Ah! The good old "you'll get a virus" scam.
I turned off automatic updates in August 2010 because one MS "update" ('Cumulative Update for IE KB2183461') caused my PC to run every process at 100% CPU. I didn't turn them on again or apply any updates for over 2 years until after I did a re-install.
During that time I didn't get any viruses or malware - just running MSE and Comodo firewall, and sometimes MalwareBytes antimalware to scan downloads.
I still don't have Automatic Updates set to "Automatic". Anyone who does is asking for trouble. Set it to "Notify" and then wait two weeks before applying them. Google "MS Black Tuesday".
You say about the toolbars: "literally nobody used them"? I just said that I did, so that statement is nonsense.
When I show other people - even so-called Windows 'geeks' - what desktop toolbars can do on XP, the response is usually "How did you do that?".
The trouble is that the 'wet-behind-the-ears' school-leavers that MS employed to re-write Windows and call it 'Windows 7' didn't know about this stuff, so what we got was a very pretty looking pile of garbage.