5 Ways to Install Windows Updates on Windows Server 2008 R2 Core

As you probably know by now, in Windows Server 2008, the Server Core installation provides a minimal environment for running specific server roles, which reduces the maintenance and management requirements and the attack surface for those server roles (read more about Server Core on my “Understanding Windows Server 2008 Server Core” and “Installing Windows Server 2008 Core” articles).

One of the challenges of using Server Core is the management aspect. Luckily for us, most of the management pain has been solved by usage of the either manually created scripts, 3rd-party graphical user interface tools, and lately in R2 – the SCONFIG tool.
So after properly configuring Server Core and getting ready to deploy it on your server farm, you now want to download and install the latest Windows Server 2008 R2 updates from the Windows Update site. How do you do that?
Well, there are several methods which you can use to download and install the latest Windows Server 2008 R2 updates from the Windows Update site. Read on.

Method #1 – Manually Install Updates

In order to install updates you need to configure the Server Core machine to automatically download and install updates:
At a command prompt:

  • To verify the current setting, type:

cscript scregedit.wsf /AU /v

auto updates core 11

  • To enable automatic updates, type:

cscript scregedit.wsf /AU 4

auto updates core 2

  • To disable automatic updates, type:

cscript scregedit.wsf /AU 1

Problem with this setting is that you have no control over what updates are being downloaded and installed. Therefore, if you do not wish to enable auto updates, you can manually download each update from the Windows Update site, transfer them to the Core machine, and then manually installing them using msiexec.exe or wusa.exe:
Msiexec (command-line options)
Description of the Windows Update Stand-alone Installer (Wusa.exe) and of .msu files in Windows Vista and in Windows Server 2008

Method #2 – Install from Script

You can also use the following script sample from MSDN:
Searching, Downloading, and Installing Updates: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa387102(VS.85).aspx

Set updateSession = CreateObject(“Microsoft.Update.Session”)
Set updateSearcher = updateSession.CreateupdateSearcher()
WScript.Echo “Searching for updates…” & vbCRLF
Set searchResult = _
updateSearcher.Search(“IsInstalled=0 and Type=’Software'”)
WScript.Echo “List of applicable items on the machine:”
For I = 0 To searchResult.Updates.Count-1
Set update = searchResult.Updates.Item(I)
WScript.Echo I + 1 & “> ” & update.Title
If searchResult.Updates.Count = 0 Then
WScript.Echo “There are no applicable updates.”
End If
WScript.Echo vbCRLF & “Creating collection of updates to download:”
Set updatesToDownload = CreateObject(“Microsoft.Update.UpdateColl”)
For I = 0 to searchResult.Updates.Count-1
Set update = searchResult.Updates.Item(I)
WScript.Echo I + 1 & “> adding: ” & update.Title
WScript.Echo vbCRLF & “Downloading updates…”
Set downloader = updateSession.CreateUpdateDownloader()
downloader.Updates = updatesToDownload
WScript.Echo  vbCRLF & “List of downloaded updates:”
For I = 0 To searchResult.Updates.Count-1
Set update = searchResult.Updates.Item(I)
If update.IsDownloaded Then
WScript.Echo I + 1 & “> ” & update.Title
End If
Set updatesToInstall = CreateObject(“Microsoft.Update.UpdateColl”)
WScript.Echo  vbCRLF & _
“Creating collection of downloaded updates to install:”
For I = 0 To searchResult.Updates.Count-1
set update = searchResult.Updates.Item(I)
If update.IsDownloaded = true Then
WScript.Echo I + 1 & “> adding:  ” & update.Title
End If
WScript.Echo  vbCRLF & “Would you like to install updates now? (Y/N)”
strInput = WScript.StdIn.Readline
If (strInput = “N” or strInput = “n”) Then
ElseIf (strInput = “Y” or strInput = “y”) Then
WScript.Echo “Installing updates…”
Set installer = updateSession.CreateUpdateInstaller()
installer.Updates = updatesToInstall
Set installationResult = installer.Install()
‘Output results of install
WScript.Echo “Installation Result: ” & _
WScript.Echo “Reboot Required: ” & _
installationResult.RebootRequired & vbCRLF
WScript.Echo “Listing of updates installed ” & _
“and individual installation results:”
For I = 0 to updatesToInstall.Count – 1
WScript.Echo I + 1 & “> ” & _
updatesToInstall.Item(i).Title & _
“: ” & installationResult.GetUpdateResult(i).ResultCode
End If

Copy the text found in the script, save it as WUA_SearchDownloadInstall.vbs in the system32 folder, and run:

cscript WUA_SearchDownloadInstall.vbs

Very cool indeed.
installing updates core 1
installing updates core 2

Method #3 – Use SCONFIG

As noted on my “Manage Windows Server 2008 R2 Core with SCONFIG” article, SCONFIG is a very nice tool that is now built into R2, that you can use to manage many aspects of the Server Core machine. One of these features is the ability to control the Windows Updates settings, and then use it to download updates and either selectively install them, or install them all at once.
To run SCONFIG simply enter sconfig.cmd in the command prompt window, and press Enter.
First, enable Automatic Updates by typing “5” and pressing Enter.
sconfig updates 1
Type “a” and press Enter.
sconfig updates 2
Next, type “6” to get SCONFIG to search and download missing updates.
sconfig updates 3
You’ll be able to install all missing updates, or just the recommended ones.
sconfig updates 4
sconfig updates 5

Method #4 – Visual Core Configurator 2008

Visual Core Configurator 2008 is a nice GUI-based tool created by Guillermo Musumeci. The tool is free to use, and can be obtained here:
CtxAdmTools – Visual Core Configurator 2008 v1.1
After downloading the tool, either copy the files to the Server Core machine, or if it’s a virtual machine, use the ISO file download instead.
Run the tool.
visual core configurator wu 1
Press on the “Windows Update” icon.
visual core configurator wu 2
Press on the “Search for updates” button.
visual core configurator wu 3
Select the updates you want to download and install, and press on the “Download and Install Updates” button.
visual core configurator wu 4

Method #5 – Install Using Core Configurator 2.0

On of the first 3rd-party GUI tools for Server Core, this tool is free to use, and can be obtained here:
Core Configurator 2.0 (Windows Server 2008 R2)
Run Start_Coreconfig.wsf to start the tool.
coreconfig wu 1
The latest version of Core Configurator needs .NET Framework and PowerShell, which it will automatically install once the tool is executed.
coreconfig wu 2
You will be prompted to join the customer Experience Improvement Program. Accept or decline.
coreconfig wu 3
Press the “Control Panel” button.
coreconfig wu 4
Press the “Windows Updates” button.
coreconfig wu 5
First, you can configure the Auto Updates settings.
coreconfig wu 61
Then, press on the “Check for updates” link and press the “Download updates” button.
coreconfig wu 7
You can now select which updates to install.
coreconfig wu 8
Also remember that there are other 3rd-party update management tools. Do you have feedback about other updating methods you’re using? Please send them over by using the feedback page or by clicking on my profile link.