Friday 29 November 2013

Windows Updates Slow on XP

We are designing a new responsive web site and, of course, testing it on different platforms.  It’s
important to make sure as many people as possible get a good experience, even if they are on an old platform.  So testing on XP is necessary: there are plenty of computers that still run it, even though support ends in April 2014. 

Windows Updates Taking 8 hours or More

We want as many users as possible to have a good experience with our new responsive web site – but at minimum we want them to see something sensible.  Testing on XP wouldn’t be a problem, were it not for a glitch in running Windows updates.  These automatic updates are necessary, as security is weakest in the oldest operating systems.  But updates were taking a day or more to run – which is pretty unmanageable.  We tested it on two different machines – one running IE7 and the other running IE8.  The machine running IE8 took around 8 hours to install updates; a long time, but at least they were installed.  The machine running IE7 was still running after 12 hours.  Task Manager showed the CPU usage at 100%, which dropped to zero when we ran net stop "automatic updates” at the command prompt.  Something was clearly wrong.

Two unsuccessful attempts to fix the problem

Various resolutions have been suggested by Microsoft including clearing the SoftwareDistribution folder and having a general clean up by running Disk Clean, checking the event log, uninstalling unnecessary programs and disconnecting unused network connections.  Sensible things to do, but in this instance they didn't make a difference on their own. 

The successful fix

What did make a difference was installing KB2888505.  This is a security patch which you can get from the Microsoft Download Center.  We’d had problems with this particular patch on another machine, so would strongly recommend you back up your machine before running it.  You also need to get the right download for your operating system and browser.  But after installing it, restarting the computer and running “wuauclt/detectnow”, the Windows updates were located and installed.  It seems that installing this patch enables the update program to see that a recent update has been installed, and stops it searching for older updates.  But of course we can’t see inside the program, nor do we know exactly what the problem is, so that’s only a slightly-informed guess.

Microsoft are promising a fix “as soon as possible”, so this many not be a problem for much longer.  But in case anyone else is tearing their hair out over this one, we are reporting our experience.  Please do a backup first, though.

Responsive web site

In the meantime, watch this space for our new responsive web site, coming soon.  Now we’ve got XP to behave itself!


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