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  1. #1
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    Question Just how essential is Windows Updates service?

    I ask this question because I was intrigued to read about the Vista BSOD on here (and in the newsletter), a phenomenon that seems in some cases to be somehow related to a Windows Update. Or Update Patch. Or Patch for a Patch for an Update.
    I’ve been lucky enough not to have that BSOD problem. But then, I no longer have Windows Updates anyway.

    Microsoft and I parted company in early September last year. The PC involved is a Dell Studio Slim 540S running Vista Home Premium SP2 build 6002 x32. It was purchased new from Dell on December 19th 2009. And everything worked fine until September 9th 2010 when, suddenly, Windows Update ceased to work: “Windows could not search for new updates. An error occurred while checking for new updates for your computer”. Code 80070426 "Windows Update encountered an unknown error”.

    Further research showed that the error is not “unknown”, as Microsoft so haplessly describes it. Error Code 80070426. “The service has not been started”. And a little warning on the updates screen: “This copy of Windows is not activated. Click here to activate Windows now.”

    Well of course Windows was activated. And Windows Update had worked without a hitch for a full nine months. The Error Code baffled me. And so began three weeks of a fruitless quest to solve the problem, beginning with a Diagnostics Report stating: ‘Invalid License’ and 'Software Licensing Service not running.' And this: ‘TTS Error: M: 2009122373556932’, showing that the computer went awry just four days after I ran it myself for the first time. Also, in those initial stages, every attempt to re-start the software licensing service was met with: “System 3 error has occurred. The system cannot find the path specified”.

    I won’t bore everyone to tears with the hours of effort that followed or all the remedies attempted based on guidance from Microsoft itself and various Microsoft user support forums. What emerged was a consensus that, early in the computer’s life, I had – according to my Windows Event log -- installed numerous Windows Updates to bring the PC up-to-date, there being an inevitable time gap between its build date and its arrival in my home. Consensus was that “something”, though no-one knew what, had occurred during a raft of updates on December 23 2009. And that “something else” had then occurred as a result of further Windows Updates, on or shortly before September 9th 2010, sufficient to compound the TTS error that unbeknownst to me, had arisen nine months earlier.

    After doing everything possible (the list was so long, I won’t reprise it here) I was back in the same position as at the start. Microsoft’s solution? Use the Vista DVD which came with your computer to repair the computer. Or: reinstall Vista.

    Well of course, as any fool knows – though it so often seems to escape the attention of folks on support forums, as well as Microsoft itself – the vast majority of PC users don’t get a Vista DVD with their purchase. Certainly, Dell doesn’t supply one. And as for re-installing Vista. . . No. I didn’t want to.

    So I decided to forget it. To hell with Windows Updates. To hell with yet more hours expended on an error that seemed almost certainly to have arisen because of Microsoft itself yet to which Microsoft had no answer.

    I’ve had no Windows Updates ever since. As to the computer, well:

    I don’t use Internet Explorer for the same reason I don’t use Adobe Reader (they're both much too big a security risk, though in Adobe’s case it’s also the fact that bloatware gets no dafter.) I have a wireless router with its own firewall and an Online Armor firewall on the PC itself. My AV is Avast and my "in-house monitor" is WinPatrol Pro.

    I don’t know enough to endlessly tinker around with my PC – I’m an ordinary home user, not a tecchie -- and am happy enough to let little CleanMem do its management job in the background and ProcessLassoo do its thing when I’m running heavy on apps.

    CCleaner is used at the end of each day (or immediately after any and every online purchasing or banking-related transaction) and Malwarebytes is regularly updated for a twice-a-month scan. Auslogics’ defragmenter is used once a month. Over 100 apps are installed and I often try out new software which, if it doesn’t suit, gets uninstalled with Revo. I run jvPowerTools Pro to check the Registry after any flurry of installs / uninstalls but otherwise, go nowhere near the Registry, leaving the seeming passion for cleaning / compacting / defragmenting it to the paranoid.

