St. Bernard Software’s UpdateEXPERT promises to ease Windows administration by automating the process of downloading and deploying updates. If you’re getting tired of trying to keep track of Microsoft service packs, security patches, and other updates, UpdateEXPERT might be just what you need.

UpdateEXPERT scans computers on your network to determine whether they’re up to date on needed patches. From a single interface, you can scan networked computers, view reports on the updates needed on each, and even download and install hotfixes.

UpdateEXPERT is a useful tool that can eliminate many of the hassles associated with keeping Windows applications current and secure.

Installation and setup
UpdateEXPERT’s installation runs without a hitch. After presenting the typical EULA, UpdateEXPERT’s install program displays a readme before the installation is complete. That’s a refreshing change, allowing you to read up on the program before you actually commit yourself to installing it.

UpdateEXPERT also collects user information from the machine, which you can modify as needed, and you can select the location where you want to install the program. The installation takes only a few seconds, and a program shortcut is added to the system tray.

To run UpdateEXPERT, right-click on the system tray icon and select the Run UpdateEXPERT command. The first time you run the program, you’ll have to enter your serial number before you can access any features. UpdateEXPERT’s Managed Machines wizard will then launch to detect the systems installed on your network. Just select the machines for which you want to manage Microsoft updates, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A
Select the machines to manage with UpdateEXPERT.

You can accept the default selection of Manage All Machines or select individual machines or specific network segments. Your license agreement determines how many machines you can manage with the software.

Note that if you don’t have administrative privileges for all of the machines UpdateEXPERT detects, you will be prompted to select the machines or groups to which you do not have administrative access and enter an administrator username and password. This is a nice security feature to prevent the wrong individuals from accessing networked machines.

After you’ve selected the machines to manage, UpdateEXPERT automatically scans them to determine their update status.

Scanning for updates
UpdateEXPERT can manage patches and hotfixes for the following programs:

  • Windows NT4, 2000, and XP
  • Internet Information Services (IIS)
  • Terminal Server
  • SQL Server
  • Exchange Server (and its Outlook client)
  • Internet Explorer
  • Media Player
  • Windows Media Services
  • NetMeeting
  • Microsoft Office

To determine which updates are needed on your networked machines, simply click the Research button on the toolbar. Sort by descending release date to view the latest needed changes. An icon in the far left column indicates whether an update is needed. A green circle indicates that the update is already installed; a gray circle indicates that you need to install the update. Figure B shows how UpdateEXPERT displays the list of needed updates.

Figure B
Color-coded icons denote the status of updates.

When you click on an item, the bottom pane of the UpdateEXPERT window displays a Microsoft knowledge base article that explains the fix, as shown in Figure C. That way, you’ll be fully informed about the update and why you need to install it.

Figure C
UpdateEXPERT displays detailed information from the Microsoft knowledge base on updates for selected items.

Installing updates
UpdateEXPERT makes installing updates easy. Right-clicking on an item displays a pop-up menu you can use to download and install patches, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D
Right-click on an item to download and install it.

If you select Install for a file that hasn’t been downloaded yet, UpdateEXPERT will ask whether you want to download the file on installation. (You can turn this prompt off by selecting Don’t Show Me This Again.)

You can also download files now and install them later. You might want to do this if you have a large number of files to install and don’t want the process to be held up by downloading and installing each file in succession. If you download first, you can schedule the installs for a time that is convenient for you.

UpdateEXPERT’s Component Installation wizard displays information about the machine on which you are installing the selected update and lets you choose whether you want a Quiet Install and whether you want to reboot the machine after the file has been installed (Figure E).

Figure E
You can select from a number of component installation options.

Updating UpdateEXPERT
How does UpdateEXPERT know about the latest Microsoft fixes? The program uses a database that’s maintained by St. Bernard Software to keep itself up to date on the latest releases. You can select whether you want the database to automatically update itself, and you can set how often it checks for new files.

So not only does UpdateEXPERT automate the process of maintaining Microsoft apps, it also automatically updates itself. You can, if you want, deactivate this feature and manually download the files from St. Bernard Software. You might want to do this if firewall settings or other security measures will interfere with UpdateEXPERT’s ability to download files from the Internet. Of course, if you have such measures in place, they may also interfere with UpdateEXPERT’s ability to access Microsoft’s update page as well, so keep that in mind when you install it.

Part of the cost of UpdateEXPERT is a subscription fee for maintaining the program’s database.

A useful tool for Microsoft shops
Overall, UpdateEXPERT is an excellent tool for Windows shops. Since most corporate users use at least some Windows systems, especially on the desktop, UpdateEXPERT can be invaluable for automating the process of keeping your networked machines updated with bug fixes and keeping your network protected with the latest security patches. It might be a bit pricey for small shops, but it performs its function well and could take a lot of the hassle out of chasing down Microsoft service packs and hotfixes.

UpdateEXPERT offers many benefits, including:

  • Eliminating the hassle of managing updates.
  • Keeping the network secure with the latest security fixes.
  • Automating the process of downloading and installing files.
  • Providing links to detailed information about fixes.

If you want to keep your Windows systems up to date with the latest fixes, St. Bernard Software’s UpdateEXPERT can certainly help you do it.