Windows Update - Sick on Toast. Without the Toast.

Windows Update - Sick on Toast. Without the Toast.

Summary: Sigh. How many times to do I have to write the same rant about Microsoft Windows Idiotic Update process?


Sigh. How many times to do I have to write the same rant about Microsoft Windows Idiotic Update process? Well, basically the answer is every time Windows Update finds some new and different way to prove that it is a Study in Stupidity. I know, I know, there are Microsoft Apologists just waiting to jump up and say "I've been using Windows for 147 years, and I have never had any of these problems with Windows Update!". Balderdash. The following is only the latest in a long saga of stupidity.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I recently purchased a new Samsung NP-P580 laptop. I took the system, brand new, out of a sealed box. Slogged through the initial Windows setup, and then let it start updating Windows 7 (un)Professional 64-bit. The first thing I noticed was that it did not have SP1 installed, so I knew this would be a lengthy process. Little did I know how lengthy. It started out looking perhaps slightly promising - 78 "Important Updates" to install. At least it didn't want to install them 5 or 6 at a time. But once that large batch was done, and of course the system was rebooted, the dreaded cycle started. "5 updates to install - reboot - 6 updates to install - reboot - 4 updates to install - 7 updates to install - 3 updates to install - reboot - 2 updates to install - 6 updates to install - reboot - " Getting sick of it yet? I certainly was, but it just kept going, on and on and on and on... until finally, after four hours or so, it quit finding more updates to install. Relief. But, hey, wait a minute, it still hasn't installed SP1, and come to think of it it hasn't offered to install Internet Explorer 9, either!

Well, I figured this was just more Microsoft stupidity, and it would eventually settle down and realize that there was more to do. So I left it for a day, and checked for updates again. Nothing. I left it for another day, checked again, still nothing, so I left it idle running Windows for a while, figuring perhaps it needed time to think about it. Nothing. No errors, no messages, no information about WHY it didn't want to install SP1. Just no updates to be installed. Ok, after three days of that I did a bit of searching and found that there might be a particular version of the Intel HD video driver that prevents Win7 SP1 from installing. I checked the Device Manager, and sure enough there was a rather old HD graphic driver installed.

I went to Samsung support, but there was no newer driver listed there. I ran the Samsung "Smart Update" utility, and it said that everything was hunky-dory. So I finally went to the Intel driver download site, and got the latest version of the driver. Unfortunately it would not install, complaining about the driver not being "signed for your system", and suggesting that I get the driver directly from the system supplier. Great advice - well, at least it is better than the Microsoft Update garbage, which didn't bother to tell me why it was unhappy - but I had already tried that and couldn't find anything. A lot more digging, and I finally found a Samsung site in the U.S. that had a newer version of the Intel HD Video driver. I installed that, finally some success. Of course, that version of the driver is dated sometime in mid-2010, and the latest version from intel is dated this month, but never mind, something is better than nothing and maybe, hopefully this Windows Update will condescend to install SP1 with this one.

So, back to Windows Update, search for updates, and... WOW! It wants to install SP1! Gee, I feel so honored! I started the download, it thrashed around on the disk drive for 15 minutes or so without giving any status, then suddenly jumped to 9% complete. A lot more thrashing while the status stayed at 9%, then it suddenly jumped to 14%. Then a very long time just thrashing the disk, at least 15 minutes, and it jumped to 24%. Another long period of thrashing, and it jumped to 94%. I see that Microsoft is every bit as good at counting as they are at making computer operating systems... Finally, a good hour after starting the update process, it reports that the download is complete and it is starting to install.

Heaven only knows how long the installation will take. It is still running as I write this. I expect it to be measure in hours; I am just hoping that it does not thrash around for a few hours and then finally inform me that the installation failed, with some bizarre hex code number, and no explanation of what that means. But honestly, I won't be surprised if that is the result.

