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Windows Server 2008 R2 : Work with Windows Updates (part 3) - Use Group Policy to Configure Automatic Updates

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7. Use Group Policy to Configure Automatic Updates

Automatic updates are great because you really don't want to go from server to server checking for updates and then installing those updates manually. You probably would much rather have the server take care of that. In addition, you don't need to go to each server in your network to enable the automatic updates on that server in the first place. Group Policy is a great resource for administrators to enforce configurations for automatic updates not only on a single server but on groups of servers and clients in your network.

To configure Group Policy to enable automatic updates, you will need to do the following:

  1. Open the Group Policy Management console.

  2. Select the policy you will edit (or create a new one).

  3. Right-click the policy, and choose Edit.

  4. Expand Computer Configuration.

  5. Expand Policies.

  6. Expand Administrative Templates.

  7. Expand Windows Components.

  8. Select Windows Update, as shown in Figure 8.

  9. You will notice that there are 16 options in this policy container having to do with Windows Update. When working with policies, remember that policies have three possible states: enabled, disabled, and not configured. To configure automatic updates using Group Policy, you will need to select the policy called Configure Automatic Updates, as shown in Figure 8. Double-click the policy, and then choose Enabled.

Figure 8. GPME for Windows Update

The Configure Automatic Updates policy setting has four different values that you will need to choose from when you enable this policy. They are numbered from 2 through 5, as shown in Figure 9:

2 This notifies you before downloading any updates and notifies you again before installing any updates.

3 This is the default setting. This downloads the updates automatically and then notifies you when they are ready to be installed.

4 This automatically downloads the updates and then automatically installs them based on a time scheduled in the Configure Automatic Updates policy setting.

5 This allows local administrators to select the configuration mode for automatic updates. This means the local administrators can choose when the updates will be installed by using their local Windows Update; however, they cannot turn off automatic updates.

Once you have selected one of the four options, you will likely need to establish the scheduled install day and time. There are eight options labeled 0 through 8. Don't ask us where the crazy numbering comes from—first 2 through 5, and now 0 through 8. Just smile and configure the settings.

Figure 9. Configure Automatic Updates policy setting's options

If you want the updates to install every day, choose option 0. If you want the updates to be installed only once a week on a given day, then choose the number representation for the day you want the updates to install:

0 = Every day

1 = Sunday

2 = Monday

3 = Tuesday

4 = Wednesday

5 = Thursday

6 = Friday

7 = Saturday

You will also need to establish a time for the updates to be installed on the scheduled day. The default here is 3 a.m. This setting is made using a 24-hour time setting, so if you wanted to have updates installed in the late evening hours, say at 11 p.m., you would select 23:00. Once this policy is set, you can apply it to servers in your network's sites, domains, or organizational units.

There is an additional setting here that will make automatic updates immediately install. When this setting is configured, it will allow an update to install immediately if the update does not require a restart of the Windows operating system or the interruption of Windows services.

Windows Server 2008 R2 will check for updates using an automatic update detection frequency of 22 hours by default. If you want to change that frequency, you can do so using the policy setting entitled Automatic Updates Detection Frequency. This setting when enabled will specify the number of hours between automatic update checks. The setting is interesting because the server will actually choose a value located somewhere between the actual setting in hours and 20 percent less than its value. This means that if you use a value of 20 hours, the server will check for automatic updates every 16 to 20 hours. This policy works in direct conjunction with Configure Automatic Updates and with Specify Intranet Microsoft Update Service Location.

The policy called Specify Intranet Microsoft Update Service Location is used to enable Windows Update from a server within your corporate network. This means you can provide a central network location to provide updates to your server and client computers inside your network. This can be very desirable in many cases because your server and clients are not getting their updates from an Internet property but rather from an internal network location that can be tightly monitored and controlled.

The desire to move to an even more automated system of updating servers located inside the corporate network and to provide as much automation as possible for Windows Updates will eventually lead you to a group of resources called Windows Server Update Services.

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