For many years, Microsoft has issued updates for their software in numerous independent update patches. Even in the Apple Mac environment, software like Microsoft Office 2011 requires many updates after a clean installation.
The most problematic issues arise with Windows updates.
If you have a computer that’s several years old, and you need to perform a system restore (back to factory settings), it will be necessary to install the many hundreds of updates that have been issued since the time the computer was manufactured.
If you follow the prompts to install each batch of updates, which can often be over 100 at a time, some of the updates will conflict with one another. Some updates will be irrelevant. This process is hugely time consuming, and could render the computer useless with repeated bluescreen errors and system failures.
At some point along the way, the system update window may indicate that the computer is up to date. This may be incorrect information. Keep persisting. Restart the computer, and then from the updates window, click the Check for Updates link. It’s common to have many updates, and then have a large Service Pack to install, which has hundreds of required updates.
Even with a brand new very expensive Windows 8.1 computer, you may find that the computer stops working after installing the suggested Windows updates.
The screenshot below is a good example of the problems described above. Click the image for a larger view.
Notice that there are multiple updates for Internet Explorer 8 as well as an update/upgrade to Internet Explorer 11. There are also updates for multiple versions of Microsoft .NET Framework. Most software vendors are able to provide an updated version of their software that includes any updates since the previous major release. With Windows, a major update like a service pack should be able to include all the updates since the previous service pack.
If the Internet Explorer 11 update is installed, then this makes the Internet Explorer 8 updates unnecessary as shown in the notice below.
The best way to avoid conflicts, failures, and errors with Windows Update is to scroll down to the bottom of the list of available updates and select only 5 to 10 updates at a time. Notice that the checkbox at the top of the list will select and deselect all updates. You can use this first to deselect all updates, and then scroll down and select 5 or 10 updates to install. After each batch, you will likely be prompted to restart the computer. This process can take many hours.