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How to defang Win2k SP3's auto updating

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Last week we told you how to install Windows 2000 Service Pack 3 without having to agree to Microsoft's all-new 'we can steal your stuff but we're not going to, honest' supplementary licence. We accepted at the time, of course, that the exercise was essentially frivolous, in that you'd probably be in breach of your licence agreement anyway if you circumvented the new Ts & Cs, and because just circumventing it wouldn't do anything to block the activities you objected to.

But hey, you could feel good about yourself, even if nobody else knew and you had no proof that you'd actually stood up and been counted (by yourself) for not checking that 'agree.' Naturally, we've had some queries from the more rational section of the readership who don't particularly care what they agree to, but do care about being snooped on and/or having some maniac updating their machine without so much as a by your leave. So, for the benefit of these holdouts, here's how you stop the features added by SP3 doing their business.

Go to Start, then run services.msc. You can also do this via Control Panel, Administrative Tools, Services. Find Automatic Updates, and change startup type to disabled.

Then run gpedit.msc, the group policy editor. Go to User Configuration, Administrative Templates, Windows Components, Windows Update. On a fresh installation with SP3 applied this will show up as not configured, and somewhat counter-intuitively, in order to remove access to Windows Update, you enable it. Notice in passing that it's tagged Remove access to use all Windows Update "featues," which we presume is one they can fix in SP4.

The explanation is as follows:

"If you enable this setting, all Windows Update features will be removed. This includes blocking access to the Windows Update Web site at http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com and from the Windows Update hyperlink on the Start menu and also on the Tools menu in Internet Explorer. Windows automatic updating is also disabled; you will neither be notified about nor will you receive critical updates from Windows Update. This policy also prevents Device Manager from automatically installing driver updates from the Windows Update Web site."

In English, this means you'll have to seek out patches and security fixes yourself, and install them by hand. But you don't mind that, do you? Back in Services, you may also want to switch Background Intelligent Transfer Service to disabled. Its default seems to be manual, but if it did get started you might not necessarily like it, as the explanation indicates:

"Transfers files in the background using idle network bandwidth. If the service is stopped, features such as Windows Update, and MSN Explorer will be unable to automatically download programs and other information. If this service is disabled, any services that explicitly depend on it may fail to transfer files if they do not have a fail safe mechanism to transfer files directly through IE in case BITS has been disabled."

By browsing through Services and Group Policy you'll find several other things to get paranoid about (e.g. remote registry manipulation). Fiddle with these if you like, we didn't tell you to, so don't blame us if you break something.

Lastly, go to the Start menu, right click on Windows Update, and delete it. Yes, you're sure. OK, as far as we can figure out you're now all set.

Incidentally, business users will frequently find they don't have to agree the new licence terms anyway. If SP3 is applied as part of a slipstreamed install, which is a pretty common procedure in business, then the new licence isn't installed either. We think this is a clerical error rather than Redmond leniency. ®

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