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  1. #1
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    Windows XP updates on a home network (XP SP3)

    Hi all

    I have a home network with 2 PC's and a laptop and was wondering if there is anyway I can just download Windows updates to one computer then copy across to the others.

    I'm on satellite broadband which is quite expensive here in Australia so would prefer not to have to download updates for each PC as it seems rather silly to have to download to each.

    Looking forward to your suggestions.
    Dax


  2. #2
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    Re: Windows XP updates on a home network (XP SP3)

    It isn't, perhaps, as easy as it first might seem to suggest an alternative to (I assume) using Automatic Updates (AU), Windows Update (WU) or Microsoft Update (MU) in this case.

    First, are all PCs using the same Windows version?

    Second; it is possible to download all Microsoft updates (Windows or Office etc.) from Microsoft Download Center, as you may know. The updates can be reached either via Microsoft Download Center itself, or other pages at Microsoft. They usually point downloads to MSFT DLC, such as all Security Bulletins do etc.

    The potential problem I mentioned initially, even if all PCs use the same OS, is that with an automatic or semi-automatic update such as WU or MU you usually only download the necessary bits. That is, if you already have some other update installed etc. it may only download a smaller package. By using the MSFT Download Center you usually download a full file package.

    Say: AU/WU/MU all suggests something like one file: 650 kB; with three machines that is 3x650=1,950 kB or roughly 1.9 MB downloaded. The corresponding update at the Download Center may be as big as 4 to 8 MB. That's four times the other download. Not always, many of them are quite small and with little or no difference.

    The stand alone update packages downloaded via the Download Center etc. do have some small advantages. As in your example, they can be distributed, they can be saved and re-used (obviously) and sometimes, not very often, the stand alone updates have been working better when applying an update. You may have heard about problems with some updates and that it was found that it was the update mechanism (AU/WU/MU) not the update itself that was the problem. Though this is very rare nowadays.

    So, the idea seems good; to download only once and then distribute it. It will involve a little more work, but there are only a few updates for most home users and one will also get a little more involved in security related questions, which can be good. The problem I see in this case (trying to limit downloads) is the difference between "tailored" updates and full stand alone packages, and where the "break-even point" is (2 PCs, 3 PCs, 4 PCs etc.) in the long run.

    But if you want to download updates without use of (AU/WU/MU) see here: Microsoft Download Center.

    The full security bulletins with their links to updates are displayed at some different places, usually TechNet for IT Professionals. But they are most of the time quite easy to follow and download the correct update. Doing it manually means one must many times take a look in the bulletin, to see if the update is needed. The best place to find all the bulletins is here: Microsoft Security Bulletin Search, both the monthly bulletin summary and the individual bulletins.

    There is one approach you can try:
    Use Automatic Updates and set it to "Notify me but don't automatically download or install them". You can then see which updates are needed and perhaps compare the size of the download with the full package found via the KB article number.

  3. #3
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    Re: Windows XP updates on a home network (XP SP3)

    Hi Argus

    Wow....thanks for the very detailed response. I guess I was expecting too much that it would be fairly easy/straight forward to do but from your reply it doesn't appear to be.

    In answer to your question yes all 3 computers are running XP with SP3 installed. As mentioned 2 are desktop PC's and the other a Dell Inspirion laptop. All have very much the same software installed, including IE, Office 2003, Firefox etc. As two are my kids PC's (which they use for their University studies) I like to keep them up to date.

    This is why I was hoping just to do the updates once and then copy to the other PC's.

    Anyway I've had a look at the sites suggested and it appears the Security TechCenter site might be the best option. So I'll do somemore research in there and see what I can do.

    Thanks again for your assistance it's been a great help
    Dax


  4. #4
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    Re: Windows XP updates on a home network (XP SP3)

    Hello again,
    It would have been simple to just say: download them via the bulletins and distribute as you see needed. And indeed, if no concerns about "download limits", easy deploying etc. then that could be a good choice, if one is ready to do a little extra work tracking the updates. It seems most of them are quite similar in size.

    Since I did not want to lead astray if there are differences in sizes that will add up in the long run, I suggested that you could start with comparing.

    When I wrote it I had in the back of my mind some thoughts about the great changes that have been made to Windows update packages since Windows XP came and till now. Now we have Windows Installer 3.1 v2 (previously a stand alone, now also included in XP SP3), but the major update was at Service pack 2 time (Windows Installer 3.0 came in September 2004 and was included in SP2). Around that time the update packages started to change, the installation mechanism etc.

    It came with several improvements; easier to remove patches (and in any order), patches gets deployed in the correct order no matter which installed, possible to install multiple patches at once etc. But also: the patches after the 3.0 are smaller. I have not looked at those pages recently and I don’t remember all the changes. So perhaps I mislead a bit anyhow.

    For example, one obvious update that I didn't mention, that can be good to distribute as you discussed is the IE cumulative update. It is at the moment around 8 MB and is equal in size at all places, so D/L it at the bulletin/DLC and distribute it.

    In fact all updates I had in the AU queue were similar in size to DLC. Major updates such as a SP (though in MSFT lingua that is called "Minor Upgrades" <img src=/S/grin.gif border=0 alt=grin width=15 height=15>) typically are smaller in AU/WU/MU, but downloading the full SP has other benefits when deploying.

    Another thing to check carefully when doing it manually is multiple versions. Since some years MSFT releases one bulletin per update, even if it covers several OSs, programs and versions of these. So an update bulletin for the Media Player can hold several needed updates, such as one for WMP 11 and one for WMP 6 since both applications are installed.

    Another, perhaps even trickier, is the Microsoft Core XML Services (MSXML), since a PC can have several versions installed. Windows XP comes with version 3.0 (there perhaps is some obsolete msxml2.dll around also), some application or the user can have installed MSXML 6.0 (it comes with Visual Studio 2005, .NET Framework 3.0, XP SP3 etc.), and MSFT Office uses MSXML 5.0. Thus one could need to download several updates in one bulletin. See this one as an example: Microsoft Security Bulletin MS08-069 - Microsoft XML Core Services.

    But using the stand alone updates, even with the little extra work, can make it a bit easier if one has to uninstall and reinstall a few times, other PCs don't need an Internet connection etc.

    A bit lengthy, sorry.

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