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Windows 8 : Managing Windows Update (part 4) - Viewing update history, Rolling back updates

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Viewing update history

Because updates are so important, Windows helps you keep track of the updates that you’ve installed or attempted to install. In addition, Windows provides the status of the installation, the importance level of the update, and the date on which the update installation was attempted. To access this information, tap or click View Update History on the Windows Update screen. The View Update History window (see Figure 11) displays the information. You can get full information about an update by double-tapping or double-clicking the name of the update.

Windows Update installation history

Figure 11. Windows Update installation history

The information in the View Update History window is invaluable for a number of reasons. First, as an administrator, you can determine whether a particular update was applied to a system.

Second, this information provides a significant boon in system troubleshooting. In Figure 11, you can see that one of the updates failed. This information enables you to begin taking steps to determine the cause of the failure.

Rolling back updates

The information provided as part of the update history can help you if you find that you’ve deployed an update that needs to be rolled back or otherwise removed from a system.

Although updates are tested, it’s not possible for Microsoft to test an update against every possible hardware and software combination. Therefore, on rare occasions, the company releases an update that creates problems for some users. If this happens to you or your users, you must take steps to remove problematic updates from Windows 8 systems to return systems to an operational state.

Updates can be uninstalled by using Programs And Features in Control Panel. If you’re in Control Panel and you do not see a Programs And Features option, click the down arrow next to the View By option and choose either Large Icons or Small Icons.

This option is accessible from the View Update History window by tapping or clicking the Installed Updates link. Alternatively, you can access Programs And Features by opening Control Panel and tapping or clicking View Installed Updates in the left navigation area. The resulting Installed Updates window is shown in Figure 12.

Uninstalling updates from Control Panel

Figure 12. Uninstalling updates from Control Panel

Each listed update has the Microsoft Knowledge Base article ID listed with it. This makes it easier for you to ensure that you’re removing the correct update. You can use the search box in the upper-right corner of the window to search for an update you want to remove.

FINDING MICROSOFT KNOWLEDGE BASE (KB) ARTICLES

Over the years, Microsoft has amassed a great number of useful articles in its publicly accessible knowledge base system.Almost every update includes an article in the KB describing the update in detail. To locate a Knowledge Base article quickly, visit http://support.microsoft.com/search/. In the search box, type the Knowledge Base article ID number and press Enter. If the KB ID is not known, provide some keywords and allow the search engine to locate the KB for you.

To uninstall an update, select the update and then tap or click Uninstall or press and hold or right-click the update and choose Uninstall from the shortcut menu. Windows asks you whether you’re sure you want to uninstall the update. Tap or click Yes to continue. Depending on the update you select, you might have to restart the computer.

After an update has been uninstalled, that update will show up as a required installation the next time you check for new updates. After all, the purpose of Windows Update is to find missing updates. After you remove an update, it’s considered missing.

This can be fixed. When you find your list of updates that are available to install in Windows Update, you can hide updates that you want to skip so that they aren’t made available for installation. To hide an update, press and hold or right-click the update and then tap or click Hide Update, as shown in Figure 13. From now on, the update will not be made available for installation.

Hiding an update to make it unavailable for installation

Figure 13. Hiding an update to make it unavailable for installation

If you need to install a previously hidden update, tap or click Restore Hidden Updates on the Windows Update screen. When the Restore Hidden Updates window (Figure 14) opens, select the updates you’d like to restore and then tap or click the Restore button.

Restoring a previously hidden update

Figure 14. Restoring a previously hidden update

Configuring Windows Update policies

Unless you decide to configure every PC in your organization to download and install new updates automatically, the update process could become difficult to administer; for example, if you need to block a bad update from being installed in the environment.

This situation becomes more apparent in larger organizations, especially those with custom applications or diverse hardware. When an update breaks something, it becomes clear that policies can be helpful to block driver updates without prior administrator approval or block library updates until they have been tested against the custom app.

Further, bandwidth becomes an issue in larger organizations. Suppose, for example, that 500 desktops all try to download a service pack on the same day; the network would slow to a crawl or go offline entirely. By using centralized Group Policy and tying Windows Update to a centralized Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) server, both of these challenges can be averted.

WSUS provides for a single update download from Microsoft, which is then distributed to workstations over the internal network rather than over the Internet. In addition, WSUS provides highly granular control over the distribution of updates to ensure that the administrator has full control of the process.

WSUS is generally combined with a series of Group Policy settings. So, rather than working with Windows Update on a computer-by-computer basis, you can manage every computer’s Windows Update settings from one place.

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