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Updating Windows through Microsoft Update or WSUS is usually the preferred method of keeping your Windows systems up to date. However, these methods sometimes cause problems or are not possible. Perhaps the computers have a slow Internet connection, or no connection at all. Or, you may want to install important hotfixes before the machine is connected to any network. Many admins also prefer to deploy a completely patched Windows and want to slipstream all available updates with DISM or System Image Manager.
Various ways exist to download the updates manually. If you just need the latest patches of a particular Windows version, you can grab the CAB files from C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download.
Another option is to search for specific updates in the Microsoft Download Center or Microsoft Update Catalog (Internet Explorer only). If you have to download multiple updates, the Update Catalog is more convenient because you can add all updates you need to your basket and then download them together.
These methods are okay if you just require a few patches for a particular Windows version. A more professional way is to use one of the free Windows Update download tools discussed below.
Portable Update ^
Portable Update makes use of the fact that Windows Update stores all updates in the folder mentioned above. First, you have to select the tool’s Search tab and then click Start. Portable Update will search for the available updates for this particular machine and display them on the Download tab, where you can then select some or all of the updates. If you click Start again, Portable Update downloads the selected patches as CAB files and stores them in its Cache folder.
List of available patches in Portable Update
If you copy the tool’s entire folder structure to a USB stick, you can easily install those updates on a second computer. For this, you have to click Start again on the Search tab so that Portable Update can determine which updates are missing on the second machine. Note that the second computer doesn’t have to be online for this purpose. On the Install tab, you can then select which patches you want to install.
Installing updates on a second machine with Portable Update
AutoPatcher has the same purpose as Portable Update but works differently. It doesn’t use the current machine to generate a list of available updates; instead, it works with its own update lists. You can update a few other products besides Windows, such as Java or Adobe Reader.
Downloading updates with AutoPatcher Update Program
First, you have to download the AutoPatcher Update Program (apup.exe). This tool is only for downloading updates. If you also want to install updates, you need the AutoPatcher Engine (autopatcher.exe), which you can find in the AutoPatcher Update Program list of available downloads. Autopatcher.exe, which will be downloaded to the same folder as apup.exe, automatically notices the updates that you downloaded with the Update Program.
Installing updates with AutoPatcher Engine
A downside of AutoPatcher is that you can’t choose the updates of a particular Windows version that you want to download.
Note that the free tool downloads Windows updates as MSU files. You can find the files in the tool’s Module folder. If you want to slipstream the updates into a Windows image, you have to extract the CAB files from the MSU files. One way to do this is with the Windows command tool “expand”:
expand *.msu c:\targetdir
WSUS Offline Update ^
WSUS Offline Update also comes with two executables. The WSUS Offline Update Generator is for downloading the updates; the WSUS Offline Update Installer is for installing the updates and is automatically copied to the download folder.
WSUS Offline Update Generator
As with AutoPatcher, you can only download all updates (not specific ones) for a particular Windows version. The tool also allows you to include service packs and a few other Microsoft packages, such as the Defender definitions and Microsoft Security Essentials. WSUS Offline Update also supports Office 2007, 2010, and 2013.
In the USB medium section, you configure the folder to which all the CAB files will be downloaded. You can just copy this folder to your USB stick and start Updatinstaller.exe to install the updates.
WSUS Offline Update Installer
Windows Updates Downloader ^
Windows Updates Downloader is only for downloading files—that is, you can’t install updates with the tool. Its main advantage is that you can select the updates you want to download. Also helpful is that it distinguishes between security updates and non-security updates. This is useful if you just want to make sure that a newly deployed machine at least has all security patches. I also like that each update entry has a link to Microsoft’s Knowledge Base, which helps you decide which updates to download.
Windows Updates Downloader
Before you can use Windows Updates Downloader, you have to download the update lists you need from the tool’s website. If you double-click an update list, the list is automatically loaded into Windows Updates Downloader. The tool downloads the selected updates as MSU files to the folder that you configured. Thus, if you want to slipstream the updates into your Windows image, you first have to extract the CAB files with the “expand” command (see above).
Do you know of another Windows Update download program? How do you deploy Windows images: with or without the latest updates?