Okay, how the heck did I manage to miss out on such a useful utility is beyond me. WSUS Offline Update is a godsend for anyone who has more than one Windows device in their home, which amounts to pretty much everyone in the Western world. As we all know, keeping a computer up to date sucks, not only because you have to let it download a bunch of updates that in most cases you don’t even know what they do, but also take a hefty chunk of your Internet download bandwidth, with the predictable result of making your connection run like a dog while the update is downloading.
And if you have more than one computer in your home, this is exacerbated by the fact that all of them will have to fetch updates from Microsoft servers. Sure, not every device gets updated at the same time, otherwise Microsoft’s network infrastructure would crumble in a couple hours, but still, having to download the exact same downloads twice is really a bummer.
I have long wished for a way to transfer Windows updates from one computer to another and, while WSUS Offline Update doesn’t do that, it comes very close.
What does WSUS Offline Update do (and what doesn’t it do)?
What it does
It downloads updates for Windows and Office, allowing you to save them onto a DVD or a USB thumb drive.
What it doesn’t do
It doesn’t download driver updates. Sorry, you’ll still have to install them from optical discs or download them from the Internet 🙁
Where to get it
You can download WSUS Offline Update from its website. Don’t be scared if there’s some parts in German: the program itself is in English, as well as the Download page.
Note: Don’t make my same mistake: download the utility from the link highlighted in baby blue, otherwise you’ll get a previous version.
Running WSUS Offline Update
After you extract the program from the ZIP file it comes in, you’ll need to run it by double-clicking the UpdateGenerator.exe icon. This will show a dialog where you can select what operating systems you want to upgrade, as well as having the chance to tweak a few options here and there.
WSUS allows for downloading updates for the following products:
- Windows Vista (Legacy);
- Windows 7;
- Windows 8.1;
- Windows 10;
- Windows Server 2008 (Legacy);
- Windows Server 2008 R2;
- Windows Server 2012;
- Windows Server 2012 R2;
- Windows Server 2016;
- Office 2007 (Legacy);
- Office 2010;
- Office 2013;
- Office 2016.
Unfortunately, updating other products, like Visual Studio, is not supported, so you’ll have to look elsewhere if you do some programming. And as already mentioned, this utility won’t allow you to download driver updates, which will have to be downloaded and installed separately through other means (i.e., Windows Update or manual download from manufacturer websites).
Clicking Start will bring up a Command Prompt window that will take care of fetching the updates. Make sure you don’t close it before it’s finished downloading, otherwise it’ll throw an error.
Suggested options to check before downloading
For peace of mind, you should enable the Verify downloaded updates option, so that the program will check that everything it downloaded actually works. In the greatest majority of cases, this should be overkill, but as they say, better safe than sorry.
I think it’s essential that you check Include C++ Runtime Libraries and .NET Frameworks, because pretty much all programs that count use them. Including Windows Defender definitions doesn’t hurt either.
If you’re downloading updates for Windows 7 and/or 8.1, make sure you check Include Service Packs as well. Windows 10 will have no service packs as were previously intended, so I don’t think that checking or unchecking this option will make any difference.
In case you want to burn a DVD to distribute updates, check per selected product and language or per selected language, ‘x86-cross-product’ (desktop only) under Create ISO Image(s). However, you must be aware that updates for Windows 10 and Office 2016 collectively amounted for a 4.27 GB image, so prepare to burn a lot of DVDs if your computers run different operating systems or Office versions.
How to install updates on other machines
By default, WSUS Offline Update downloads updates inside the client folder. Inside it you’ll find a bunch of folders containing the updates themselves, as well as one executable dubbed UpdateInstaller.exe. If you run it, it will install all the updates for your machine. You even have limited control over what you can install: the program will install Windows updates anyway, but you can choose not to update things like the C libraries or the .NET framework. Pretty useful, if you ask me.
Note: After updating a computer that I set to log in automatically, I started getting wrong password errors at boot. Disabling and re-enabling autologin fixed the issue for me, but as always with software bugs, your mileage may vary. This seems to be an issue since at least 2013.
Before you can install your updates, you’ll need to make them available to other computers. There are a few ways to do this, detailed below.
Burn one or more DVDs
If you checked one of those two checkboxes, per selected product and language or per selected language, ‘x86-cross-product’ (desktop only) under Create ISO Image(s), the program will create one or more DVD images in ISO format for you to burn. Open your WSUS installation folder and double-click the folder named iso, then right-click the image and choose Burn.
Copy the files onto a USB drive
Since burning multiple DVDs isn’t ideal, you would be better off by copying the content of the client folder inside your WSUS installation path onto a USB drive. This eliminates the need for burning many DVDs and also allows for reusing the same USB drive whenever new updates are available.
Share the client folder
Real geeks will want to make the client folder available on their local networks. We actually already covered how to create and connect to shares a while back, so check out this article to learn how to do that!
WSUS Offline Update is a real life-saver for me. You can’t imagine how many times I’ve wanted to do a fresh install of Windows but refrained to because downloading updates is just such a pain, or how many times I’ve told my dad to leave his own computer to finish updates before shutting it down. This utility eliminates that problem almost completely. Sure, it won’t download driver updates, which can be a real pain, but thankfully those aren’t as common as software updates and can generally be found almost effortlessly (well, most of the times).