Software // Enterprise Applications
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2/11/2004
03:43 PM
Fred Langa
Fred Langa
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Langa Letter: Successful Updates Despite Very Slow Connections

Fred Langa shows how some simple workarounds let you bypass bottlenecks when keeping your PCs up to date.

Reader Randy Brooks has a problem. One of his PCs has a fast connection; it's easy and quick to keep that system up to date with all the necessary patches and downloads from Windows Update. But the other system is on an old, slow, unreliable phone line. It's almost impossible to keep it current:

I spend a lot of time [where] the old, single phone line gets me 24 Kbps at best. Do you have any suggestions for keeping WinXP Home (which is running there) up to date, other than leaving the modem running for hours every time MS puts out a patch? When I update my XP Pro network in the city, it's all via cable and Auto update, so I don't have any files to copy to a cdrom.
-- Randy Brooks

Randy's case actually isn't that unusual: Many of us have one or more PCs to support that are hindered by low-speed connectivity. Because some Windows Update items are huge, trying to install them via a slow connection can strain anyone's patience.

But if you have access to at least one machine with a fast connection--your own system at home or at work, at a hotel or airport business center, at a user group, at a friend's, etc.--there's an easy answer. Even if the PCs use different versions of Windows, you can use the fast PC to download any needed patches for the slow one. You then can copy the patches to CD, floppy, or any other media you wish, and bring them to the slower PC for easy installation.

In this way, you can keep a slower PC up to date without needing to perform any long downloads. Here's how:

Find What Patches And Updates You Need
On the slow PC, use Windows Update only far enough to see what updates and patches that PC needs; but don't download or install any patches yet. You can launch Windows Update via the Start/All Programs menu, or by running WUPDMGR.EXE from the Start/Run line. Once on the Windows Update site, click "scan for updates," and let the Update site show you what the slow PC needs. Again, don't actually install or download any of the indicated updates; for now, just make notes of the names and numbers of any items the Update site says that PC needs.

For example, if the Update site shows you need "Recommended Update for Windows XP SP1 (817778)," that's what you'd write down.

In general, it's usually a good idea to plan to install every Critical Update, but you can be more selective about "Recommended" updates and "Driver" updates. Each Update item carries a "Read more..." link to help you decide which items are important enough to warrant making note of.

When you're done--it'll only take a couple minutes--you'll have a list of all Critical Updates that the site suggested; plus whichever Recommended and Driver updates you've decided are worthwhile. You can then exit Windows Update without downloading or installing anything.

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