    Where a Windows update is required to run a particular app – say, a .NET update – then I install it. Finally, I don’t allow Vista to rule my life so disabled that horrendous UAC the day I got the computer and dumped all the other bureaucratic stuff about privileges and administrators that I certainly don't need on a home PC.

    Today my PC is stable, dependable, and virus and malware free. My wife and I both use it as and when. It works as well now as it did the day it arrived, factory-fresh. And, as noted, it hasn’t had a Windows Update since September 9th, 2010.

    So. Back to my question, raised in light of what seems to have been yet another example of Microsoft’s Vista being in some way damaged by Microsoft itself: just how essential are Windows Updates???

  2. #2
    Gold Lounger
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    Granger,
    Hello... To say that "i feel your pain" would be an understatement . I too have long ago given up with all "Windows Updates" Now with Windows "7" as Well as Vista. ( not one Update or Patch) I provide my own "Security" (Norton NIS 2011 and Malwarebytes PRO ) and have "switched off" all MS updates (well over a year now with Vista) ....My Strategy is a simple one ...

    1. Load OS.
    2. Load all programs that you have and want.
    3. Check to see that they all are working.
    4. Install your "Security" ( 3rd party only)
    5. Take an "Image" 3rd party also Macrium Free works great, or Acronis 2010 V-7046
    6. Take pleasure in the fact that you never have to install or worry about MS updates again.
    7. Be Happy !
    Here's the caveat ... If you have a program that needs a patch or update ...cause it won't work....like some .NET stuff ,Well then you have to weigh the benefit.

    Conclusion.... If it ain't broke don't fix it... applying "patches" (not talking your 3rd party security) to a working system is like cleaning your favorite "hand shooter" after "having a few" ( adult beverages) ...Your bound to shoot yourself in the foot most times. Now i will wait for the screaming to stop, and get ready to take a "beating" from all those who do. Regards Fred
    PlainFred

    None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free (J. W. Von Goethe)

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  4. #3
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    Windows updates spam several categories, the most important of which, IMO, the security updates. By not updating your computer for security risks, you are at a higher risk for the vulnerabilities the updates are meant to prevent.
    Risk is a probability. You may run your entire life without an issue, or be hacked due to an unpatched threat the following minute. Security software does not necessarily replace the need to patch security bugs. Some software may be better protecting against some types of threats than others and there are threats that, at a given time, no software can protect against...

    So, it would be better if you could patch. If you can't, you are at a higher security risk. The risk can be mitigated by a number of security measures (yes, using the UAC is included too, but not even the UAC will set you risk free, probably using a standard account instead of an administrator one, and I would consider using a HIPS in addition to an AV) and by keeping regular and up to date backups, with several safe points that you can get back to, in case you need to.

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  6. #4
    Super Moderator Deadeye81's Avatar
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    Image backups should be high on the list of everyone desiring to be prepared for a worse case scenario. That said, to cut off Windows Update is an almost certain road to eventual trouble. The best way to utilize Windows Update is to set your update option to "notify you, but allow you to choose when to download and install" (paraphrased). Obviously, there are updates that tend to do more harm than good on some systems. Using this setting will give you some control. Never set the option to "download, but let me choose when to install" (again paraphrased), because once updates are downloaded, as soon as you reboot your computer, the updates will most likely install.

    It is not necessary to install every Windows Update as soon as it is available. I hold off until I see Susan Bradley's analysis of the current batch of updates in the Windows Secrets Newsletter. If you are not a subscriber, you might want to consider becoming one. Another good source to gauge the safety of Windows Updates is Woody Leonhard's AskWoody.com site. Woody advises as to which updates are safe to allow, and which should be held at bay until further notice. It can be annoying for Windows to constantly remind you there are updates ready, so when you want to wait there is the option to hide the updates until you decide to unhide them. In Windows Vista and Windows 7, just right click the update, select Hide update, and you will not see it again until you opt to unhide later.

    Using the resources available to us can greatly reduce the risk and enhance the benefit of Windows Update. Of course, the choice is yours to make.
    Deadeye81

    "We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." Sir Winston Churchill

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  8. #5
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    Fred:

    Many thanks for that! It did cross my mind, when re-reading what I'd posted, that it might look like I was trying to demonstrate some sort of intellectually superior approach to Windows Update, along the lines of I-know-better. Far from it! I was pitched into my current situation with Microsoft because of Microsoft, and neither Microsoft nor anyone else has been able to resolve it.

