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Dumb question, but if you have the above installed, do you still need to install security updates? Reason I'm asking is that I re-installed Vista on a Dell Inspiron 1520 because it was in some kind of loop constantly rebooting.

After the installation, it then wanted to apply 104 updates (275+ MB) - and of course after applying the updates, it went back into the cyclic reboot - none of the options for safe mode etc. worked.

So then I had to re-install Vista (using the recovery mode and system restore) and re-install the updates, but this time I did it in a binary split - with a reboot in between to try to identify the update causing the problem. Eventually I brought it down to three candidates (mail, movie maker and something else I don't remember). Without these last 3, the PC seemed fine. I skipped them because I wasn't planning to use those programs.

But, I'm still not sure if it was one of those updates that was causing the problem because I didn't try to install them - I was heartily sick of the whole process by then, apart from it taking 2 days (the download speed appeared to be limited to 56K, though a concurrent speed test showed that the internet was running at 300KB+ as I said, I was heartily sick of the whole process by then and wasn't willing to spend another several hours on the internet trying to figure out why the slow download speed, plus the fact the installs were PAINFULLY slow) to go through the process upto that point.

So I wonder whether it was the number of updates being applied at once, or whether it was just those specific updates which I didn't install.

There were a lot of security updates 150+ MB. So this brings me back to the question above - and could I have got away without installing the security updates because the other tools were installed?

As a subtext to this, what kind of problems won't the above tools address?

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3 Answers 3

YES. Still do security updates. They fix security holes.

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AntiVirus tools are a heuristic "best effort" sort of tool. They require knowing virus signatures before they are useful, and those are discovered by the various vendors as viruses are in the wild -- potentially on customer computers.

Further, your firewall software is probably near zero value; worth running, sure, but I strongly doubt it is blocking outgoing connections. If your browser, mail client, office productivity suite, or similar tool requests and downloads a malicious jpg or gif or png image, or Adobe Flash happily downloads and runs a malicious flash application ("Click the penguin and win a prize! come on! click click!"), or an ActiveX control with excessive permissions, then the hacked application is free to make whatever outbound connections it needs to in order to send the entire contents of your hard drive to the Yakuza or Russian Mafia. Or send your bank login and password off to Estonia. Or host a pornography sharing website. Or send spam. Up to the hackers, really.

If you've discovered a specific security update that causes your machine to fail boot, I would be pretty wary of installing it too -- but that said, I'd be even more paranoid about running around on the Internet without a patch to address known security flaws.

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And even if your firewall was blocking outgoing connections, nobody would think twice if their web browser or email client was making the outgoing connections. Outgoing firewalls are remarkably ineffective. –  Larry Osterman Mar 19 '11 at 18:59

I have been there with windows 7, though my reboot loop maybe was caused by something else. But I've heard of updates causing it. It's pretty rare but when it happens it takes a lot of your time.

FYI, there's a group that does testing of antivirus software, av-comparatives.org. When they test programs with the newest viruses, the BEST of them only catch 60% of these viruses. Some catch less than half. So no matter how strong you think your antivirus is, it's not enough by itself.

I think the ideal solution is to prepare a full image of your drive using something like acronis trueimage, and make their special boot CD/usb key. You can set it to make images every night even. Then go ahead and download the updates, and use the restore if you have to (but hopefully that was a fluke).

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Thanks for the link to av-comparatives.org; their reports look very well done. –  sarnold Mar 21 '11 at 0:21

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