Home > Windows2008R2, Windows2012, Windows2012R2, WSUS > HOWTO: Tweaking WSUS so it only reports on updates you care about

HOWTO: Tweaking WSUS so it only reports on updates you care about

WSUS is a great built in tool for working with Windows Updates, but sometimes it takes a bit of effort to find the best way to use that tool. Here are a few things to help make the system run smoother.

The following assumptions are made:

  • You deploy updates during a Quarterly Outage, every 3 months – eg: March, June, Sept, Dec month end weekend.
  • You must validate the patches in advance, including a DEV and TEST domain or environment.
  • There isn’t enough time from “Patch Tuesday” to deploy in DEV, test for a week or two, deploy in TEST, test for a week or two, then approve for Production – which might only be two weeks from Patch Tuesday
  • To accommodate the above schedule, you then install “Current Month -1” for all updates. Thus in March, you would deploy and approve Dec/Jan/Feb updates, but NOT Mar.
  • This allows you to install in DEV the week after Feb Patch Tuesday. You can then install in TEST two weeks later, or about the beginning of Mar. TEST can then be run for 2-4 weeks depending on Quarterly Outage window, to validate and be certain of updates in Production.
  • It is acceptable for TEST and PRODUCTION to be out of sync for this period. There needs to be a balance between TEST/PRODUCTION being identical and being able to pre-validate updates.

1) Approving Updates

In the WSUS console, click on SERVER -> UPDATES -> ALL UPDATES, and then click in the main window.

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Right click on the headers and choose to show “RELEASE DATE”. Sort by RELEASE DATE.

NOTE: In my example here I’m showing “APPROVAL=DECLINED”. You would be choosing “APPROVAL=UNAPPROVED” but currently I have none to use as an example.

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Sort by the RELEASE DATE column. Remember that as we are in MAR of 2014, we do NOT want to select any ##/03/2014’s as they are “too new”. Select ALL PREVIOUS updates from “Month -1” or 02/2014 in this case. Right click and choose APPROVE.

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You want to click on the parent level and choose APPROVED (which has already been done here, as indicated by the GREEN CHECK that is shaed out). Repeat this but then choose APPLY TO CHILDREN – if this is appropriate for all of your WSUS Groups. In this environment, WSUS is only used for Windows Server OS groups, and they’re grouped by “Automatic”, “Manual”, and “Primary/Secondary” groupings. As such, they all GET the same updates, it’s just to have different schedules and methods for installation. Click OK. A new dialog will pop up as it sets each update to APPROVED and will take some time to complete.

Until you perform this step, you will see the updates in reports showing computers that require the update, but they’re not allowed to install it. Thus, even if you go and perform a manual Windows Update check, you’ll never see the updates to be able to select them. A sample update report would look like:

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The APPROVAL column for the update(s) would say “Not approved”. The STATUS column will know if the system has already downloaded and staged the update.

2) Declining Updates.

The above all seems well enough, except for the non-obvious results. For this month you’ll have Mar/2014 updates not approved and as the months go buy you’ll have downloaded the updates for Apr/May/Jun. Your reports are now going to show that your systems aren’t 100% compliant, even if you install all current updates available. You’ll spin your wheels trying to figure out why WSUS says you have 2 updates outstanding, but the Windows Update client says “no updates found”. This is because WSUS knows about the updates, and will indicate they’re available but not approved. So your system DOES require them, but you haven’t let them off the leash yet. So the report is in fact, valid. But what it’s really showing you is “next time you do updates, you’ll need to install these updates”. That’s great for the week AFTER quarterly outages, but it does nothing to help you DURING or just after the outage to measure success.

To fix this issue, what you want to do is DECLINE the updates.

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Change the APPROVAL drop down to show “ANY EXCEPT DECLINED”, which will not show all previously declined updates. Sort by the RELEASE DATE column. Remember that as we are in MAR of 2014, we DO want to select ONLY ##/03/2014’s as they are “too new” to be Approved Select ALL updates from the last Approved date or 03/2014 in this case. Right click and choose APPROVE. (this is counter-intuitive)

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Choose “NOT APPROVED” (still not intuitive – you’re going to want to try looking for a “DECLINE” option, and it’s not an option – you need “NOT APPROVED”) from the top level drop down. Then click again and choose APPLY TO CHILDREN. Then click OK.

Now when you pull reports on your system, you’ll actually see 100%:

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You now want to keep performing updates on your servers until everything shows 100%. That will then be:

    • All KNOWN updates
    • Including APPROVED, which will actually allow installation of a KNOWN update
    • NOT including DECLINED, which will not show them as “needed” in your reports of % columns.

3) Each month between “now” and “Next Quarterly Update”

This will now make you fine for “Today” assuming today is “March 2014, after Patch Tuesday, but before April 2014, Patch Tuesday”. However, come April/May/June Patch Tuesday, new updates will get downloaded to the WSUS server. For your reports to remain accurate, you’ll need to come into WSUS and set all the new updates to “DECLINED”. Follow the same process you did in Step #2, only of course you’ll see more than just 03/2014 to select. Just select from the first date of ##/03/2014 and go to the bottom and repeat the DECLINE option.

4) NEXT Quarterly Update cycle:

Steps #1 and #2 above assume you have a net-new WSUS installation. If you’ve done this process before, then come Jun/2014 when you need to select Mar/Apr/May months for approval, you’re going to have all of Mar/Apr/May/June of 2014 set as “DECLINED”. You need to now set them to approved, as well as the now downloaded Apr/May.

Similar to Step #3, you’re now going to take all your Mar/Apr/May updates and set them to “APPROVED”. You’ll want to do this immediately following the May Patch Tuesday, as this will then let your reports be accurate to reflect the number of updates and systems required. You can now provide accurate details on how long and how many updates you will need to perform.

5) Just BEFORE NEXT Quarterly Update cycle:

Understandably, you’ll now show accurate reports for May 2014 and you’ll no longer show 100% up to date, as of course you are not. However, as soon as Jun 2014 rolls around, your numbers will be inflated again because of updates that are now known after June’s Patch Tuesday but are not approved. This will, as per Step 2, skew your numbers and prevent you from hitting 100% success in your maintenance window. So ensure you set then all June updates to “DECLINED”.

A general rule of thumb might be that following a Patch Tuesday you should:

  • Go in and APPROVE all previous month updates
  • Go in and DECLINE all current month updates

This would allow non-critical servers that are set to update automatically on some schedule, to keep up to date on a monthly basis vs waiting for quarterly. This provides two benefits:

1) You get the new updates tested (albeit in limited fashion) on existing servers up to 3 months prior to quarterly outages

2) There is far less load and number of systems to be manually or brute force updated during your maintenance window. Less load, means less IOPS on shared storage, which means updates perform quicker, which means you can do more/other maintenance in the same outage window.

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