A Hands-On Look at Windows Security Update CD

By Larry Seltzer  |  Posted 2004-04-08 Print this article Print

It took a long time for Microsoft to get a Windows Update CD out and even longer to get it to me. I hope the delay is because everyone who needs one is ordering one.

Some time ago I observed that the volume of downloads for updating Windows was large and impractical for any dial-up user. Microsoft should, I suggested, issue a CD with the updates, or put ISO images on their site for others to download and burn. You all agreed. Not too long thereafter, Microsoft announced that it would issue such a CD. I finally got mine, and Im ready to install. I wish I had something more recent than the February 2004 CD, but I knew they would only issue these periodically, and Ill just have to do the rest of the updates online. The files on the CD all appear to be dated Feb. 5, 2004, and today is April 8, 2004. Order your own from Microsoft by clicking here.

I created a completely naked, unpatched Windows 98 Second Edition system. The version of IE on it was 5.00.2614.3500, which was later than I expected. Perhaps my Windows 98SE files, from the MSDN distribution, were updated somehow. Still. 5.0x is mighty old. Outlook Express is 5.0.2615.200. I also made a point of not letting the system connect immediately to the Internet.

The Autorun on the CD opens up a typical wizard. First you have to get through the licensing agreement. The next page tells you basically what the CD will do and then you click the "Install Updates" button on it. An ActiveX control, the "Windows Security Update CD" control, signed by Microsoft, is installed. The system reboots.

After the reboot, Windows goes into one of those "Updating System Settings ..." meditations for several minutes. Now the Windows Security Update CD window is back up, and a progress bar moves across it. Windows are popping up, and off the screen individual patches are apparently being installed. The progress indicator is not much help, since it starts all over again when its done. But the text on the screen is changing periodically to tell the story.

Hey ... It rebooted again ... Could it actually be done already?

Yes it is! I didnt stopwatch it, but I think it was maybe 20 minutes, a massive improvement over the online alternative, which I feel safe saying would be at least a couple hours on a fast connection, and possibly days over dial-up, including numerous reboots and manual restarts of the process.

Next page: Still work to do.

Larry Seltzer has been writing software for and English about computers ever since—,much to his own amazement—,he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1983.

He was one of the authors of NPL and NPL-R, fourth-generation languages for microcomputers by the now-defunct DeskTop Software Corporation. (Larry is sad to find absolutely no hits on any of these +products on Google.) His work at Desktop Software included programming the UCSD p-System, a virtual machine-based operating system with portable binaries that pre-dated Java by more than 10 years.

For several years, he wrote corporate software for Mathematica Policy Research (they're still in business!) and Chase Econometrics (not so lucky) before being forcibly thrown into the consulting market. He bummed around the Philadelphia consulting and contract-programming scenes for a year or two before taking a job at NSTL (National Software Testing Labs) developing product tests and managing contract testing for the computer industry, governments and publication.

In 1991 Larry moved to Massachusetts to become Technical Director of PC Week Labs (now eWeek Labs). He moved within Ziff Davis to New York in 1994 to run testing at Windows Sources. In 1995, he became Technical Director for Internet product testing at PC Magazine and stayed there till 1998.

Since then, he has been writing for numerous other publications, including Fortune Small Business, Windows 2000 Magazine (now Windows and .NET Magazine), ZDNet and Sam Whitmore's Media Survey.

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