You're doing a great job, Microsoft. You must be so proud of yourselves. You make me sick.

jw 23/9/2011

Topic: Linux

J.A. Watson

About J.A. Watson

I started working with what we called "analog computers" in aircraft maintenance with the United States Air Force in 1970. After finishing military service and returning to university, I was introduced to microprocessors and machine language programming on Intel 4040 processors. After that I also worked on, operated and programmed Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8, PDP-11 (/45 and /70) and VAX minicomputers. I was involved with the first wave of Unix-based microcomputers, in the early '80s. I have been working in software development, operation, installation and support since then.

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  • So let me get this right, you went through the process of updating everything, then the system told you all was hunky-dory, but you were not happy that it didn't give you any headache so you went and looked for one. What can I say...
  • @ndl007 - Yes, and that is exactly where the REAL problem lies with this process. There is no doubt that the vast majority of Windows users would have been satisfied when Windows Update reported that there was nothing to install, very few would have noticed that SP1 had not been installed. The result would have been that the system was left running, probably forever, without SP1 and subsequent updates. That would have left an unknown number of updates never being installed, which would leave the system open to attack and compromise. Of course when that happened the Microsoft apologists would jump up and down and rant about how stupid the users are who don't install Windows Updates...

    But in principle you are correct. The system told me everything was fine, and I typically boot Windows on my systems about once every month or two, so I really should have just shut up and left well enough alone.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Hi JW.
    I was getting furious just reading what you wrote here, and that was without sitting through your updates in real time! I set up a new Fujitsu desktop for a customer this week and the first annoyance was the initial setup finishing - it had to run through the "installing hardware" stage BEFORE getting to the usual license agreement garbage. Then updates of course. Old Windows XP systems that were sysprep'd by the manufacturer had already completed the hardware stage, but I suppose that's progress!
    Also the Win7 pc wouldn't join the Samba 3 domain whereas all XP's and a Vista machine previously did. However, there is a Microsoft hotfix for this which is linked to on the Samba website, so perhaps there has been some progress by Microsoft in that regard probably as a result of European court rulings on interoperability.
    Keep taking the chill-pills man! We all need them . . .
    Fat Pop Do Wop
  • Oh, the irony! To think that if you *hadn't* gone to the trouble of tracking down the problem with the Intel HD driver, you could have joined the alleged "[b]illions of Windows updates [that] get installed without any problems at all.".

    Or not... ;-)
  • Hi JW - If you knew that SP1 had to be installed, why didn't you download and install it first, after the initial installation, before checking for updates? It always surprises me when people say that Windows wouldn't do this, that and the next thing when I have NEVER had any issues with installing windows, on a number of different PC's and laptops. True some drivers might be out of date but never experienced any major issues. Maybe its due to the fact that I download any service pack that's been released first and after the initial installation run the service pack straight away, with no LAN connection etc. But then, i think JW you're too used to Linux and seeing plenty of your comments over the years, you do sound 'a bit anti-microsoft' lol
  • Have you ever considered not using Windows? I mean, you hate it, and all it stands for. You hate the user-friendly update system that takes care of your system with little intervention from you. It even makes you sick.

    Really, you should be using an operating system that makes everything hard.

    Like Linux. Which is REALLY simple to keep updated. Isn't it. Oh, and it works with pretty much all hardware. Except all the hardware it doesn't work with.
  • The other week I did a fresh install of XP SP3 for someone. When I went to do the updates, Microsoft's website said I had to have SP3 installed to continue. there is a fix to correct the problem but that's not the point. Why doesn't Microsoft fix it in the first place.

    On my wife's pc I replaced the HD and re-installed Vista. The first thing Vista told me on the update page was 'In order to update windows, windows needs to update windows update', nicely worded.
    After eight and a half hours, nine restarts and a false report of there being no updates available, it was complete.
    So it would appear Win7 is no better then anything else Microsoft produce, but you all probably knew that anyway.
  • @Fat Pop - I always enjoy your suggestions. This one is both practical and recreational, so it's a win-win situation! Thanks.

