I have windows xp sp2 loaded. Also have NOD32 antivirus, Zonealarm firewall and Ewido antispyware. I use Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird and have had no problems with malware for the last year or so. In this time I have never downloaded anything from windows update as this seems to give problems. So - is there something I have missed regarding windows updates? Or have I just been lucky?
If the holes are not patched, the world's best firewall will be like a chocolate teapot and the world's best AV (which you happen to have) can only deal with viruses and - in NOD's case - other malware.
There is nothing that say you have to download updates of any kind,but it would be silly not to avail yourself of a free resource that could make your pc more safe/stable and problem free. Choice is yours.