Are Windows stealth updates back again?

According to Windows Secrets, Microsoft could be back to its old tricks of stealthily installing Windows Updates on systems where users have specifically specified that they want to verify each update installed.

According to Windows Secrets, Microsoft could be back to its old tricks of stealthily installing Windows Updates on systems where users have specifically specified that they want to verify each update installed.

The forced-install behavior has been witnessed at least three times by Windows Secrets editors, but Microsoft says its procedure for Automatic Updates hasn't changed in the last 10 months.

The behavior seems to occur only if a Windows user has Automatic Updates configured to "download updates but don't install them" or "notify me but don't install them." If updates are scheduled to occur automatically, with no notice to users, the silent installation of updates would be expected.

There are four options within Windows Update that users can choose, and the wording is different for XP and Vista,

Vista:

  • Install updates automatically.
  • Download updates but let me choose whether to install them.
  • Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them.
  • Never check for updates.

XP:

  • Automatic - automatically download recommended updates for my computer and install them.
  • Download updates for me, but let me choose when to install them.
  • Notify me but don't automatically download or install them.
  • Turn off Automatic Updates.

Most people out there have their systems set to install updates automatically. The paranoid folksout there block all updates. However, there are careful people out there who like to have a think about each and every update installed. There have been examples where an errant Windows Update patch has caused people lots of problems. The folks who demand high levels of uptime from their systems tend to be cautious and keep an ear to the ground for any problems related to patches before installing them. Ironically, it is these careful people who choose to manually verify patches that have these updates forced onto their systems.

What's the reason for these forced updates? This is the current theory:

One theory to explain the forced installs is that the large number of patches Microsoft released on June 9 overwhelmed the Redmond company's download servers.

The extra demand may have caused some downloads to be incomplete. Incomplete downloads are known to disable the notification icon and possibly the approval dialog that's supposed to appear during shutdown.

It seems that this is a known bug. Seems it needs fixing if Microsoft is to carry on pushing enormous downloads down the Windows Update pipes.

If these updates are stealth, how can people spot them? Simple, they show up when you shut down the system because this is when the update is applied.

So far I've not been able to replicate this issue. However, I have been receiving reports of these stealth updates for a while now.

If you've been hiit by stealth updates, let me know.

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