Windows computer to the Internet. I would scrap it.. or keep it around for playing my old games on.. but I would not access the Web with it.

If my finances were such that I simply did not have the option of buying an up to date computer (Windows 7, 64 – bit/ Apple OS 10.6 [64 bit]) I would purchase Wondershare Time Freeze, or use the free Comodo Time Machine and learn how to use them. They “sandbox” your machine.

Copyright 2007-2011 © “Tech Paul” (Paul Eckstrom). All Rights Reserved.

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January 26, 2011 - Posted by | advice, antivirus, computers, cyber crime, hackers, how to, Internet, Microsoft, PC, security, software, tech, Windows | , , , , , ,


  1. Paul,
    Again, nice tip on that Time Freeze. I’ve not used Comodo so cant comment on that.
    But Time freeze is just so cool. Just set and forget unlike others.
    And it says to reboot to discard the changes, but I’ve seen that even if you shutdown the pc and start it later, no changes will remain, all will be discarded.


    Comment by Ranjan | January 26, 2011 | Reply

    • Ranjan,
      Both require a slight learning curve.. maybe, more like “awareness” on the part of the user — they need to be turned off when installing updates, for example.

      I think the small fee for Wondershare is not only worth it, but a good investment.


      Comment by techpaul | January 26, 2011 | Reply

  2. Paul,

    Another good article. I’ve found this to be a common question from average users. Many of them seem to think that updates are simply program improvements. They are happy and comfortable with what they have… and are fearful that changes might make the programs more difficult to use.

    It’s a common mindset, but I couldn’t agree with you more. Your house and mortar analogy is a great one for this problem. And, along those lines, updating your home to keep it safe from critters doesn’t make it any harder to live in.

    It was difficult for me to let go of every machine I’ve owned over the years, especially if they still worked. However, when my “home” was no longer safe to live in, I moved…


    Comment by KsTinMan | January 26, 2011 | Reply

    • KsTinMan,
      I cannot urge people ardently enough — it is past time to get onto a new, 64-bit machine. Even Microsoft says so: they are ending support (meaning, they are stopping bothering to write patches for) for XP.
      And no, I don’t get a commission for expressing that belief.
      But the simple truth is, keeping up to date – both hardware and software – is essential for security.


      Comment by techpaul | January 26, 2011 | Reply

  3. Hello again Paul

    I found a reference to Secunia PSI from reading your blog. At the time I was updating “all” of my programs manually.

    I had no idea how many applications that were missing updates before I installed Secunia. It updated 140 items for me with very little intervention, and brought end-of-life programs to my attention. It’s now one that I highly recommend even to average users, and I have had very few questions from those who have installed this cool free application.

    Thank you for posting this users question and your great response. Your website is an excellent source of information for us all.


    Comment by Y.O. | January 26, 2011 | Reply

    • Y.O.
      Keeping your programs patched and up-to-date is the most effective method we have of keeping the hackers at bay. The best tool I have found for evaluating your currently installed programs, and helping you get them patched, is a ‘scan’ I have posted here before, but the Software Inspector at Secunia is just too important, too good, and too easy not to mention again.


      Comment by techpaul | January 26, 2011 | Reply

  4. Hi Paul,
    As to your suggestion on not using the old machine for the internet how about installing a Linux operating system. Maybe Puppy Linux or such. A good way to learn a new operating system and I know Puppy Linux works well on older machines. I know a lot of people can be overwhelmed in trying a new operating system, but heck, if you have a new machine and don’t want to let go of the old computer, what a great way to learn something new.


    Comment by Cappydawg | January 27, 2011 | Reply

    • Cappydawg,
      I would recommend that approach to those who are interested in learning, aren’t afraid to try new things, are willing spend time looking up answers, who don’t rely on Microsoft Office, and generally consider themselves to be somewhat ‘geeky’ (such as, they already use some Open Source programs, and have read for Dummies books and/or read sites like mine) .. And I would recommend Ubuntu. (Largely due to its extremely small number of users, Linux is generally speaking not a hacker’s target.) Linux works very well on older hardware, and requires less ‘horsepower’.

      For Uber Geeks and “power users”, I definitely suggest trying out Linux.. and/or maybe turn the old machine into a hardware firewall/print server.

      But for the “average computer user”? I stand with previous advice: new machine (and for those more “average” than usual, Apple.)


      Comment by techpaul | January 27, 2011 | Reply

  5. Hey Paul

    You made me realize that my computers with Windows XP machines were unsafe on the internet several months ago. I purchased Sandboxie to keep hackers at bay with this old hacker owned OS that I still like so much. I still keep everything updated… It is imperative.

    I know I have to buy new computers with 64 bit Operating Systems when I can afford it, and that will be Windows 7. For the interim, Sandboxie is a great alternative. I was amazed that it has a lifetime license and can be installed on as many computers that you own. Thanks for that reco!


    Comment by Balmy33 | January 27, 2011 | Reply

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