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Anyone know the intracacies of Windows Update?


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#1 packman

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Posted 13 March 2012 - 06:57 PM

I've recently spent a week reinstalling my WinXP and my various apps and utilities. A long job and I don't wish to discuss why, as it's a long story. But having reached a few days ago a reasonably 'safe' state, I went to the Windows Update website to fetch a huge batch of updates to WinXP that I needed. By 'going to the WU website', I mean using the Windows Update option in the Start menu in WinXP. My preferences in this always are to have Automatic Windows Updates turned off in WinXP and therefore to always download manually using the Custom install, once at the WU website. This gives sensible control over what's downloaded and what's ultimately installed, something I've found especially useful over the years, as some Windows updates can have incompatibilities with machine hardware, whilst other updates may actually require manual changes to the Windows Registry. You wouldn't know about this with Automatic Updates on all the time.

After looking at their various details elsewhere at the Microsoft site, I downloaded a reasonable batch and then left it at that for the moment. Then later, while bringing my antivirus app up to date, I inadvertently set Automatic Updates to on and, by some quirk, WU immediately decided to start downloading to me all the remaining WinXP updates.

I managed to sensibly abort from the situation but it's left me with a considerable number of those WinXP updates stored somewhere on my hard drive, ready to install if I were now to select them at the WU website. This apparently is now Microsoft's way of reducing downloading/install times. Unfortunately, those WinXP updates that have now been downloaded are nearly all ones that I definitely don't wish to install and, frankly, it makes me nervous to have them there, unnecessarily, on my hard drive. WU still works as before, of course, with Automatic Updates off - if I go to WU and it scans my PC, it lists those that are now unfortunately on my hard drive ready to install in zero download time, as well as those that remain to be downloaded from WU itself in manual mode.

So, the question is, 'Where on my hard drive am I likely to find those unwanted temporary updates?' Where are they cached? And if they can be located, will it be permissible to delete them or otherwise remove them, so as to force WU to, in effect, re-list them at WU as having still to be downloaded, if I want them? I've checked and they're not placed in either Add/Remove Programs or in the root of the Windows folder. Only actually installed ones go there. And I've looked elsewhere on my hard drive but found nothing resembling them. So, does anyone know exactly where they're cached and whether I'll be able to legitimately delete them without fouling up Windows?


Addendum, about 20 hrs later: I've found where they're cached! They're at C:\WINDOWS\Software Distribution\Download\<alphanumeric>\update. They all appear to be encrypted or encoded in some way. There are sub-folders to each. I've no idea whether they can be legitimately deleted, though. Anyone know?

#2 peterh

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 04:21 PM

So, does anyone know exactly where they're cached and whether I'll be able to legitimately delete them without fouling up Windows?


Addendum, about 20 hrs later: I've found where they're cached! They're at C:\WINDOWS\Software Distribution\Download\<alphanumeric>\update. They all appear to be encrypted or encoded in some way. There are sub-folders to each. I've no idea whether they can be legitimately deleted, though. Anyone know?


1. Load up services.msc and stop the Automatic Updates service.
2. Delete everything in drive:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution folder
3. Restart Automatic updates service.




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