Hack 84 Windows Update FAQ

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Rod Trent of myITforum.com shares his answers to some frequently asked questions regarding Windows Update.

Windows Update is a simple solution that can be used to keep individual systems up-to-date with patches released by Microsoft. Despite its simplicity, however, not everything about it is obvious and I often get questions about different aspects of how it works. Here is a selection of some of these questions and my answers. For more entries in the Windows Update FAQ, see my column at myITforum.com (http://www.myitforum.com).

Windows Update Information Collection

Q: I'm worried about privacy. What information does the Windows Update site collect when I access the site?

A: Windows Update is committed to protecting your privacy. To provide you with the appropriate list of updates, Windows Update must collect a certain amount of configuration information from your computer. None of this configuration information can be used to identify you. This information includes the operating-system version number, Internet Explorer version number, version numbers of other software for which Windows Update provides updates, Plug and Play ID numbers of hardware devices, and Region and Language settings.

The configuration information collected is used only to determine the appropriate updates and to generate aggregate statistics. Windows Update does not collect your name, address, email address, or any other form of personally identifiable information.

Windows Update also collects the Product ID and Product Key to confirm that you are running a licensed copy of Windows. A licensed copy of Windows ensures that you will receive ongoing updates from Windows Update. The Product ID and Product Key are not retained beyond the end of the Windows Update session.

To provide you with the best possible service, Windows Update also tracks and records how many unique machines visit its site and whether the download and installation of specific updates succeeded or failed. In order to do this, the Windows operating system generates a Globally Unique Identifier (GUID) that is stored on your computer to uniquely identify it. The GUID does not contain any personally identifiable information and cannot be used to identify you. Windows Update records the GUID of the computer that attempted the download, the ID of the item that you attempted to download and install, and the configuration information listed previously.

Personalizing Critical Updates

Q: On the Windows Update web site, I'd rather not see certain updates, but the web site won't let me personalize them. Is something wrong?

A: You cannot use the Personalize button to personalize Critical Updates. If you click Personalize, you will receive a message that states that the Critical Update section cannot be personalized. Sorry!

Clearing the Secure Sockets Layer

Q: Windows Update fails when I try to use it. What can I do?

A: If the Windows Update site fails, one of the steps to fixing the problem is to clear the Secure Sockets Layer. Open Internet Explorer, on the Tools menu, click Internet Options, and then click the Content tab. Then, under Certificates, click Clear SSL State. Click OK when you receive the message that the SSL cache was successfully cleared.

Another thing to check is your firewall configuration; TCP port number 443 (https) needs to remain open for access to the Windows Update web site to work. To make sure this port is open, type https://www.microsoft.com:443 in your web-browser address line and click Go. If you are unable to access the Microsoft web site by using this address, you need to open the port on the company firewall (or personal firewall, depending on your networking environment).

Removing Items from Your Windows Update List

Q: How do I remove items from the Product Catalog list?

A: To personalize your available updates, you can remove items from the Product Catalog list on the Windows Update web site. First, connect to the Windows Update site (http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com) and click Product Updates. Then, click Personalize and clear the checkbox next to the items that you do not want to see listed in the Product Catalog. Click Update to save the changes.

Changing Windows Update Schedule

Q: I've tried to modify the schedule for updates, but as soon as the computer is rebooted, the settings revert back to the default.

A: If you try to change the Critical Update Notification settings by using the Task Scheduler and restarting your computer, your changes will not be saved. This behavior occurs because, by design, you cannot modify or disable the Windows Critical Update Notification schedule through the Task Scheduler. Once the computer is rebooted, the Registry or local GPO settings reset the schedule.

Manually Installing the Windows Update Controls

Q: What can I do if the ActiveX controls I downloaded and installed from the Windows Update site become corrupt?

A: You might need to install the controls manually. You can do this by downloading, extracting, and installing the controls from the Windows Update web site.

Where you obtain these controls depends on the version of Windows you have. For Windows 98 and ME, download the controls from http://v4.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/cab/x86/ansi/iuctl.cab. For Windows 2000, XP, or 2003, download the controls from http://v4.windowsupdate.microsoft.com/cab/x86/unicode/iuctl.cab.

After downloading the controls, save the .cab file to its own directory. Then, right-click on the .cab file and choose to extract the files. You can extract the files to the same directory you created to house the .cab file. Finally, right-click the iuctl.inf file and click Install.

?Rod Trent