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System administrators can configure Windows Update to install critical updates automatically so long as the computer has an Internet mobile connection, without the user needing to install them manually, or even be aware that an update is required.Windows Vista and later provide a Control Panel to configure update settings and check for updates.The check was performed by querying the server for a file, "cucif.cab", which contains a list of all the critical updates released for the user's operating system.

Windows Update was introduced as an Internet web site with the launch of Windows 95.

A link to Windows Update on the Start Menu gave access to additional downloads for the operating system.

Unlike its predecessor, Automatic Updates includes the ability to download and install updates without using a web browser.

Instead of the five-minute schedule used by its predecessor, the Automatic Updates client checks the Windows Update servers once a day.

Microsoft attributed the sales success of Windows 98 in part to Windows Update.

Windows Update requires Internet Explorer or a third-party web browser that uses Microsoft's MSHTML layout engine, as it must support the use of an Active X control to house the software that is executed on the user's computer.

Shortly after the release of Windows 98, Microsoft released a Critical Update Notification Tool (later called Critical Update Notification Utility) through Windows Update, which installed a background tool on the user's computer that checked the Windows Update web site on a regular schedule for new updates that have been marked as "Critical".

By default, this check occurred every five minutes, and when Internet Explorer was started, though the user could configure the next check to occur only at certain times of the day or on certain days of the week.

Other updates correct errors unrelated to security, or enhance functionality.

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