Langa Letter: Successful Updates Despite Very Slow Connections - InformationWeek
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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.

Grabbing The Patches At High Speed
Bring your list of patches to a PC with a fast connection, and run Windows Update on that PC. But instead of clicking "scan for updates," select "Catalog" from the left navigation pane. The Update Catalog gives you access to almost every Update item for all versions of Windows, not just the version on the PC you're currently using.

If the "Catalog" option doesn't appear, don't worry: It's easy to turn on. Select "Personalize" from "Other Options" in the left menu, and select the "Display the link to the Windows Catalog" option. The Catalog will then appear in the "See Also" menu on the left.

You can then use the Catalog to select whatever Updates and Drivers you want for the slow PC: Select the slow PC's version of Windows, and then select the specific patches and updates you made note of earlier. Items you select go into a "download basket" from which you can later retrieve them and place them wherever you want--on your hard drive, on a CD or whatever--for safekeeping and later use. (Note: The downloaded files will be executables--little setup programs--but don't run them yet. Just save them in a known location on the fast PC.)

For reasons known only to Microsoft, the Update Catalog doesn't list all available patches. But if you can't find a patch you need in the Catalog proper, you usually can find it via the "Search" link at the top of the Update Window: Enter the name or number of the patch you're seeking, and the search tool will usually bring you to a Knowledgebase discussion of that patch, which will contain a link to the actual download. As with the Update Catalog items themselves, don't run the files you download this way; just save them in a known location on the fast PC's hard drive.

And even if that search fails, there still are ways to find the downloads you need. For example, many Update items are listed with a six-digit number; you can use that number to search the Microsoft Knowledgebase for the patch. To do so, you use a URL in this format, substituting the number where you see the X's at the end of the line:;en-us;XXXXXX

Thus, to search for "Recommended Update for Windows XP SP1 (817778)," you'd use;en-us;817778

Or, you can use the more general search tools here.

Once you've located and downloaded all the patches the slow PC needs, burn the downloaded files to a CD, or copy then to floppies, a Zip-disk, tape, or other media that the slow PC will be able to read.

Installing On The Slow PC, And Other Patch Uses
Bring the saved files to the slow PC, and run each of the setup files, one by one, by double-clicking on them (they're usually EXE or MSI files). Install the Critical Updates first, then the Recommended and Driver updates.

When you're done, rerun Windows Update on the slow PC, just as you did in the first step. Sometimes, patches must be installed incrementally, and installing one patch or update will then require a subsequent patch or update. (This is more likely to happen if you haven't patched the slow PC in a long time; several iterations may be needed to get the system fully current.)

Don't throw out the saved updates; they can be reused in the future, should you need to reinstall the operating system or its patches again.

In fact, you can use this method of saving patches on any PC, even if you're not moving files to a second machine. You can use Windows Update's "History" option to see what's been installed on any given PC, and then use the Catalog to re-download and save copies of those patches. If you ever need to reinstall the operating system, you'll then have the patches for that PC right at hand, and can run them from your hard drive without re-identifying and re-downloading everything afresh.

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