If you have a Java JRE (Java Runtime Environment) installed, you can configure it through the Java Control Panel applet. This applet contains 5 tabs, the 2nd tab from the left being the “Update” tab. Sometimes this tab is missing though (see picture below).
This has to do with EnableJavaUpdate, a DWORD named value in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\JavaSoft\Java Update\Policy (for the x86 version on x86 Windows or the x64 version on x64 Windows) or HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\JavaSoft\Java Update\Policy (for the x86 version on x64 Windows). Its value determines if the JRE’s update feature is enabled (value “1”) or not (value “0” or not available). Note an enabled update feature doesn’t mean auto-downloading/updating is effectively active: disabling every kind of update setting is in a way also some sort of update configuration. It’s like configuring a setting Frequency to “Never” for example: there is no frequency, but in a broad sense it’s still a frequency setting’s value (“Never”). It’s the same thing with the Java update feature. Anyway, if the feature is enabled (value “1”), the Java Control Panel applet will show the Update tab and show you the configuration, but you need administrator rights to see the correct update settings (and starting from Vista you even need elevated administrator rights to see the correct update settings). If you open the applet as an administrator you can also change the settings, although you need to have, again, elevated administrator rights starting from Vista (otherwise it seems you can change the settings, but they aren’t actually saved). If the feature is disabled (value “0”), the applet sees the whole update feature is disabled and decides not to show information about it; well, actually it just removes the Update tab. Other named values under the forementioned keys determine the actual update settings (the update schedule for example).
Sometimes EnableJavaUpdate is “0” or deleted. This can happen by mistake, due to a bug (although I’m not aware of any bug doing this), because of your colleague-administrator who wants to test you, etc. etc. But perhaps it has been done with a certain professional purpose; for example, administrators can decide to disable the whole feature to hide the tab from users.
A special cause is the fact that you have installed the 32 bit and the 64 bit of the JRE on a 64 bit Windows. In this case the applet is actually the 64 bit one, using the 64 bit JRE settings. This means EnableJavaUpdate in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\JavaSoft\Java Update\Policy is used to decide if the Update tab should be shown and the other update settings under this key to decide what the update behavior is. The problem is no settings are available by default under this key, not even EnableJavaUpdate, which means the update feature is actually disabled! This also explains why the tab is not shown. I’m not sure why this situation occurs: is it a bug of the JRE’s installer? Is it by design? I dunno, but I do know you can fix it. Just add the DWORD EnableJavaUpdate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\JavaSoft\Java Update\Policy and give it value “1”. Try again and you should see the tab and when you click the tab you should see the default update settings, even if they weren’t explicitly available under the registry key (see first picture below). When you leave the applet the different (default and/or changed) update settings have been added under the key explicitly though (see 2nd picture below).