How to Update Windows, Apps, and Drivers: The Complete Guide
Keeping your computer’s software up-to-date is vital. Not only do updates provide new features and bug fixes, but they’re also important for patching security vulnerabilities.
While it’s easy to say you should update everything on your PC, how do you actually do that in practice? Let’s walk through all the methods for updating Windows, your software, and everything else so that you never have to worry about getting the latest versions.
How to Update Windows
Keeping your operating system updated is thankfully a lot smoother in Windows 10 and 11 than in previous versions. Windows automatically downloads and applies updates when they become available, so you don’t have to check in regularly.
On Windows 10, you’ll find everything related to OS updates at Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update. You can click Check for updates anytime, though Windows checks regularly for you. On Windows 11, this menu is under Settings > Windows Update.
Windows applies minor updates on its own, so you won’t even know they’ve been installed. Bigger updates require a restart, and you’ll see a notification when one of those is pending. By default, Windows tries to install these updates when you’re not using your PC. Select Change active hours (under Advanced Options on Windows 11) to set a time period when your computer won’t automatically restart for updates.
Additionally, you can pause Windows Updates for up to 35 days (this is inside Advanced Options on Windows 10). This is handy if you need your PC to stay on for a long while. There are other toggles to master too; see how to manage Windows Update in Windows 10 for advice.
The Geeky Method: Update Windows via PowerShell
Want to get geeky? Try updating Windows via PowerShell. Open a PowerShell window as an Administrator, then enter the following commands one at a time:
When prompted, you’ll need to enter Y to confirm installing a package to make this work properly. This isn’t the quickest way to install Windows updates normally, but you can automate it with a little scripting magic.
You can also download and update software through the Command Prompt thanks to an app called Chocolatey.
A Note on Major Windows Updates
When a feature update to Windows 10 or 11 (such as version 22H2) becomes available, you won’t get it right away through Windows Update. Instead, Microsoft gradually rolls them out to all Windows users.
It’s wise to wait until your device gets the update naturally, since new versions sometimes have issues. But if you don’t want to wait, you can visit the Windows 10 download page or Windows 11 download page to update to the latest stable version immediately.
How to Update Installed Windows Software
Most traditional Windows desktop software includes its own updater. The exact location of this differs depending on the program, but you’ll usually find it under Help > Check for Updates or in the Settings menu. Some software also checks for updates when you open the About [App] dialog, usually found on the Help menu.
Thankfully, most modern software also checks for updates on its own. Apps like Steam, Spotify, Telegram, VirtualBox, and many more will prompt you with either a dialog box or banner when they have an update to apply. Most browsers, including Chrome and Firefox, will update in the background without you having to do anything. Antivirus apps also do this.
You don’t need to constantly check for updates every time you open your favorite apps. But it’s a Windows maintenance mistake to run lots of outdated software. If a built-in updater ever fails, you can always download the latest version directly from the developer’s website.
The Easy Method: Using Updater Apps
Don’t want to keep track of app updates on your own? A dedicated updater app can help. These check for updates available for the software installed on your PC and automate the update process, saving you time.
You don’t need to pay for a great updater, either. Give Patch My PC or SUMo a try for solid free options. Both detect installed software, show you which apps are out of date, and automatically apply updates so you don’t have to click Next to get through a bunch of boxes.
Special Update Cases: Adobe, Apple, Plugins
While most desktop software updates with a method like the above, you should give special consideration to a few apps.
One of these is Apple Software Update. Most people have this on their computer from installing iTunes. It opens from time to time to provide updates to iTunes, iCloud, and other Apple software. However, it also offers other Apple software you might not want.
If you only need iTunes, we recommend using the Windows Store version of iTunes; it’s a lot slimmer and doesn’t require Apple Software Update.
Adobe software is similar. If you subscribe to a Creative Cloud plan, you can open the Adobe Creative Cloud app to update Photoshop, Premiere, and other apps in one place.
With the modern web having little reliance on plugins, you don’t need old runtimes like Silverlight, Java, and Shockwave. These are unnecessary Windows tools you should uninstall right away.
How to Update Microsoft Store Apps
Microsoft hoped that the Microsoft Store (formerly the Windows Store) would become the central place for downloading Windows software. While that hasn’t happened, you’ll still find some great apps on the platform.
It also has the benefit of offering a single place for updating Store apps. To update any Store apps you’ve installed (or any of the default Windows apps), open the Microsoft Store app. On Windows 10, click the three-dot Menu button in the top-right and choose Downloads and updates. On Windows 11, click the Library button at the bottom left.
You’ll see any apps with updates available listed here; click Get updates to check before installing.
How to Update Drivers on Windows
Generally, you can follow the “if it’s working, don’t touch it” strategy with drivers. Manufacturers don’t publish updates for audio, networking, and other drivers as often as other types of updates on this list.
The exception to this is graphics driver updates. If you have a dedicated graphics card from Nvidia or AMD, you should have the corresponding software installed. Use it to apply the latest graphics driver updates for the best performance in games and high-intensity graphical software.
When you do a round of checking for driver updates, don’t use any driver update software. You don’t know if the drivers they offer are correct or safe. Downloading drivers from random websites is also dangerous.
Instead, follow our guide to updating Windows drivers. If your PC manufacturer provides its own update software (like Lenovo System Update), use that for easy driver updates. Otherwise, you can download drivers from the manufacturer’s website.
Keep Everything Updated in Windows
That’s what you need to know about applying updates in Windows. This covers all but the most niche software. The prevalence of automatic updates makes keeping everything current pretty easy, but you should still know how to check for updates manually.
And if you ever notice that an app hasn’t received updates in a while, it could be abandoned. In those cases, you should look for a replacement, as these “zombie apps” that are no longer under support will likely have security problems.