Patches are wonderful things. They are little software packages that repair holes in software. These holes are unintended openings in the code of a piece of software that can allow unwanted intrusions into your system by outside persons. Any computer that faces the internet is at risk to some degree, even if the computer never visits questionable web sites. Although, most problems with malicious code can be traced to an email or a web site.
Patches are intended to curtail the possibility of these holes presenting risk. Almost any software can be at risk for attack, and most mainstream applications are updated by patches on a regular basis. The patches are the result of engineers inspecting suspected bad or vulnerable code for the exact cause of the potential inlet of outside influence. The code is then redesigned to eliminate the opening, and then packaged as a downloadable and executable application that imparts a slight change to the program in question, closing the dangerous openings. These changes are generally transparent to the function of the program itself, taking place in the background on the operational parts of the application and are not visible otherwise.
Most patches are identified by an agent service that makes daily checks for them. When new patches become available, the program will notify you and give you the opportunity to decide whether to download the updates and patches, and whether to install them. The distinction between the two choices is, the download only brings the file or files down to your computer, but it does not put them in place in case you are currently using the application in question. The install option puts the patches in place and will generally require the program to restart once the cycle is complete. Once the patches are in place, the program is updated and safe from the vulnerabilities addressed in a specific patch release.