    Working on the old maxim that if it ain't broke, don't fix it, may very possibly have saved me some grief in the months since my updates service ceased -- after all, the only diagnosis that Microsoft (and everyone else who pitched in with help) could come up with was that "something most likely went wrong" during a slew of Windows Updates a mere four days after getting my new computer and that "something else most likely" in another slew of Updates nine months later compounded the original, though undetected, system error.

    I'm thankful, therefore, that no other unidentified "something else" has been allowed to land on my PC via Microsoft between September and now. Oh, and thanks for jogging my memory re Macrium: I've been using Paragon but haven't found it that easy or reliable so have been telling myself to go look at Macrium. Thanks to your reminder, I'll do just that.

    rurib: good advice, and appreciated. And I'm not discounting the possibility of a future problem because of the absence of Windows Update, even if it seems increasingly to me that the possibility of a future problem because of the presence of the darn thing is actually more likely.

    Deadeye81: thanks for that, but as explained in my OP, I can't set WU to do anything at all because it's ceased to function, the licensing service has stopped and won't re-start, and as a result Windows doesn't even think Vista is activated. Yup, I do get the subscriber edition, not the comp version, and I value everything in it much the same as I loved Fred Langa's original work from way, way back when. I've also been monitoring via Belarc, though hadn't realised Woody had a website -- so many thanks for that: I'll check that out now.

    Sincere thanks again then to you three, and especially for not flaming me for being some kind of Microsoft rebel without a cause!

  9. #6
    Super Moderator CLiNT's Avatar
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    Just how essential is Windows Updates service???
    I ask this question because I was intrigued to read about the Vista BSOD on here (and in the newsletter), a phenomenon that seems in some cases to be somehow related to a Windows Update. Or Update Patch. Or Patch for a Patch for an Update.
    I’ve been lucky enough not to have that BSOD problem. But then, I no longer have Windows Updates anyway.
    I'm sure Fred will be pleased that he is not alone in his views of WU.

    That aside, people should know that WU is not infallible, god knows the internet tech community has been balking at bad MS updates for years now.
    Why should Windows update be any different than any other software out there.
    The best policy is to configure WU to notify only and not download. This gives you, the user, a chance to hold off and have others, more technically inclined, the opportunity to examine the updates and provide a more informed opinion.

    Like others here, I'm of the opinion that everyone should have a known good imaged backup of their drive in a secure location for the inevitable time when it WILL BE NEEDED. Not to do drive imaging is to invite needless toil and effort.

    You will quite often hear that WU should be set up for fully automatic mode. Yes, that is true and is good advice [for the millions of clueless Windows computer users on the planet]. It says that even some protection, even if there is a chance the update is bad, is still better than no form of patched protection at all.

    I expect anyone reading this will have at least a little more skill and computer suave to be able to decide for themselves how WU should be configured in accordance with their specific needs and uses and be more informed about it.

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  11. #7
    Silver Lounger Banyarola's Avatar
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    Yes Clint, I agree with you.
    I have always had WU set to NOTIFY.
    If I get a notification of an update I am not sure about I just delay it until I find out more about it and if others are having problems...

    I always make an image before any questionable;e updates just in case..

    But, I have installed updates that have worked fine for me only later to find out others are having problems..
    It's a real crap shoot...

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  13. #8
    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    I also do utilize WU, but I also choose which updates I install. I also use Win 7 (said goodbye to Vista when Win 7 RC was available). Win 7 seems to be a more stable, and more secure platform to start with. As Gerald states, WU are made for a multitude of different configurations with different hardware and different software installed. It is not surprising that some setups have problems with these updates, but in most cases it seems to be incompatibilities with existing software or hardware configurations. MS can not guess what will happen with all configurations, and indeed can not test for all different configurations. To date I have installed all but one update with nary a hiccup. Perhaps this is because I'm lucky, who knows. (I wish this luck extended into the lottery as well, but alas it does not). I would prefer to think it is because of my methods.

