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Microsoft Plans Biggest Security Patch of 2014

Patch Tuesday is usually a relatively staid affair: Microsoft releases a handful of fixes for its programs, people download them and security experts have a good laugh over what could have happened had the vulnerabilities remained unpatched. Tomorrow's (Nov. 11) Patch Tuesday is a little different, however: It's simply enormous, containing 16 patches, more than one-quarter of which could really save your machine.

Microsoft directed users toward its Patch Tuesday walkup on its security blog. Of the 16 patches, five address "Critical" vulnerabilities, which could let a malefactor hijack or spread malware to a machine without any user input. Nine are "Important," which means that they can be just as harmful as Critical bugs, but require a user prompt. The remaining two "Moderate" vulnerabilities can still be harmful, but will likely not affect most users.

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Although Microsoft will not reveal exactly what the flaws are until after they're patched (for obvious reasons), they affect Microsoft Windows, Internet Explorer, .NET Framework, Office, Exchange and Server Software. Users running Windows Server 2003 edition or anything later (including Vista, 7 and 8) can download the patches tomorrow.

Sixteen patches in one month is not exactly unprecedented, but it's still unusual. In fact, no previous Patch Tuesday has included so many fixes, with only September 2013 coming close at 13. Whether you'd rather view this as a sign of Microsoft's inherent vulnerability or its commitment to keeping its products secure largely depends on how much you like the company (or how much money you have invested in it).

In order to apply the patches, simply access Windows Update tomorrow afternoon. Alternatively, you can set up the process so that it happens automatically.

Marshall Honorof is a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide. Contact him at Follow him @marshallhonorof and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.