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My Windows 7 box is set to download all updates but no automatic install. Updates are installed with frequent shutdowns. All safe and nice. However, some updates (usually big ones, like service packs) are not selected by default, therefore they are not downloaded in background.

I would like to "force" them to download in background. Is there any way for this? The only way I know is to apply the patches on the fly.

On-the-fly updates are usually ok with small patches and hotfixes. But not with large service packs that involve zillion files. Not to mention the time needed to download them on my slow ADSL. It would be so nice if all updates would just download in background. I often restart my computer, therefore it is always well updated - except for the large SPs.

Currently, to install SPs, i need to quit the involved apps, start on-the-fly update and wait for the SP to download and install. I feel it cumbersome and annoying.

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Some updates are deselected on purpose because the conflict with other updates, it may take several rounds of Windows Updates to get all of them installed automatically. – Moab Oct 20 '11 at 4:00
This may be true in general, however my SP1 for Office 2010 is still not downloaded, after installing many updates. – Dercsár Nov 1 '11 at 7:41
And one more: if an update is conflicting with the current state of the computer, then it must not be visible at all to prevent me from force-installing it. – Dercsár Nov 1 '11 at 7:42
IIRC, Microsoft Office SP1 is a recommended update, which means Windows Update won't download it automatically on background by default. One must check the option Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates at Windows Update's configuration panel. – motobói Feb 5 '12 at 20:00
up vote 1 down vote accepted

For forcing downloads, you can try scripting by using the 3rd party command line tools WuInstall

downloading updates just goes like

wuinstall /download

That should put the updates in the internal Windows update cache. later you can install using

wuinstall /install

It should install without downloading (same applies if you install it via the way you are doing it now - at shutdown)

Just google, you will find plenty of links i guess, the official website of the product ist, but they only offer a commercial version since a while, still should be a freeware version available online somewhere

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There is a Windows Update setting for "Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates" that will help. Optional updates will still need to be done manually but those aren't really needed and are usually drivers and Service Packs released recently. No rush to install a SP for which you already have most of the updates it contains as it isn't really worth the risk of something breaking until it has been around for a while.

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