Fun with Windows

A couple of months ago, the hard disk on our primary home computer became corrupted, and I had to reformat and reinstall Windows. I was able to do this without losing any data by installing a second hard disk, putting Windows on that, and then using a recovery tool (Active@ UNDELETE) to retrieve our data files from the corrupted drive. After I was sure that I had recovered everything of value from the corrupted drive, I reformatted it and started using it as a backup medium (with Norton Ghost as the backup tool).
That should have been the end of our Windows problems, at least for a while. Formatting the new C: drive and installing Windows from scratch ought to have resulted in a clean, stable system. But something went wrong, because we started seeing odd behavior over the last several weeks. The first warning sign was a folder on my desktop that I could not get rid of — I could drag it to the Recycle Bin and empty the bin, but the folder would reappear on my desktop later. That was annoying, but not really problematic. Then Windows started refusing to shut down, restart, or log out. You could select those actions from the Start menu, but nothing would happen; the only way out was to use the button on the front of the computer. It was clear that our system was unstable, so after making sure that everything was backed up to the other hard drive, I reinstalled Windows again.
If you’ve ever gone through this process (and if you’ve had your computer more than a year or two, you’ve probably had to), you know that the time-consuming part is not installing Windows from the CD, but installing four years’ worth of updates and patches. It takes several hours to get it all done. This time around, it occurred to me that I wasn’t actually doing anything except clicking buttons to tell Windows Update to proceed to the next step. The problem is that after installing each set of updates, Windows needs to restart, but it won’t do so without confirmation from you. And after Windows restarts, you have to manually run Windows Update again to start downloading and installing the next set of updates. In other words, what’s so burdensome is that Windows Update keeps stopping and waiting for manual intervention.
Why can’t the whole process be automated? What’s needed is a Windows Cumulative Update option, which would do the following:

  1. Check for high-priority updates and begin installing them.
  2. When it becomes necessary to reboot, do so automatically.
  3. After each reboot, run Windows Update again and check for more high-priority updates.
  4. Repeat these steps until no more high-priority updates remain, then exit.

Wouldn’t that be simpler? After installing Windows, you could start Windows Cumulative Update and walk away. A few hours later, your Windows installation would be fully up to date without any further action on your part. I hope Microsoft includes something like this with Windows Vista.

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