    @Chris Rankin - Too right. The only [b]illions I see around here are the end users whose Windows Update is not working, so they eventually become one of the [b]illions of members of botnets, because of Microsoft's leaky, insecure operating system and broken Update manager. Not a good situation.

    @tHeClAw - That is so obvious, why didn't I think of it? That is, after all, Microsoft's suggested method of updating Windows, isn't it? It's the way the butcher, the baker, and the bloke down the street would be expected to update their systems, isn't it? No? Oh, well, thanks for commenting anyway, I'm always happy to see a Windows apologist say "I don't have any problem with Windows Update - because I don't use it".

    @Ian Morris - I will take your excellent suggesting into serious consideration. Unfortunately there are a very few things that I am required to be able to do by my employer which can only be done on Windows.

    @51607 - I feel your pain.

    Thanks to one and all for reading and commenting.

  • Although I haven't (so far) had significant trouble with Windows Updates, I am quite curious about how much control you have over the details. I have put older Linux distributions on 2 different machines several times, and every time I have full control about the order and selection of updates. I can do a few at a time, and pick exactly which ones (using the GUI Synaptic front-end). While there is a risk of broken programs or files, doing 20 at a time rather than (for instance) 280 all at once ensures that I can catch any problems before I wreck the system. I've done this many times and NEVER had an issue (using Mandriva, Mint, or PCLinuxos) as long as I go slow and pay attention.
    How easy would this be on Windows? Picking only certain updates to install, in the order you choose? Not being bugged constantly (just reminded quietly) to update. And of course, never having your shutdowns get interrupted and delayed while updates are forcibly installed! (I know that last one can be changed, but many people don't know how.)
  • @Thomas Gellhaus - That's an excellent question, and a good comparison with Linux updates. In theory you could do approximately the same thing with Windows Update that you describe for Linux. Set the Update process to either "notify only" or "download but not install", and then have a look at the Windows Update GUI from time to time. The problem is that it would be difficult to impossible to make an intelligent choice based on most of the descriptions that Microsoft gives for the updates. More than 90% of them now say "a security vulnerability has been found in Windows", and give no more details, they just say "refer to KB999999 for more information". So in the best case you would be forced to bounce back and forth between Windows Update and the Microsoft Knowledgebase, and in the more likely case you would get to the KB and find pitifully little information there as well.

    Your comment also provides a good answer to "Ian Morris" above. Yes, in fact it is REALLY simple to keep most Linux distributions up to date, and you can have as much or as little control over that process as you would like.

    Thanks for reading and commenting

  • I must admit, whenever I install any Windows now, I use the network installation version of the SPs instead of loads of incremental updates. I keep them on a memory stick for this very reason, and although it still takes a little while to install, it is LOTS quicker than sitting through countless install, reboot, install, reboot cycles. Of course there are still updates to apply AFTER the SP :-(

    Why Microsoft don't supersede previous updates with newer versions so they rollup the cumulative changes I will never know! That would significantly reduce the update of an update of an update syndrome you seem to always get......

    No wonder windows TCO is through the roof!
  • JW:

    When I saw the title of this blog post, I knew it would be good. It's no doubt that Windows updates are just plain awful, inefficient, and needs some serious revamping. But, apparently Microsoft is too busy with its software patent litigation, checking off its list of who it can go after and collect royalties from, rather than be bothered with improving its own software.


    "If you knew that SP1 had to be installed, why didn't you download and install it first, after the initial installation, before checking for updates?"

    The user should not have to manually install anything, if Windows was efficient enough to detect and install the latest updates automatically. It would be logical that it would install SP1 FIRST, then follow up with updates since SP1. However, as JW pointed out, Windows Update is very INefficient and poorly designed. Even using WSUS, Microsoft's own update manager, constantly has updates for updates, which makes the task of reviewing the updates even more difficult and confusing than ever.

