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.
But theres still work to do. I hooked the system up to the Internet and ran Windows Update. There were 2 Critical Updates available (“Cumulative Security Update for Internet Explorer 6 Service Pack 1” and “Security Update Microsoft Virtual Machine”) totaling 7.9MB.
But there were also 43 other updates. The largest of these, the 23.1 MB .NET Framework 1.1, is probably useless to most Windows 98SE users, but why didnt they include it on the CD? It must have come out since the CD. Thirty-four of the 43 were updates to foreign language features, (e.g., “Italian Menus and Dialogs for Internet Explorer 6 SP1” and “Korean Input Method Editor”), so nobody has a need to install all of them.
The eight non-foreign language features besides the .NET Framework add up to a total of 1,745KB, and some of them are clearly unimportant. But add the 7.9MB of critical updates to the 1,745KB of non-criticals and you get 9,645KB, which Ill round up to 10MB. Downloading that over a phone line at an average of 25,000 bits per second, 10 bits per byte (1 start, 1 stop, 8 data), plus about 10 percent overhead, works out to maybe 75 minutes. That seems very reasonable to me for two months worth of stuff, and in fact its more than two months. The .NET Framework adds maybe 3 hours or more, so skip it if you want.
But wait, theres more! Microsoft has included in the same envelope with the Update CD a copy of Computer Associates eTrust EZ Armor LE, a trial copy of their antivirus/firewall package. I havent looked at these CA packages in years, and I wont have the time to look at them in-depth right now. The disk comes with a 15-day free trial, or you can buy the package outright.
Some day soon I ought to try the same thing with Windows XP that I did with Windows 98SE. Its possible that XP has more and larger patches, but I bet the difference isnt all that big.
Microsoft had the space on this CD to stuff some more non-critical updates, although I can see the argument for not doing so. They need to keep room for future critical updates, for one thing. But I dont want to spend much time complaining about the relatively small problems with this CD. This is a great idea and a good thing, and my main complaint is that they didnt get it to me soon enough. They need to be sending this CD out to everyone, in phone books, with the morning newspaper, and in cereal boxes and Happy Meals. The more people who get this CD, the better off we all are.
So why isnt Microsoft publicizing this more? Why, when I go to Windows Update, am I not seeing a prominent ad for this CD and how to get it? Why arent there ISO images so I can download it instead of having to wait several weeks after ordering it online? Its a great thing, but Microsoft could have done better, even for a first attempt.
Security Center Editor Larry Seltzer has worked in and written about the computer industry since 1983.
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