- KEEPING WINDOWS CURRENT

Windows, as an operating system, has always had bugs, and it probably always will. It's the nature of the software business: If you're going to keep innovating, you're going to continue to discover, and create, new problems.

In the "old" days, we consumers just had to live with the minor glitches and flaws until a new version was released. Unfortunately, while newer versions corrected many of the existing problems that might have been troubling our systems, they typically created new problems, too.

So went the never-ending cycle of frustration.

While I can't say that frustration with computer software has come to an end, the amount of time from problem to resolution has certainly been shortened by a considerable margin.

The biggest frustration now is that most Windows users aren't aware of the greatest customer service advancement that Microsoft has developed:

http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com

As the name of the URL suggests, this web site is designed to "automatically" examine the current state of your Windows software, (and browser) and then offer to update and upgrade various features while you're online.

Once you click on the "Product Update" option, a background program will probe your system and offer you a host of upgrade options (all free) and will sort the suggested revisions by logical categories:

- Critical Updates: These fix major bugs within the operating system and deal with important issues such as Y2K and browser security features.

- Picks of the Month: Are typically very handy utilities, not required, but very helpful and probably worth downloading.

- Recommended: Your system won't fail without these suggested patches, but they will fix common (if not dangerous) annoyances.

Other categories include Additional Windows Features, Multimedia, Communications, Internet Authoring, Fun & Games and others.

These aren't necessary, just optional. Some of the updates and freebies you'll find indispensable, others probably will be of no interest to you.

The most impressive thing about Microsoft's "Windows Update" site is just how frequently it's revised. I personally visit at least once every couple of weeks, and always find some new update that makes my system run smoother and faster than the last time I stopped by.

And, like I said, it's automated, fast and free.

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Copyrighted with all rights reserved by Stephen M. Canale