Vista is more than two years old and has achieved the dubious distinction that Windows XP achieved at about the same time: installing updates on a new computer has become an arduous, time-consuming pain in the butt.

I took two new Dell Optiplex 760 computers out of the box today. They ship with a lean, streamlined configuration that has virtually no craplets (unwanted software) to uninstall.

update When Vista is started the first time, if you check the “recommended” box for automatic updates, it immediately starts to download the first round of updates. I’ve learned that the best thing to do with a brand new Vista computer is to put it online and walk away.

The first round of Vista updates were about 100Mb and took 15-20 minutes to download and install on a standard DSL line.

After the system restarted, I opened Windows Update and clicked the box to “install updates for more products.” That allows the Automatic Update system to take over the job of installing updates for Office as well as Windows. Then I sent the systems out to check for updates.

If you manually check for updates on a Vista computer today, you’ll be offered Internet Explorer 8 and Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2. The two computers today lined those up along with all the remaining Vista and Office updates since Dell last updated its hard drive image.

It was 425Mb of updates and took 45-60 minutes on each computer.


Dell is pre-installing some of the Windows Live programs now. I usually suggest that people take a look at Windows Live Photo Gallery, one of the friendliest photo programs. Since the Windows Live programs were updated recently, that means a trip through the Windows Live Installer, which offers to install five other unneeded programs (no) and change the browser home page (no) while it installs the updates for Windows Live Photo Gallery plus the other pre-installed Live programs – another 15-20 minute process.

Adobe Acrobat doesn’t insist on its update right away but I know it will ask eventually, and the Acrobat update is seriously important. Another 10 minutes or so.

Meanwhile Java keeps popping up with User Account Control windows for permission to install the latest update. Clicking on OK doesn’t seem to do anything to make Java happy – it just goes away again without really following up. Eventually it turns up with an icon down by the clock that starts the update process, where it tries to install the MSN toolbar (no) along with the latest update. Sun releases updates for Java every 48 hours, I think, and it does not uninstall earlier versions, leading to a ridiculous list of Java crud in the list of installed programs.

Still, it’s safe to install updates to Java, as long as they come from the Java icon by the clock. (Never install anything suggested by a popup window on a web site! You knew that, right?)

That’s a long way to go before installing a line-of-business program or setting up printers or any of the hundred other things that make the computer actually usable. There’s no end in sight, either – Microsoft just finished Vista Service Pack 2, Firefox has been releasing updates frantically in the last few weeks for horrid security holes, and the list goes on and on. (Mac users are waiting for the 80 updates and bug fixes in Mac OS X 10.5.7, which is on a separate track from the random releases of security updates for Mac OS X 10.5.6 and a stream of updates for Safari and iTunes and Quicktime. You know the grass is not greener over there, right?)

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