    I'm glad that others have pointed out the software update process for GNU/Linux which is extremely efficient. As those who have actually used a form of GNU/Linux know, updates in GNU/Linux always download the latest version of each package, install them, and its done in one sweep. This is simplicity at its best, folks.
  • I do use Windows Update JW - all the time and it never has problems. And if installing the Service Pack 'was obvious', then why didn't you first? Instead you behaved like a 'noob' and went straight to updates after the installation.
    Most users don't know how to use their computers never mind update them, i know because i deal with the issues all the time. If updating windows was hard enough for the 'uninitiated' then imagine the hassles with AV software, which they never update when buying a new PC/Laptop/Netbook and wonder why they have hundreds of virus' and their internet stops working. I'm not saying you're a 'noob' but THERE is the proper way and the 'noob' way.
  • @Carl White - I certainly agree with you that having an offline copy of the SP1 installer is the intelligent way to go. My point here is simply that it is certainly not the way that the average user is going to do updates, and thus the published, approved, encouraged and presumably most commonly used method of updating Windows is nothing short of a pile of garbage.

    However, there is one other question which occurred to me after posting my previous comment. If I did have an offline copy of SP1 to install, but the system that I was installing it on did in fact have a driver which did not work properly with SP1 (as is the case with the system in question), what would happen then? Would the SP refuse to install from the memory stick, DVD or whatever? Or would it just go ahead and install, and I would be left with a potentially broken system? In this particular case, from what I can tell, the problem was that the system would crash when you tried to use the HDMI port, and is definitely one of the reasons that I bought this system, so that I can connect it to a large monitor via HDMI. So I would been basically screwed after installing SP1, left scratching my head and wondering why my system was suddenly crashing? Then, of course, lots of Windows apologists would jump in and tell us all that they had not had a single Windows system crash in the last decade...

    @apexwm - You have much more real world experience with administering Windows systems than I do, so I look forward to your comments (although perhaps not as much as Fat Pop's, when he is suggesting recreational drugs...). I think you are clearly right in this case.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • @tHeClAw - It's ok, you can say it. I am a Windows 'noob'. I want to be, I choose to be, and I intend to stay that way. I don't want to know anything about Windows administration, I find it stupid and insulting. I don't want to know about offline SP installers, or Registry editors, or any of the rest of it. I want to buy a Windows system, turn it on, and have it work. Period. That is what my neighbors want, that is what the rest of my family wants, and that is what Microsoft and their apologists are trying to foist on the world. "Don't use Linux, it's WAY too complicated. My GOD, you actually have to ADMINISTER the system! EEEEK!". The point I am trying to make here is that the world doesn't work that way, and having a bunch of people jump up and down and spout a lot of lies about it doesn't make that fact any different. You say that you use Windows Update "all the time", and it "never has problems". I would counter that by saying that you don't use it in the most important and critical situation, and that what I just did (tried to do) was use it in exactly the way that 99% of the Windows users in this world would use it, and it failed miserably.

