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02 July 2009, 13:20

Google Update no longer runs continuously

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Google has updated its Google Update open source software installer and auto-updater for Windows so that it no longer always runs in the background. Previously, as the update process was always running, several privacy concerns were raised about the update tool (code named Omaha) used by various applications, such as Google Earth and the Chrome web browser. According to Google, to address concerns from users, Omaha now uses the Windows Task Scheduler to only run at "periodic intervals".

Google also notes that, should the Task Scheduler or Service mechanisms not work as expected, a fallback mechanism has been added that causes Google Update to once again start running as an always-on, continuous process in order to make sure that users still receive updates. According to a recent joint study by Google Switzerland and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, automatically updating without requiring user confirmation is the most successful way to ensure a high rate of distribution of the latest release and consequently a low number of vulnerable applications.

According to the Google Operating System blog, an unofficial Google blog, Google Update is scheduled to run every hour by default. Users can change how often it runs or even disable it, but Google advises that "If this task is disabled or stopped, your Google software will not be kept up to date, meaning security vulnerabilities that may arise cannot be fixed and features may not work." Optionally, system and network administrators can control the installation and updating of Google Products, or disable Google Update using the Local Group Policy Editor via Update Controls.

A design overview of Omaha is available on Google Code. Google Update is made available under the Apache License, Version 2.0.

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