    I also am a big proponent of Imaging. I Image my system whenever a change of consequence takes place. (new apps installed, new tweaks, etc.) I do Image to an ext USB HD (Seagate Free Agent Go 1TB in my case). I generally keep multiple Images and use descriptive names and dates to distinguish between them for 3 separate PC's. Before I Image, I use various methods to clean out all temp files and defrag so that my Image is as clean as possible.

    I also am very proactive in my security schemes utilizing a router firewall, Win 7 software firewall, MSE AV/AM, Malwarebytes free version and Spybot Search and Destroy free version for manual scans.

    In most things Fred and I generally agree with most things on our respective PC's, and indeed I am very impressed by Fred's "home made" desktop. If you haven't seen it, it is a wonder. This is one area where I am of a different opinion. Yes we are both proactive in our security schemes (we use different apps but both do what we believe is necessary to keep us secure) we both use Imaging (I use Acronis exclusively, I believe Fred uses both Acronis and Macrium Reflect if I'm not mistaken), but our thoughts on WU are diametrically opposed. I guess the bottom line is PROACTIVE in your security as many if not most WU are for security purposes.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
    Have a Great Day! Ted


    Sony Vaio Laptop, 2.53 GHz Duo Core Intel CPU, 8 GB RAM, 320 GB HD
    Win 8 Pro (64 Bit), IE 10 (64 Bit)


    Complete PC Specs: By Speccy

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  15. #9
    Silver Lounger Banyarola's Avatar
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    Well Ted, I guess we each have a plan that works for us.
    At least it's a plan..
    Some just go on their merry way until their system collapses..

    Unlike you, I image every day with Acronis but to two drives so I always have a backup drive in case I can't restore from one of them.
    I also burn the images to DVD...

    I also copy stuff to DVD just in case the images don't work.
    At least then I have the really important stuff, like photos etc...

    It's a jungle out there...

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    Plutonium Lounger Medico's Avatar
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    Yes, I think we can all agree that a plan is needed, in fact it is essential to keep our PC's secure. Unfortunately, as you point out, the multitudes are there are oblivious to the problems we all face until they have problems. Our methods may differ, and in fact should differ because out systems are unique, but in the end a well thought out plan does help.
    BACKUP...BACKUP...BACKUP
    Have a Great Day! Ted


    Sony Vaio Laptop, 2.53 GHz Duo Core Intel CPU, 8 GB RAM, 320 GB HD
    Win 8 Pro (64 Bit), IE 10 (64 Bit)


    Complete PC Specs: By Speccy

  17. #11
    Silver Lounger Banyarola's Avatar
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    I have a friend in Arizona--you'll love this story---that has dial-up because he wont pay for high speed. He hasn't updated his system in YEARS because it takes too long on dialup....

    He only goes on text only websites like NPR etc because it take about 20 minutes to load a page on a regular site..
    Recently his 12" CRT monitor went and it took him months to find a replacement because he didn't want to buy a new bigger one..
    He uses Basicisp for his net provider and pays about 9.95 a month for about 60 minutes of use..

    Once he wanted a file from me and I had to MAIL it to him on a CD..

    Sad part is, he has plenty of money and can afford better...

    Oh, he watches TV in the diner because he wont pay for cable in his house..

    I think we all know people like that.

  18. #12
    New Lounger
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    I don't disagree with any of the points made here. And when I did manage to have Windows Updates, the service was always set on a user-chooser basis. Obviously, I can't set it on anything now because it doesn't exist, as explained in my OP.

    The problem with user/chooser however is that not all users can be choosers. They don't know what they're doing. For instance -- and this is a typical case -- I told a friend who, I thought, was reasonably savvy, not to allow Microsoft to automatically install anything on his PC. He should review the proposed download, then decide for himself.

    At some later stage he attempted to run an app I'd recommended but it wouldn't work. I scooted round there and realised it needed the latest .NET version. 'NET?' he said. 'But I don't need that. I read the download info and it was something about what developers need. I'm not a developer. And I have whatever-this-NET-thing-is already installed, I looked on Revo to see what's on my PC.'

