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30 Hardware and Windows Tips in 30 Days Tip 30: Don't Wait for Windows Update

Although Windows Update showers your system with updates, you may have to wait for the updates you need most. Why wait? Learn how to find and get the updates you need - now.

Windows Update has taken its fair share of criticism from this writer, but on balance, it's made life much easier for system managers, whether you manage only a single PC or a fleet of them. However, if you want to be proactive in preventing problems, stopping security flaws, and improving your system's health, stability, and performance: don't wait for Windows Update to bring you what you need. Here's why:

  • Windows Update servers can take several days to push updates to you. If you're needing security updates to stop today's biggest malware threats or solutions to stability problems, that's several days too long.
  • Solutions to problems that affect only systems with certain hardware combinations usually don't show up in Windows Update until it's time to push a service pack. Do you want to wait one or two years (or more) for that? I didn't think so.
  • Windows Update doesn't provide updates to applications.

So, here's how to track down the updates you need and get them - pronto.

1. Sign up for Microsoft Update

Microsoft Update provides updates for both Windows and for Microsoft applications. Even if you're a laggard on updating to the latest versions of Microsoft Office (I still have one system running Office XP and another running Office 2003), you can still get updates via Microsoft Update. You can sign up for Microsoft Update whenever you use Windows Update.

2. Get a Running Start on Available Updates With These Resources

To see the current month's updates via Microsoft Update, check the New, Revised, and Rereleased Updates for Microsoft Products Other Than Microsoft Windows site at TechNet. This site lists the current month's updates and provides links to Knowledge Base articles, and an archives link at the bottom of the page provides access to previous months' updates.

For a listing of the current month's updates for Windows, see Knowledge Base article 894199. Check these pages as soon as you hear about a critical security or stability flaw affecting your systems to get provided updates early. The Microsoft Update Product Team Blog is also a useful resource for getting a "heads up" on what's coming via Microsoft Update and Windows Update.

3. Search the Microsoft Update Catalog for Updates and Drivers

The Microsoft Update Catalog is a resource designed for use by corporations who want to customize the updates they offer internally, but you don't need to be a corporation to access it. The first time you visit this site, you may be prompted to install an ActiveX control. Install it to gain access to the site.

You can search for updates by Microsoft product, third-party hardware vendor, Knowledge Base article, or keyword. It's a free-text search, so be creative. For example, I did a search specifying Vista reliability, and found 22 updates, including a couple of video driver packages. Specify a third-party hardware vendor and a Windows version, and you'll find driver updates.

The details page for each update provides an overview, language selection, whether the package supersedes other packages or has been replaced (Package Details), and how to install it (Install Resources). Select the updates you want, and you can download them for installation or redistribution to other users.

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