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[XP]Windows Update


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Anyone who's used just about any version of Windows knows how annoying the Windows Update feature can be when it's left on to work automatically. To be honest, I don't know of ANYONE who hasn't gotten frustrated at least once because of the blasted thing. Most people tend to use one of the manual or semi-automatic settings instead as it provides better control over the function.


There are several options available, some of which aren't directly accessible through the obvious Windows Update settings. Let's start there first.


On your keyboard, press the Windows key and the Break button at the same time. This should bring up the System Properties box. If it doesn't, then just go to the Start Menu, Control Panel and open up the System Properties from there.


Okay now click on the tab for Automatic Updates. There are two recommended settings to choose from, "Download" and "Notify me", with two other unrecommended settings, "Automatic" and "Turn off", respectively. Yes, I'm aware that the box says that "Automatic" is the recommended setting, but if we all went with what any authority recommended to us, we'd all be living dull lives, most likely without computers and other forms of enjoyment. This isn't for religious and philosophical debates though, so let's skip all that.


I personally recommend the "Download updates for me, but let me choose when to install them." setting. The reason is because it's all done in the background and when it's ready to be installed, it'll notify you and you can either install it immediately or wait until later. With the other setting, you have to wait for the updates to be downloaded before they get installed. The benefit to that option is that updates won't be downloaded unless you choose to install them, so you don't use up any monthly bandwidth that your ISP may have set. Usually this shouldn't be a problem, but sometimes it may be. Either of these two settings though is better than the Automatic setting and just to be fair, even the Automatic setting is better than having the updates turned off completely. One huge benefit to using these options is that you can pick and choose which updates to install. With the setting on Automatic, you aren't really given a choice.


Now for some less obvious options. On Windows XP Professional, it's easy to get to them. Just go to Start->Run (or press the Windows key and the letter 'R') and type in 'gpedit.msc' and press enter.


When gpedit.msc is run, it will load up the 'Group Policy' editor. Inside there, navigate to Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> Windows Update. In there you will find a group of options to tweak.


Allow Automatic Updates immediate installation

Set this to be Enabled. What this option will do is when an update is available that will NOT disrupt the use of Windows, then it will install the update automatically. I recommend this setting because it allows you to continue using Windows without the worry of being prompted to restart the computer after it's done. At the same time, it reduces the number of updates to install later on. If an update will require you to restart Windows or if it'll be disruptive in some way, then it won't be automatically installed, which means it'll wait for you to choose to install it. So when you see that there are new updates to install, then for the most part, you will need to restart the computer when it's done, so you aren't left wondering if you'll need to restart or not.


Re-prompt for restart with scheduled installations

Change the setting on this to 1440 (the maximum value). Basically, if updates have been installed that require a restart and you click to restart later, then the little nagger won't come back to haunt you quite as often. It'll wait 24 hours (1,440 minutes) before bugging you again.


No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automatic updates installations

This may seem pointless when the other settings considered, but it's not a bad idea to enable this. If someone is logged into the computer, then it won't try to auto-restart. If you insist on having Windows Update set to automatic, then this is a really useful setting. It will notify you that the computer needs to be restarted, but won't force a restart for you. Instead, it'll wait for you to restart the computer or if no one is logged on, then it'll be fully automated.



Note: The Group Policy editor is only available if you're using Windows XP Professional. If you're using Windows XP Home, then I'm not sure how to change the options, let alone if the options are even available. I'll update this entry if I learn of a way.


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