    Hmmm. Another typical instance: I tell a friend that (bloatware issue aside) using Adobe Reader is daft because it's popular. Eh? She stared at me. I explained that Reader, like Internet Explorer, constantly has security issues because it's used so widely and so is targeted so often. I switched her to PDF Viewer (I don't like Foxit's nagging) and also installed Firefox. She's happy. I tell her about user-chooser but no, honestly, really, she's just not confident enough to do that. So in due course her computer "automatically" downloads and installs a very large file which brings her Internet Explorer 8. . . a browser she doesn't even use.
    Fair enough. Where ignorance is so total, then automatic updating is the lesser of two evils. That is, until the third evil comes along: an update or update patch or patch for an update patch that was never needed in the first place clashes with an existing configuration.

    As my OP made clear, I'm no fan of Microsoft when it comes to the unresolved problem I've encountered (and which has likely been experienced by many, many more, to judge from the pleas for help all over the Internet.) But I do understand the point made by Ted that Microsoft isn't psychic: it cannot tailor everything it does to the specific configuration of a specific user.

    And so does the law of unintended consequences come into play: the day when Microsoft shods a computer with bright shiny new running shoes which instead of improving progress now cripple it from the get-go: wrong size, wrong shape, and laced up so tightly the computer cannot get rid of the damn things.

    And that, to me at any rate, seems to happen far too often. Which is why I gave up bothering about new Microsoft footwear. Instead, I'm happy with the protections I have in place and appreciate the additional advice freely offered on this thread to beef things up a bit more.

    Just as an aside though: something which really does shine through all the posts here is the one thing that -- in my experience -- actually frightens the horses (as it were!) far more than any talk of user-chooser downloads or selective WU installs.

    It's the word: "imaging".

    Try as I might to explain to friends that we're talking about an archival snap-shot process for the purposes of restoration, it's patently obvious that the concept isn't grasped. Imaging?? Wazzat then? Well it's like this, I say -- or I would do, except nowadays, I simply don't have the time. And anyway, I'm never going to expose myself to the risks of something going wrong if a friend screws up her / his machine on the basis of something I'm alleged to have said.

    So yes. Imaging is crucial. Yet I haven't yet found a simple "imaging" tutorial anywhere online whose link I can pass to non-tech friends, an illustrated (screen grabs) pdf document, say, written in simple layman's terms that both explains the concept and moves step-by-step through the procedure.

    If anyone here knows of one, and can provide such a link, that'd be greatly appreciated -- the next round of cyber beer's on me.

  19. #13
    Gold Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by Granger View Post




    So yes. Imaging is crucial. Yet I haven't yet found a simple "imaging" tutorial anywhere online whose link I can pass to non-tech friends, an illustrated (screen grabs) pdf document, say, written in simple layman's terms that both explains the concept and moves step-by-step through the procedure.

    If anyone here knows of one, and can provide such a link, that'd be greatly appreciated -- the next round of cyber beer's on me.
    Granger ,
    Hello.... Check this link out it is about as simple as it getshttp://www.macrium.com/KB/Knowledgeb...icle50039.aspx
    Regards Fred
    PlainFred

    None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free (J. W. Von Goethe)

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  21. #14
    New Lounger
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    Quote Originally Posted by Just Plain Fred View Post
    Granger ,
    Hello.... Check this link out it is about as simple as it getshttp://www.macrium.com/KB/Knowledgeb...icle50039.aspx
    Regards Fred
    Ye Gods, Fred. Talk about riding immediately to the rescue! I've followed your link and there's a wealth of tutorial info there which -- on the basis of even the single read-through I've just had of but one of 'em -- is surely going to be invaluable. Yes, I appreciate, this is going to be Macrium-specific, but even so: you've already given Macrium a thumbs-up endorsement and there appear to be 1,000s of other satisfied users, too.

    So. . . cyberspace just went soggy: that beer I promised is en route somewhere.

    Many thanks!!

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