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The first version of the Windows Update web site (usually referred to as "v3") did not require any personally-identifiable information to be sent to Microsoft.In order for the v3 Active X control to determine what updates were needed, the entire list of available software on Windows Update was downloaded to the user's computer when they visited the Windows Update web site.Windows Update was introduced as an Internet web site with the launch of Windows 95.A link to Windows Update on the Start Menu gave access to additional downloads for the operating system.Microsoft Update, an expanded version of the service, provides for other Microsoft software as well, such as Microsoft Office.
Definition updates for Windows Defender are provided through Windows Update as well.
The check was performed by querying the server for a file, "cucif.cab", which contains a list of all the critical updates released for the user's operating system.
The Critical Update Notification Tool then compared this list with the list of installed updates on the user's machine, and displayed a message to the user informing them of new critical updates if they were available. Moore in early 1999 was critical of this approach, describing it as "horribly inefficient" and susceptible to attacks.
While details have changed from version to version, it has always scanned the computer to find what operating system components and software are installed, and compared the versions of those components with the latest available versions.
The Active X component then executes the downloaded installation files in their silent/unattended mode to install or update those components, and to report the success or failure of those installations back to Microsoft's servers.