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When I install a fresh copy of Windows XP Home (I bought it from the store.. not a copy), my PC rocks like lightening speed. But when I start installing all the updates, patches & less .NET 4.0 client (as the .NET 4.0 Client seems to bring machine to slow crawl). The PC starts to slow down.. like there are more resources to watch or something is happening in the background.

So could I not get away with an awesome virus protector and an awesome firewall set-up and avoid all the patches?

The machine I have is a quad 4, 4 GB RAM and 2.3 GHz process. Tons of room and the machine can run several applications at one time.. but when the updates happen.. it's s-l-o-w!

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Feb 25 '11 at 13:27

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Why are you still running XP??!! –  Mayank Feb 25 '11 at 13:27
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I'd like to see an existence proof of that awesome virus protector. I haven't seen such a thing so far. –  CodesInChaos Feb 25 '11 at 13:28
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I have P4 2.4 GHZ processor and my XP Pro is up to date. I don't experience any slowdowns. You are probably doing something wrong. –  funktku Feb 25 '11 at 13:28
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From a security perspective, you really should consider upgrading to Windows 7. It has functional ALSR, DEP implementations which increase your security level beyond any patch can do. –  kizzx2 Feb 25 '11 at 17:55
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but when the updates happen.. its s-l-o-w! - is this only while the updates are being installed, or after all updates are installed and you've rebooted as required? –  Xantec Feb 26 '11 at 2:46
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8 Answers

Yes, you need the security updates offered via Microsoft Updater. There are many security holes fixed that cannot be addressed by anti-virus/anti-malware applications. Optional updates like .NET, drivers and feature expansion can be ignored if desired - but it should be noted they might be prerequisites for future software installations.

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but .net framework is not needed if you don't use it –  Phil D. Feb 25 '11 at 14:00
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.NET Developers do not like Phil D. –  Tom Wijsman Feb 25 '11 at 17:02
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healthy habits, basic understanding & good firewall prevent you from getting 99% of the problems in the first place. –  Berry Tsakala Feb 25 '11 at 17:52
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No, you don't really need microsoft updates on the box, but there's a catch.

---THOU SHALT NOT CONNECT THINE BOX TO THE INTERNET---

Follow that one simple rule and network security doesn't really matter to you. Plus you don't need to bother with any antivirus.

There are some real meaningful OS update that aren't security centric, but whatever floats your boat.

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+1 for a simple truth - if the box isn't ever going to be online, it probably doesn't matter. –  Shinrai Feb 25 '11 at 18:00
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you should add "and will never be touched by a CD or USB device". since he won't be updating it he'll still be susceptible to auto-run malware. –  Xantec Feb 26 '11 at 2:45
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So could I not get away with a awesome virus protector & awesome firewall set-up and avoid all the patches?

No, because the awesome virus protector product doesn't exist. All of the options available these days pretty much suck. The malware producers are winning that war, and any benchmarks and tests used among the various anti-virus makers and journalists that show how well their product works are effectively just smoke screens to hide this fact. I know many people have their preferred product that they stand by, but the thing to remember is that your preferred product is only the best of a bad field.

The simple truth is that your first real line of defense in securing your system is keeping it patched, and not keeping it patched is just begging to get an infection, anti-virus software or not. Your second line of defense is not running as administrator by default. Firewalls are third, and anti-virus software is a distant fourth.

For context, if you run a linux or OS X desktop, both of those systems also have mechanisms for automatic system updates that need to be used.

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Disabling Java in all your web browser is VERY helpful too, there is so much java-borne malware around those days and so few useful java applet that disabling it will only do good. –  Shadok Feb 25 '11 at 14:54
    
+1 Nice description of the leves of defense. I fully agree to your ordering. –  hcl Feb 25 '11 at 15:03
    
First and only line of defense needed: Linux. –  Jeff F. Feb 25 '11 at 16:00
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Installing Linux as a line of defense instead of installing updates, you should worry... –  Tom Wijsman Feb 25 '11 at 17:04
    
Could you please give a source showing how the antivirus systems aren't that good? I haven't seen that claim anywhere else. I know that a well-patched, well-updated system & browser are extremely important, but antivirus systems still do useful work, don't they? –  Daniel H Feb 26 '11 at 2:49
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I don't have any antivirus or .NET/Java runtime installed in my XP computer, and it really flies fast.

The only trick is keeping up-to-date with all the installed software (SUMo), and not executing anything before checking it with a portable on-demand antivirus scanner. I also check it with VirusTotal's shell extension. And don't forget to disable AutoPlay.

If some app requires .NET, I search for an alternative. There's plenty of good native applications anyway.

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+1, SUMo, nice software –  Moab Feb 25 '11 at 20:52
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I don't agree:

  • Healthy habits,
  • Basic understanding of executable files
  • Smart usage of browsing, downloading and other Internet applications
  • Good, self maintained firewall (not the default MS)

All the above prevent you from getting 99.9% of the problems in the first place.

I rarely update my PCs, and my only problems are hardware based.

OTOH, I'm a superuser, and I understand how computers work. For a non-savvy user, updates are a must. But even then, such a user will succumb to something else.

There's no real alternative to understand a little bit how the OS works.

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The problem with this is that a lot of malware these days is written to target web servers first. It first infects a perfectly legitimate web server, and then uses that web server to do drive by installs on users that visit that server. If you're not patched, you're screwed. It won't even matter if you're not running as admin. And remember, this is a perfectly legitimate and respected web site that had the misfortune to have it's server hacked. Good habits alone will no longer protect you. –  Joel Coehoorn Feb 25 '11 at 18:22
    
"on users that visit that server"... that use IE, which is the only browser affected by windows updates. If you're behind a router, what can the rogue server do? (I'm no expert in such exploits, but I'd have thought it either relies on you being router-less or exploit a browser vulnerability) –  RJFalconer Feb 25 '11 at 20:19
    
The rouge server could be an government server, or as was recently the case some BBC servers. Some malware is zero click, so just opening the page triggers the installation. Many of the patches address the known flaws (bugs) which allow this to happen. On a patched system zeroclick installation should only work on zero-day and unannouced flaws. There are multiple other vectors besides browsers, and some malware will try multiple attack paths. –  BillThor Feb 25 '11 at 22:00
    
It's not just IE - firefox, chrome, and other browsers can still be attack vectors if the underlying system they rely on is weak. –  Joel Coehoorn Feb 26 '11 at 3:03
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Yes, you do. In addition to the holes left by unpatched software that things other than viruses and malware will exploit, much software relies on the updates you're thinking of not installing. As time goes on you're shooting yourself in the foot.

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A PC with those specs shouldn't be slow at all with Windows XP. You might have a hardware problem.

Updates are essential because they fix security holes and protect you from malware

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Considering it can take a good hacker less than a day to dissect a security update and develop an exploit to attack systems that are not yet patched, you should at least accept the security updates. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patch_Tuesday

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