Windows Update will drive you crazy

Windows Update will drive you crazy

Summary: All I wanted was to find out whether I need to download the latest update for Media Center 2005. Instead, I tumbled down the Windows Update rabbit hole and found myself in a land where even the update rollups have update rollups. Does the process of naming, organizing, and delivering updates make any sense?

TOPICS: Windows

In my office, I have a Shuttle small form factor PC running Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. It’s connected to a pair of DirecTV tuners and a wired network, which feeds recorded TV, music, and photos to Media Center Extenders (one an Xbox 360) in other rooms. It’s been in service for more than 18 months, and during that time it’s been exceptionally reliable.

So, my ears perked up earlier today when I read that Microsoft has just released the April 2006 Update Rollup for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. Now, I’m very picky about the software that goes on this machine. Does this update address security issues? Does it fix any bugs I’m likely to encounter? Should I install it or can I safely ignore it? In researching those seemingly simple questions, I took a tumble down the Windows Update rabbit hole, and now I’m more confused than ever.

See if you can follow along.

Before I can install the April 2006 Update Rollup, Knowledge Base article 914548 says I have to first install Update Rollup 2 for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. I remember that update, published in October 2005. OK, I'll add it to the list.

But was there an Update Rollup 1? Yes, indeed. It was published back in October of 2004, not long after Media Center Edition 2005 was released. The KB article for Update Rollup 2 doesn’t say it replaces Update Rollup 1. Maybe it’s already installed? Better go to Windows Update and click the Review Update History link.

Who knew I had 110 Windows Updates installed? But there they are. And on the 11th and last page I see the entry for Update Rollup 1.


The Windows Update list also tells me I’ve installed Update KB888316. Update KB910393 has been installed three times – in November 2005, and again in January and March of 2006. But my favorite update from the list goes by the tongue-twisting name Update Rollup KB908250 for Update Rollup 2 for Microsoft Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. Yes! An update rollup for an update rollup!

Alas, the download page for that last one indicates that the update rollup for the update rollup was in turn rolled up into the January 2006 Update Rollup (KB 912067). And that update rollup has in turn been superseded by the April 2006 Update Rollup,

But the Windows Update list doesn’t include Update Rollup 2. Does that mean it’s not installed on this computer? On a hunch, I open Control Panel and double-click Add or Remove Programs. With the Show Updates box selected, I see a long list of entries for Windows XP, and right after that a set of four updates for Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.


OK, so Update Rollup 2 is installed. That’s a relief.

But why did I have to go through that scavenger hunt? Why are some updates listed in Windows Update and others in the Windows Control Panel? And can I just say out loud that the names of these update packages are insanely confusing? I think I’m supposed to install all numbered update rollups plus only the most recent dated update rollup, but how am I supposed to know for sure? How is anyone supposed to figure this out?

I think the official answer from Microsoft is that I should just use Windows Update and let it figure out which updates I need. Unfortunately, some of the Media Center updates aren’t available through Automatic Updates; they’re only installed if I visit Windows Update interactively and choose from the Optional Software Updates list.


That item at the top of the list is the update I went looking for in the first place. Anyone want to tell me why it doesn't have April 2006 in its name, as it's listed in the accompanying KB article?

It’s crazy that Microsoft's system for naming updates teeters so wildly from inconsistent to inscrutable to incomprehensible. It’s crazy that one has to look in at least four places to see all the updates that are either already installed or available. It’s crazy that these lists of updates can’t serve as an audit trail to confirm that all required updates have either been installed or rejected.

It’s just crazy.

Topic: Windows

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  • Oh the Humanity!

    D T Schmitz
  • And SuSE will make you ask

    why you put up with the crazy from Microsoft! ]:)
    Linux User 147560
    • Why I use MS

      Because I have something more useful to do with computers than post ZDnet or work out the installation of the latest distro.

      Because I gave up cults when I gave up religion.

      Because I can use tools that *nixers can only dream of.

      And because I play games.
      • If you do nothing else

        Get Religion and go from there.
        D T Schmitz
      • Why I love SuSE

        Because I don't have to worry about spyware, or viruses, DRM, or Windowz calling home.

        Because I stopped believing the fud that may have been true 10 years ago.

