Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

The important thing is to develop a sense so you can recognize what the Windows Update message looks like.

Is there a fee for all the 'Updates are ready for your computer' pop ups?

The long answer is no, but the short answer is maybe.

Not to sound cryptic, but when you're talking about legitimate pop-ups, the answer is always no fee.

For pop-ups that result from malware, the answer is yes. That's what I want to clarify here.

Legitimate pop-ups

Windows and many of the applications installed on your machine will display a pop-up that notifies you that updates are ready.

From the way your question is worded, I'm going to assume that what you're seeing is a pop-up for your Windows operating system. "Updates are ready for your computer" is typically the wording used by Windows Update to let you know that updates have been downloaded, or are available to be downloaded, and that you can update your Windows to the latest and greatest version.

Those are not only free but they are incredibly important. You need to keep your copy of Windows as up-to-date as possible so you absolutely want to take those updates. Other applications sometimes use similar techniques to notify you that there are updates available or already downloaded and are now asking your permission to finally install. Those too are typically important and I suggest that you take them.

Scareware pop-ups

But the reason this question caught my eye is that I want to talk to you about other forms of malware. These are typically called scareware and they're designed to convince you to update or install viruses, spyware, or other malicious programs on your machine.

How do you know the difference?

The important thing is to develop a sense of recognizing what the Windows Update message looks like, what applications you have installed on your machine are, and what their update messages look like.

If these appear, you won't recognize the message. The pop up may be related to a software that you simply don't have. Or the pop up may actually sound like a piece of software you have but they get the name ever so slightly wrong (this is a particularly nasty one).

If you see a pop up that matches any of these, do not accept them.
There's a very good chance that those are malicious and I would absolutely have someone knowledgeable examine the error message and determine if the update is safe.

Ultimately, there is no fee associated with Windows updates or other application updates on your computer.

If you do see fees, you may have scareware or ransomware - this is software that is downloaded to your computer and causes it to stop working. The only way to get it going again is to pay a fee to the company or a technician to uninstall the malware or clean up your machine.

Article C6405 - April 19, 2013 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
May 11, 2013 10:15 AM

I used to use AVG. They would pop up a message talking about an update and that I should click their message.

Problem was, I was never certain it was AVG. Even if I went to their website, it wasn't always clear there was a new version because I guess they liked to give advance notice of new versions to existing users before the general public.

If you have to question your security software, maybe its time for new security software. I don't use AVG any more.

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