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Windows XP and Vista have started installing updates at shutdown, in certain cases, without displaying a warning or requesting permission, according to reports by several readers.The forced-install behavior has been witnessed at least three times by Windows Secrets editors, but Microsoft says its procedure for Automatic Updates hasn't changed in the last 10 months.The behavior seems to occur only if a Windows user has Automatic Updates configured to "download updates but don't install them" or "notify me but don't install them." If updates are scheduled to occur automatically, with no notice to users, the silent installation of updates would be expected.Most Windows patches are desirable and have few unwanted side effects. A few updates, however, are known to disable or conflict with other software. For this reason, many individuals and companies require that all upgrades be researched or tested before anything is installed.Numerous conflicts have caused users to take a cautious approach to updates. For example, WS contributing editor Susan Bradley reported in her July 10, 2008, column (paid content) that Microsoft patch MS08-037 completely disabled the Internet connection of machines that use the ZoneAlarm firewall. Many users can't afford this kind of interruption of service and prefer to study each update before approving its installation.Delaying the acceptance of Windows patches allows you to gauge the risk of each individual update. It buys you time to read — in Susan's articles, for example — about any problems that early adopters have reported with specific patches.The forced-install behavior, in which Windows applies updates at shutdown time without requesting approval, is a concern to people who need to control the patch process. Normally, configuring Automatic Updates not to install patches without approval causes Windows to merely check for updates rated "Important" or "Recommended" whenever the computer is connected to the Internet (optionally downloading the patches for later installation).Once Windows determines that patches are available, the operating system normally displays an icon in the taskbar's notification area, alerting you that updates are awaiting your review and approval. (The icon is yellow in XP, blue in Vista, as shown in Figure 1.) When the forced-install situation occurs, however, this icon never appears and users receive no prompt that updates are queued for installation.