Windows Update Rant

This morning I received a few windows updates that really made me angry. It wasn't the updates per se, but rather how they were stuffed into my system. Here's what happened...

Like every morning, when I got to work I booted up my laptop running Windows Vista. I then launch VMWare Workstation, and started up my Windows XP workstation that I use for my day job.* So far so good.

*This may sound strange, but I test a lot of different things, including Vista, trying to find what works with our system. I wouldn't normally run such a heavy host OS, but I'm testing it out at home to ensure that I know how to use it once I decide to make it mainstream at Fairwinds. The fact is that some of our main applications STILL don't work on Vista properly, so I ported my old physical Win XP Pro machine to a VM, and I use that daily to do my work.

Now, the guest OS (Windows XP) was running a little slow at first, but that's not unusual at all. It takes some time to check for windows updates, and do the other normal startup routines for programs I have installed. I didn't really think anything of the speed until I was finally prompted with that nice little windows update message. You know the one... "I've installed updates for you, and I'm going to reboot your system in 30 seconds." The only options you have are essentially, "Okay, do it now then" or "remind me every five minutes that I'm going to reboot your system."

I was working on something important, so I said "Restart Later." All was fine for about 1 minute. Next thing I know, my Windows XP session shuts off, VMWare is telling me something, and my Vista OS starts to shut down!

Now, I have a pretty decent system here, running a Core 2 Duo 2.2GHz processor, with 4GB of RAM. There is nothing slow about this machine, and yet it took 15 minutes for the host to shutdown, install updates, reboot, configure updates, and get back logged in. Grrrr... The reason I said Later is that I'm busy! The problem, of course, was that the Vista host had the same "Do or die" message, only I didn't see it as my Windows XP guest OS was running in full screen mode.

At any rate, after rebooting I opened up VMWare and found that it had suspended my Windows XP machine. Great! I clicked to start it up, then turned to other tasks. (I had a couple of thin clients to configure for users.) I figured I had a couple of minutes, as it does take some time for VMWare to resume from a suspended state. But by the time I turned back to it, the guest was shutting down! Arrrgggghhh! I had again missed the "Piss off" prompt! Another 10 minutes, give or take, until I could get back in to do any work on my Windows XP system!

All in all, I was not impressed, and immediately shut off the "Auto Download and Apply Updates" feature in both the guest and the host.

I suppose that you could argue that I should have known better, and done this ages ago, but I don't really feel that way. I try to adhere to good practices as best I can, and one of those is applying Windows Updates. In addition, look at what Windows own OneCare program says when you flip the settings to "Download and Notify me to install":


What the hell? So because I'm taking more control of my system, it's "At Risk", and I have to stare at a little red icon in my system tray? This is a bit of a misrepresentation to me.

I'm not only choked about the time I lost today, although that does play in. No... it's because this contravenes several best practice points in programming, in my opinion. What if I'd been working on my Accpac 6.0 database that I still use? If I were posting, and VMWare suspended my desktop in the middle of it, the database would have been corrupted. The last time I had a corrupted database, back in 2000 or so, it cost me over $1000 to get it fixed. I don't even know if I could find a tech to do it now, as the software is supposedly "obsolete".

Why, Microsoft, do you feel so comfortable shutting down your clients systems without any regard as to what they are doing? The fact that I missed my host's message is irrelevant. Besides the fact that virtualization is a fact now, it could have just as easily been an issue if I were on the phone with my back turned to the computer. This is blatantly wrong, and WILL cost at least one customer some corrupted data at one point.

This is a serious issue that needs to be rectified immediately. An OS patch should NEVER force a reboot without warning. If you want to pop up a message that strongly recommends a reboot after installing, then fine, but don't force it. Even keep reminding me every 5 minutes that I should reboot to apply the updates, fine. Again, DO NOT FORCE IT! Or try things the other way, and warn me that a reboot will be needed once the update is applied BEFORE you install it. At least that way I'm not caught in the middle of things.

Ultimately, I take a lot of responsibility for my systems, running firewalls, antivirus software and even tape backups. If I delay an update and get hacked in some way, then that's my problem, and THAT is a risk that I'm willing to take. Risking my data is definitely not something I should have to do.

I also have a hard time believing that any update is critical enough that it warrants such a blatant disregard for my system. The point behind these is to protect, not risk the clients system. What's more is that the majority of updates are released on "Patch Tuesday", once per month. So what's another 4 hours?

I am far from impressed with this cavalier attitude to my work schedule and data.

2 thoughts on “Windows Update Rant

  1. Ken -

    I never let my system update itself whenever it feels like it, so i only allow the system to download updates and notify me. The resulting false "At Risk" warning is one reason I am dropping OneCare. It's a symptom of the overall Microsoft treatment of users recently, that they know what's best for us, and we're too dumb to decide otherwise.

  2. Hey Jon,

    To be totally honest, I have always have my updates set to download and notify, rather than install. The catalyst that changed that for me was installing OneCare, as I didn't want the red icon in the taskbar. With it showing red for something like that, it was hard to tell if anything else went wrong at a glance.

    I'm not sold on OneCare myself, and it may get removed in future.

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