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Critical care from Microsoft

The company preps Windows Critical Update, which alerts users to fixes and patches needed for their system.

Microsoft will roll out a new feature for the Windows 98 operating system next week that will alert users to critical bug fixes and patches needed for their system, the company announced today.

Windows Critical Update is an expanded feature of Windows Update, which itself is a new component of Windows 98. Windows Update scans a user's system and identifies files that can be updated. Windows Update also offers accessory downloads like wallpapers and screensavers.

Thus far, Windows Update has offered patches for Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and multimedia application updates for Windows 98. The upcoming Windows 98 Service Pack will eventually be available through Windows Update.

Windows 98 users who subscribe to Windows Critical Update will be notified upon connecting to the Internet about any Critical Update available on the Windows Update site, Microsoft said, and will then be offered an option to immediately download the update.

"Microsoft will post what they consider Critical Updates," a Microsoft spokesman said. "That includes a patch to Outlook Express or a patch to Internet Explorer. That's the type of thing that they will alert a subscriber to, not just Critical Updates in Windows 98, but any (Microsoft) products that Windows 98 works with."

Windows Critical Update was released to beta groups for testing in mid-September, and will be deployed to all Windows 98 users sometime next week, Microsoft said.