Microsoft Prepares New Windows Update Web Site
by Arie Slob
Hello Windows users,
Version 5 of Windows Update is about to be unveiled. Windows Update is the online extension of Windows that helps you to keep your computer up-to-date.
Starting with the prerelease versions of Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2), the public got its first glimpse of the new Windows Update version, and a few weeks ago, Microsoft started offering a public preview of Windows Update Version 5.
Microsoft is currently offering the new Windows Update site only for Windows XP & Windows 2000.
When you start using the new site for the first time, you'll be prompted to download a new ActiveX component (Figure). You'll have to download this component to be able to use the new Windows Update site. If you are using Windows XP SP2, you'll have to allow the installation through the new "Information Bar" of Internet Explorer (Figure). You'll also be asked to install additional software to use the new site (Figure).
Now, when the new Windows Update site finally loads, you'll see the changes with the old update site. To start, you are offered two choices of updating:
- Express Install. This choice will only search for and install "Critical" and "Security" updates (Figure).
- Custom Install. This option offers you more flexibility, and also offers you more updates: besides the "Critical" and "Security" updates from the Express Install setting, Custom Install also offers "optional" and "hardware" updates, similar to the "Recommended Updates" and "Driver Updates" in the previous Windows Update version (Figure).
The new Windows Update will also detect your Automatic Update settings (Figure) and advise you accordingly. If you have Automatic Updates set to disabled, Windows Update will suggest you to enable Automatic Updates, and offer you a button to do this (Figure). If you have Automatic Updates set to any of the "manual" settings, Windows Update will tell you that your computer is set to receive notification of new updates (Figure). Only when you have set Automatic Updates to "Automatic" is this represented by a green shield on Windows Update (Figure).
I think the "Automatic" setting will work for the average computer user, but I'd argue that since you're reading this you're probably not an "average" user. So you might want to set Automatic Updates set to any of the "manual" settings. It's been practice among more experienced users to delay installing the latest patches for a few days to see if the patch would introduce problems on other user's machines. Also note that with Automatic Updates set to "Automatic" you will receive the Windows XP SP2 RC2 build, all 100MB's of it, fully automatic!
What's also helpful is that more information about the updates is presented, allowing you to make a more educated decision as to which (additional) updates you may want to install. Clicking on the "Details" link offered in the initial description will open a new window with more details on the update (Figure), which now also includes system information such as recommended CPU, memory and hard disk space (although currently in it's beta form not used yet)
The new Windows Update site also let you adjust some other settings from the "Settings" menu item. Here you can choose in which language you want to view the site. You can also choose to have the site show "pre release" or beta products, although this last option should only be used by experienced users who know how to install & test this kind of software.
The menu item "Administrator options" gives you access to the Windows Update Catalog, which is useful if you need to update multiple computers or different operating system versions, as you'll be able to download copies of the updates to your local machine for later installing.
The new Windows Update promises smaller download sizes for patches, and the use of Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS) 2.0 should improve the transfer of files in the background using idle network bandwidth. The new update site should also cover more products, with initial support for Office 2003, SQL and Exchange. It's planned that all Microsoft products would eventually be covered by Windows Update.
The new update site is also stricter when it comes to detecting invalid installation keys on Windows XP. Some (but not all) of the product ID's generated by these keys are listed in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article - 326904.
Expect the new Windows Update to become the default for Windows 2000 & Windows XP in the next few weeks.
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Newsletter Summer Schedule
Many of you are having a summer break during July/August. I will reduce the newsletter publication frequency in these months. I will publish the next newsletter on August 7th. I will try to publish some information when Windows XP Service Pack 2 is released, but I'm on holiday myself from August 11th, so I'm not sure how much I'll be able to accomplish if SP2 ships after August 7. The issue of September 11th would mean the return to a weekly schedule. Have a good & safe summer!
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