Microsoft's update method is too buggy.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Free alternative to Windows Update does a much better job

Aug. 20, 2006

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2006, The Post-Standard

   Windows PCs need to be updated often -- every week, in some cases -- because of newly discovered security problems. But Microsoft's Windows Update software is buggy, and I've often had a lot of trouble getting the Windows PCs at home updated successfully.
   Many readers have told me they're having the same problem. I'm not sure what Microsoft's difficulty is -- Apple, which also rolls out security updates to OS X users, is doing very well with its own update method -- but Web sites that deal with Windows problems sometimes recommend that users give up on Microsoft's method entirely.
   Normally, this would be disastrous. Microsoft knows more about its own updates than anybody else. But Brian Livingston, the ranking U.S. expert on Windows in general, recently wrote that he now recommends a free alternative to Microsoft's Windows Update.
   The alternative software, from Shavik Technologies, is called NetChk Protect. The software had been commercially available, but this summer, Shavik decided to make NetChk Protect free for SOHO (small office, home office) users. Shavik defines that as 1 to 10 Windows PCs. The free license is valid for one year.
   Download the program from www.shavlik.com/netchk-protect.aspx. Look for a link that says "CLICK HERE to download your FREE copy." You'll be asked to fill out your e-mail address and personal information, which Shavik uses for its customer database. Don't enter a fake e-mail address; Shavik uses it to send you download information and a registration key.
   The download is quite large (25 megabytes). If you have a dialup Internet connection, you might want to start the download right before you go to bed.
   I recommend Shavik's update software without reservation. But unless you are a certified geek, you probably ought to read what Livingston wrote about installing the program, which can be tricky without help. His article is here: www.lrdnug.org/WindowsUpdateAlternative/tabid/174/Default.aspx.
   Livingston is emphatic in his recommendation against Windows Update:
   "Discontinuing the use of Windows Update and Microsoft Update may be an uncomfortable decision. For those who are confident enough to take the step, products like NetChk Pro are stronger than Microsoft's own consumer offerings and support far more vendors' products."
   A bonus in Shavik's NetChk Protect is its antispyware functions. Shavik says that part of the software "detects, prevents and removes" spyware from Windows PCs. I didn't try the spyware detector.