Offline Windows Updates for the IT Tech with no Broadband

It happens enough times. You’re busy reinstalling Windows for someone when you find that you can’t install Windows Updates because the internet connection available is slowly than a milk float delivering breeze blocks instead of milk.

In so far as keeping up-to-date, the issue is no longer “How soon can the updates be installed on the computer?” It is actually “Can I even download updates on my computer?”

The odds are that if you are using Windows XP pre-SP2, the answer is simply ‘no’. Whenever you’re behind on a service pack, Microsoft likes to ensure that this becomes part of the download set. And that 200MB+ download might take a little while on dial-up. Once you’ve completed this, you’ll probably find another 100MB+ worth of updates to install afterwards.

Thankfully, there are a number of ways around this.

Downloading the redistributable versions of the various service packs is a piece of cake – they can be downloaded from the Microsoft website without too much effort. The subsequent rollups prove to be more of a nuisance.

Enter AutoPatcher. This is a handy little project for those folk who have all of those problems, and then some. What I particularly like is the semi-frequent updates that do not require you to download a complete CD of updates. So having a full download and the latest update CD does the job nicely. On my next visit to this school where I need the files, I’ll hopefully be able to install the updates with the minimum of fuss – then I’ll be a happy chappy.

Go get it!

%Logonserver% session variable doesn’t work on network Vista logon

Some grief today as I found that Vista wasn’t behaving with user profiles. Whenever a user attempted to logon, he or she would be greeted with the following popup:

Your user profile was not loaded correctly!

You have been logged on with a temporary profile. Changes you make to this profile will be lost when you log off. Please see the event log for details or contact your administrator.

How annoying is that message when you are the administrator?

Anyway, the event log was equally unhelpful:

Windows cannot locate the server copy of the roaming profile and is attempting to log you on with you local profile. Changes to the profile will not be copied to the server when you log off. This error may be caused by network problems or insufficient security rights.

DETAIL – Access is denied.

What was weird was that some users were creating the username.v2 profiles.

After a bit of trial and error, I realised that the users that had a dynamic roaming profile path (such as %logonserver%\users\%username%) would not locate or create a profile in Windows Vista.

As soon as I replace %logonserver% with the name of a domain controller (\\server1\users\%username%), everything behaved itself.

This is pretty annoying, as I’d have to set up DFS to get around this. In the meantime, I’ve just changed the paths.

There is no evidence to suggest that this is by design, especially considering that using the SET command in Vista shows that the logonserver variable is indeed set.

ARGH!

Resources are not available error when accessing control panel

If you happen to have an Intel PRO1000 network card, you may come across the following error when you open up control panel in Windows:

Intel PROset

resources are not available

The problem for me stemmed from repairing an installation of Windows.

With the Intel Pro-network cards, the software that comes bundled with them includes advanced network components that can be configured through Windows’ Control Panel. When this fails to load, you are likely to receive the above error.

Here’s what I did:

  • Download and install the network software using Proset.exe
  • Go into control panel, if the error is still present, go to Add/Remove Programs and uninstall the Intel Network software
  • Reboot the computer
  • Log back in, and reinstall the software. Include the advanced settings AND the WMI options.
  • If the network card isn’t working at this point, start the device manager and scan for hardware changes.

If all has gone well, you should now have a working card.

As a point of interest, Windows failed to automatically install the drivers for me, so I had to point to the setup installation directory.

IE7 Group Policy Settings

After when deploying Internet Explorer 7 around your site through a service such as WSUS, there are immediate considertaions that have to be dealt with. The main one being configuring settings for IE7.

It is possible to download the Internet Explorer Administration Toolkit (IEAK), but when dealing with IE7 that has been installed on computers automatically – that’s not what you want to hear.

After installing IE7 on one of our servers, I went to the group policy to see if there were any new settings. As such, the important ones didn’t seem to exist:

  • Configure the phishing filter
  • Disable the ‘First run’ Page

Obviously, there are a number of settings that administrators would want to take control of.

Thankfully, there are two ways of getting these settings in group policy. The first is to simply install Windows Vista as a workstation and use the Group Policy Management Console (GPMC.MSC) which is bundled with Vista. This has all of the IE settings.

If you don’t have a Vista system, you can download an up-to-date MSI of the Administrative Templates for Internet Explorer 7 for Windows. This will install the inetres.adm file in the specified folder.

To apply it to the machine you are working on (pre-Vista, of course), copy the ADM file to %systemroot%\inf. Run gpedit.msc and navigate to User Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Internet Explorer.

Some of the useful settings are:

  • Prevent Performance of First Run Customized settings to disable the first run page
  • Turn of Managing Phishing filter to enable the phishing filter and configure its actions
  • Turn on the menu bar by default to stop people asking you where the menu bar is
  • Prevent Participation in the Customer Experience Improvement Program, another default from the first run page
  • Moving the menu bar above the navigation bar to put the menu bar in its proper place, above the address bar

Using the group policy configuration is a much more practical way of configuring IE7 than the registry hacks that I’ve seen floating around where people are struggling to find the group policy settings for IE7.

There are there! Honest!

Windows Vista in “Dude, Where’s my Start Menu?”

When dropping Windows Vista into an existing network, you may notice some unusual issues that weren’t apparent in Windows 2000 or Windows XP.

The main cause of a headache for me was the new interpretation of the Group Policy settings that Vista utilises.

Because most of the networks that I manage rely on roaming user profiles, it’s not uncommon for me to use folder redirection to redirect the Start Menu and Desktop. These are set so that the user cannot change the contents of these folders, and they specifically show programs that only I allow.

So, all is good. Until Vista came along and the contents of the Start Menu suddenly disappeared. Clicking on the ‘All Programs’ links showed nothing at all. Eeep!

After about 2 hours of searching as to why this might happen, I eventually discovered it was a group policy setting that works differently (and by its interpretation, correctly) to Windows XP.

Group Policy EditorThe setting in question is User Configuration > Adimistrative Templates > Start Menu and Taskbar > Remove User’s Folders from the Start Menu

In Windows 2000 and Windows XP, the setting prevents the user’s profile folders from appearing. This is useful if you are using folder redirection and don’t want the default Start Menu icons to appear. However, Vista includes the redirected folders as excluded, and as such – nothing appears.

The difficulty hunting this down of course is that the group policy results show a successful redirect, which of course is exactly what it’s doing