    Don't even get me started on the subject of Anti-Virus ransomware. Microsoft has tried to incorporate anti-virus software in Windows in the past, more than once, and failed every time. Apparently we are going to be subjected to yet another attempt from them with Windows 8. Oh boy, I can hardly wait. On the other hand, the OEMs who sell Windows systems have a simple choice - they could include one of the exellent FREE anti-virus packages with every system, and their customers would then be protected, and updated, permanently. Or they can take the bribe from one of the companies for including a 90-day "trial" version of a paid-subscription anti-virus package, and their users will be protected for 90 days. How many of those will then pay for the "upgrade", or "subscription", or whatever it is being called these days? How many will not, and the protection will expire, and there will be lots and lots of new candidates for botnets out there, just waiting to be snapped up? Don't put all the blame for infected systems on the "stupid" users, when there is an obvious and perfectly workable solution available.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • At least you're honest JW, about being a windows 'noob'. Ive come across many users who 'claim' they are very IT experienced, when what they mean is they have a PC with windows, but don't actually know how to use it. At least you attempted to update your OS whereas all the other 'noobs' think it can look after itself without any intervention. If you cant maintain the OS at the lowest level, then you shouldn't use. ALL noobs should be forced to take a crash course on how to update their PC's, at least on how to keep it safe, under windows. I've never used Linux (well tried it once and never went back) and have never put down the OS in terms of how to use, cos I cant really comment on that. Hats off to Linux users who know what they're doing when it comes to adding hardware/software, you have more patience than me. For the record though with AV, I find Microsoft's 'Security Essentials' does the job quite nicely, and it's FREE. It has managed to stop malware etc from infecting my PC and dealt with it accordingly. I could go on about MacOS but maybe another time.
  • If we are moving away from strictly discussing Windows updates, I have another puzzling question about Windows: Why does my installation DVD contain no reformatting or partitioning program? On the few times I dual-boot my laptop, I've inserted my Windows 7 disc and it detects that the current file system is (something NOT Windows) - and pouts. It's absurd that the most recent copy of Windows' installation DVD not only cannot detect any filesystem besides NTFS, but won't even offer to reformat the hard drive so that it can proceed!
    Is that asking too much from a billion-dollar multinational company?
  • @Thomas Gellhaus - Another excellent question. I have wondered the same thing myself many times. I find the Windows installation media to be absolutely useless when my systems have any kind of problem booting or partitioning. This is the reason that I always keep copies of Linux-based rescue, administration and partitioning CDs and USB sticks around. I suspect that one of the "dirty secrets" of the Windows world is that a lot of experienced Windows admins keep such things around, too. The irony of it - here he is, Mr. Super Windows Administrator... uh-oh, his Windows system is cratered... Time to reach for Linux to repair it!

    While we're on the subject, here's something else to watch out for. Some Linux distributions have a bad habit of changing the "boot" flag from the Windows partition to their partition. No big deal, at least at first. But some time later, you try to update Windows and it fails, giving you nothing more than a cryptic "0x8000faldedal" code as a reason. It turns out that some Windows updates, especially some Service Packs, will NOT install if the "boot" flag is not set on the Windows partition. Well, DUH, we all knew that was what 0x8000faldedal meant, didn't we? At that point it is once again time to reach for a Linux rescue CD/USB, change the flag back to the Windows partition, and let Windows Update go off and slog around for another couple of hours.

    @tHeClAw - I understand what you are saying about Windows users needing to be able to do at least some minimal administration, and I agree with you, but I think it is a totally unrealistic expectation. However, what I find much worse is the charlatans who spout "Windows is so easy, anyone and everyone can use it, there are no problems, you don't need to know anything, just buy it and the world will be a wonderful place for you" - and then follow that up with "OMG NO, you can't use Linux, it's MUCH too complicated, you have to set up and administer and take care of it, no ordinary person can do that! Just look at the NIGHTMARE of Linux device drivers." Well, I've got news for them, the "nightmare of Linux device drivers" faded away a few years ago, and even at its worst it was no comparison to the DISASTER that is Windows Update.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • @tHeClAw - By the way, if you haven't tried Linux in a couple of years, I would encourage you to take another look. Get one of the Live CD or USB distributions, just boot it up on your favorite system, and see how it works. See if there are any devices that it doesn't recognize or support. See if there are any other problems or stumbling blocks. I think you might be surprised.

  • While we appear to be straying from the Windows update farce.
    I tried Linux about 15 years ago but I didn't have much success with it. I didn't give it much of a chance and went back to Windows/Dos. I tried it again late in 2009 and never went back to Windows.
    I have Mint Debian on my laptop, Mythbuntu on my media pc and currently Ubuntu 10.04 on my main pc. I'm thinking of changing Ubuntu for something else but haven't decided what yet, maybe Fedora 15 to give Gnome 3 a run, I liked how it ran from my usb stick.

    I put Mint Debian on a friend's laptop (he's 75) as he always struggled to connect it to any free wifi connection using Vista. Now his laptop runs faster, boots faster and he can connect to free wifi hotspots with about three clicks of a mouse.
    My wife still insists on using Windows as she uses Incredimail but at least her laptop is Mint Debian XFCE.