        Because I no longer need tools like "restore" "Windows Genuine Advantage" "Active X" "Anti virus" "Anti spyware" "Trusted Computing" or the reinstall disk.

        Because Wine and Cedega play all the windows games I own.

        Because I got tired of paying for the next version of a M$ program that is only an eye candy update.

        Because major security flaws take months instead of days to patch.

        Because I love to hear about flying chairs when Windowz looses market share.

        Because I have transparent windows right now.

        Because I have icons that represent the actual document right now.

        etc, etc, etc

        You can keep using Windowz, I don't care. Linux is not trying to replace Windowz. Its an alternative, one that just works.
  • You get what you pay for

    and you get MORE if you pay NOTHING! You would HAVE to be a zealot not to take THAT deal!

    Realistically, I've tried doing this media stuff on Linux, and . . . its a hopeless mess. I would welcome anyone to try and make it better . . .
    Roger Ramjet
    • Amen to that!!!

      Linux, Linux , Linux and OH MY Linux
      Have pimples? Use Linux. Overweight? Use Linux.
      Mouse is dirty? Should have used Linux.

      Blah Blah Blah. And the winner is:

      Linux is not truly on the ubiquitous desktop (yet)....period. If it had the same presence as MSW, it would have the same issues X current vendors

      End of story
    • Jem Matson knows Baseball

      I've tortured myself with other distros and trying to get multimediai working correctly.

      As for SuSE 10.0 (10.1 soon to be released), here's a very good article that will take the 'tedium' out of setup with Yast and gives good results.

      Jem Matson knows Baseball.
      D T Schmitz
      • Whoopsie

        Good Lord, left out the link, here goes:
        D T Schmitz
      • thanks for that _deitrich

        I passed the link on to a couple of people I know who will find it useful.
        tracy anne
  • updates to updates to updates....

    Actually, I applaud M-soft's attempt to maintain some sort of product integrity....but when automated tools work from different presumptions, it gives me excellent working material for my software-engineering students: on how NOT to do system design!
  • ...and we haven't mentioned incompatibility

    Sometimes updates aren't compatible with common programs, or each other. Sometimes updates require a reboot, even though they don't prompt it. And my recent favorite is when one my clients takes a vacation and then returns to, say, 20-30 updates, and lets Windows auto-update, only to discover now there's no internet access, or this or that program won't open, or some function won't work. Then I have to peel them off in reverse historical order, trying to find where it all went wrong; then the updates have to go back in again. Another example of MS feeds my business. SP3 is way overdue, but I'm not holding my breath...not with the Vista debacle in play.
    • SP3 will be here

      the beginning of next year... that is unless there is another hold on it. It's called Vista! ]:)
      Linux User 147560
      • Ba dum bump.

        [i]"Take my wife. Please."[/i]
        Henny Youngman
        D T Schmitz
  • windows update

    Well I dont know about cofusing you. Your write up totally confused me.
  • It's not only Windows, nor only OS's, but life (or lack thereof)

    "It?s crazy that Microsoft's system for naming updates teeters so wildly from inconsistent to inscrutable to incomprehensible. It?s crazy that one has to look in at least four places to see all the updates that are either already installed or available. It?s crazy that these lists of updates can?t serve as an audit trail to confirm that all required updates have either been installed or rejected."

    I've complained about ZDNet's news and blog pages in the same way. When I go through article listings, the file references are listed in several different ways, depending on the page I'm currently on. This lets me "find" the same article two or three times because it is unrecognized ("unpurpled" or "ungrayed") by my browser after I look at it once. Granted, this is a much more trivial problem, but no hierarchy, large or small, seems to be invulnerable to this problem, as long as there are two people entering data (or one person entering data on two different days).
  • Media Center updates are the worst...

    They should make them as easy to perform as the critical updates for the OS. What gives?
  • Welcome to the law of diminishing returns

    Really, is this that much better than pushing paper around and using slide rules?
  • This is your own problem.

    bro you'r using microsoft, so you should FACE the darned fact.
    just install everything and you'll be fine.
    don't try to understand what microsoft is doing and how they are
    going to do something. otherwise buy yourself a MACINTOOOSH