I am going through an agonizing re-install, on day three now of Windows Updates, VS Service Packs, etc. It's been tough having to download all this again on a 384kbps ADSL line.

Besides the installs that I explicitly download, how can I back up installs such as all the Windows Updates; SQL Server 2008 Express that installs through Web Platform Installer, and any other goodies that MS deem to be better left uncontrolled by me?

ADDENDUM: Many people are giving answers that involved downloading. My whole point is to avoid downloading again what Windows already has downloaded.


10 Answers 10


http://www.wsusoffline.net/ This is what i use as part of my toolkit - it downloads everything and has a front end that automatically patches up a box. The neat thing about it is you can pick as many of as few products as you need, and it'll apply only the ones you need.

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Windows XP is currently under legacy products, and since WSUS offline updates directly downloads the updates off MS, this may stop working when MS stops hosting patches, some time in the future.

EDIT: As of 2014, support for XP has been dropped on new updates of WSUS offline updates - You can find the last version that supports this, 9.2.1 in their archives.

  • Great to know this! I can only think "where has this been all these years?". Thanks! – Camilo Martin Aug 16 '13 at 23:32
  • added in my toolkit too – Francisco Tapia May 12 '15 at 20:09
  • Doesn't look like this works anymore since Microsoft killed off the Windows Update/Microsoft Update site for 2000/XP/2003 in Aug 2020. – Frank Lesniak Dec 3 '20 at 15:52

Perhaps nlite would be useful?

nLite is a tool for pre-installation Windows configuration and component removal at your choice. Optional bootable image ready for burning on media or testing in virtual machines. With nLite you will be able to have Windows installation which on install does not include, or even contain on media, the unwanted components.


* Service Pack Integration
* Component Removal
* Unattended Setup
* Driver Integration
* Hotfixes Integration
* Tweaks
* Services Configuration
* Patches
* Bootable ISO creation
  • 1
    Hopefully it's a little more automized than last time I used it... – Ivo Flipse Jan 20 '10 at 7:49

If you are talking about a single machine/hardware config, you could make an image of the system using any of the many system imaging programs, then just re-deploy the image whenever you want to do a full re-install.

If you're mainly talking about Windows, you could slipstream the various updates into an updated installer disc.


This is the best officially supported solution

Step 1 - Download and install SP3:

Take a look at the Service Pack Center to find the download link for the latest Service pack.

From everything I've read, Service Pack 3 will be the last service pack to be released for XP.

Step 2 - Fetch the latest security updates (released after SP3)

Take a look at the Microsoft Security Bulletin Search tool to determine which updates you'll need to download.

Here are the settings I recommend to get all of the relevant updates after post-SP3

Security bulletin settings to filter for post-SP3 updates

Then it's just a matter of downloading the relevant install executables for offline use.

Note: While I would personally choose to use the WSUSOffline tool that @Journeyman suggested, there are risks of using an unofficial tool to support Microsoft products. Downloads that come from third parties may contain malicious code so Microsoft may push to get a third party tool shutdown overnight if it deems the tool unsafe for its users. WSUSOffline gets around that by downloading the actual updates directly from Microsoft but as with all unofficial tools, convenience comes with risk.

  • WSUS offline update, while unofficial, was started off by a german computer/security site (heise.de). I also recommend it since i use it with nearly every fresh build, primarily to avoid having to manually reboot the system multiple times. YMMV but personally i think its worth the minimal risk. – Journeyman Geek Feb 3 '12 at 1:52
  • @Journeyman I completely agree. That's why I personally endorse it. Thanks for the additional background, knowing where WSUSOffline comes from gives me more peace of mind. – Evan Plaice Feb 3 '12 at 20:01

Make all the downloads, install and updates that you want. Get a backup and burn it. This will be the easiest method.

You can also use nLite.

Have you ever wanted to remove Windows components like Media Player, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, MSN Explorer, Messenger... How about not even to install them with Windows ?

nLite is a tool for pre-installation Windows configuration and component removal at your choice. Optional bootable image ready for burning on media or testing in virtual machines. With nLite you will be able to have Windows installation which on install does not include, or even contain on media, the unwanted components.


I think you have to get the packages manually and save them somewhere. I think the best you can do is install the latest xp service pack and visual studio service packs and then use windows updates to grab the updates released since then. I think you'll need xp service pack 2 and xp service pack 3. You could grab each hotfix/update separately as well if you wanted, but that is probably a lot of work. I'd have thought setting windows update to autiomatic and just letting it go through and update woulod be the easiest

some instructions here

  • this is what i do; download the major service packs and keep them on a network drive for easy access. note the standalone XP SP3 installer doesn't want to install on bare WinXP; it wants you to install an earlier service pack first. – quack quixote Jan 20 '10 at 9:38
  • you can do this with the hotfixes too, it's just a lot of work since you have to find and download them from microsoft directly. several sites do a regular "Patch Tuesday" roundup that blog the latest releases; use them to get a list of what to download, or just use the Windows Update site. (google "patch tuesday" or "microsoft security bulletin" for what's recent.) – quack quixote Jan 20 '10 at 9:42

You need to download the offline install packages.


As suggested above use nLite in order to prepare an updated XP iso or dvd. Apart from slipstreaming sp3 you can also integrate some hotfixes or even microsoft programs, such as IE or WMP.

However a lot of hotfixes won't be integrated, so you will have to run a batch to finish the job. A good basis for building your "perfect" xp installer is pre-SP4 project: http://dimadr.ru/critical-pre-sp4-eng

and for .NET



IMHO, it is possible to reuse updates already downloaded, but, although their files are expanded on c:\windows\softwaredistribution\download, one must find a way to recover installation scripts and install order to know what to do with them.


Have you already wiped the drive you are installing to? If so, then no, there is no way to avoid having to re-download the updates. If you have not wiped it (check the drive to see if there the previous Windows directory has been renamed as a backup), then you can probably avoid re-downloading a lot of it.

Open C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download (replacing C:\Windows with the path to your old Windows directory).

You will find a bunch of files with a long alphanumeric name and no extension. These are the updates (and miscellaneous files). What you need to do is to figure out which ones are executable and run them. You could try using a hex-editor or something to open and view them, but it is much easier to just rename them.

First make sure that extensions are shown (Tools->Folder Options->View->de-select Hide extensions for known file types). Now for each file in the Download directory, rename it, adding .EXE to the end and then run it. (Consider creating a temporary folder to move them into after running them to make it easier to keep track of your progress.)

You will likely find that some of them crash and give an error message. Don’t worry about this since not all of the files in there are actually executable files, some are text files containing licences agreements, etc.

Once you have run all of the updates, reboot the system and run Windows Update again. You should find that fewer (if any?) updates are listed (it depends on how many were still in the Download directory).

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