Updating Windows without a network connection

Problem: I have to get three Windows servers patched up to date tomorrow. I found this out about 3 this afternoon.

Second problem: No network connection to the outside world, under any circumstances.

Third problem: Any rewritable media used on said servers must be destroyed after use.

Impossible? Believe it or not, no.Normally we keep a copy of Hfnetchk Pro in this environment for pushing out patches (copied from an Hfnetchk Pro server that does have a connection to the outside world), but someone saw fit to blow that server away. Ahem. Someone can expect a thank-you letter from me. And perhaps a thank-you present from my dog.

As for why servers with no connection to the outside world need patches to protect them from the outside world, well, I don’t make the rules.

So the answer in this case is to get my grubby mitts on ctupdate, a tool written by the wonderful German IT magazine c’t (their few English-translated articles are so brilliant, I wonder sometimes if I should learn German just so I can read the magazine).

Ctupdate will go download your updates, make an ISO image for you to burn to CD or DVD, and the result includes a nice menu so brain-dead easy that even a CIO could use it. (Oh, did I say that out loud?)

The catch? At present, a full collection of Windows XP or 2003 updates is nearly 800 MB in size, so make sure you have a fast network connection and either a DVD burner or a big USB disk if you plan to use it.

With a ctupdate-created DVD in hand, I can walk up to those isolated servers, pop in the disc, click a couple of buttons, have a cup or two of coffee, and then move on to the next one. Or better yet, copy the DVD to a network share, run the executable, click those buttons, have some coffee, and get on with the day. Problem solved.

This works for some slightly less convoluted situations too. If you expect to be asked to fix Windows PCs for a relative or twelve while you’re on Christmas vacation, prepare by downloading ctupdate, downloading all the updates, and either burning them to DVD or copying them over to a USB device. It works with Windows 2000, XP, and 2003 updates.

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