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A link to Windows Update on the Start Menu gave access to additional downloads for the operating system.
At the time of Windows 98's release, Windows Update offered additional desktop themes, games, device driver updates, and optional components such as Net Meeting.
The Windows Update Control Panel also has the function of downloading Windows Ultimate Extras, optional software for Windows Vista Ultimate Edition.
Windows 95 and Windows NT 4 were retroactively given the ability to access the Windows Update website, and download updates designed for those operating systems, starting with the release of versions of Internet Explorer 4 for those operating systems.
The initial focus of Windows Update was on free add-ons and new technologies for Windows; security fixes for Outlook Express, Internet Explorer and other applications appeared later, as did access to beta versions of upcoming Microsoft software, most notably Internet Explorer 5.
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.
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.
Windows Update, a service offered by Microsoft, provides updates for Windows components.