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Another interesting update lesson thanks to Secunia PSI

With six or seven computers around my office at any given time, in various states of (dis)repair, I find myself devoting at least three or four hours a week to system checkups, diagnoses, updates, and repairs or upgrades. When something like Windows 7 SP1 comes along that number hits a temporary spike but otherwise, this is a pretty consistent number (it also includes fiddling with new programs, drivers, and other aspects of PC maintenance).

This weekend, I cranked up my favorite problem child PC, an HP HDX 9203W (aka “The Dragon”) for which HP doesn’t support Windows 7 (they stopped updating software for this machine at Vista). When I ran my usual weekly Secunia check, I realized this machine had been off since before last Patch Tuesday (March 8th) because a slew of updates was waiting for me to install on that machine, including the ultimate Patch Tuesday (PT) tip-off, the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool x64 – March 2011 (KB890830). But every time I tried to run the whole batch up updates en masse the update process would hang and never even get to downloading files. In other words, something in the batch was causing the update process to fail.

I started knocking off the March PT elements one at a time. All of the important updates went through single-file without a hitch:

  • Update for Windows 7 for x64-based systems (KB2524375)
  • Update for Windows 7 for x64-based systems (KB2505438)
  • Security Update for Windows 7 for x64-based systems (KB2479943): This is the one that Secunia noticed was missing, and what clued me in to the need for a visit to Windows Update.
  • Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool x64 – March 2011 (KB890830)
March 2011 Silverlight Security Update wouldn't install

March 2011 Silverlight Security Update would not install

It was the optional update for Silverlight [Security Update for Microsoft Silverlight (KB978464)] that was hanging. Next, I tried a couple of different installation techniques: by itself from Windows update, then from the standalone KB download link, both without success. Along the way, Windows 7 continued to perform the installation after I triggered a system restart with a new pre-shutdown message “Installing update. Do not power off your PC until installation is complete.” No dice for any scenario.

After reading up on Silverlight, I learned that MS issues a new version of the install executable each time it issues a Silverlight update. So I used a workaround to fix the problem instead: I uninstalled the old version that I couldn’t patch for whatever reason, then simply installed a brand-new version with changes already incorporated. This went without a hitch, and Windows Update even gave the system a clean bill of health when I performed a post-install check to make sure everything had worked as it should have. I’m still not sure why the Silverlight update wouldn’t install on the Dragon, but at least I found a way around that problem and have caught the machine up. It will be interesting to see if I need to go through the same manuevers the next time a Silverlight security update hits.

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