How do I... stop Windows XP from nagging me about updates?

Riggy001 decided not to apply Windows XP SP3, but the operating system continued to nag him about it. After much wrangling, Riggy001 was given a procedure that removed that yellow nagging shield in the system tray.

Microsoft's Patch Tuesdays (the second Tuesday of every month) are an important part of every user's regular Windows operating system maintenance. In fact, regular fixes, patches, and updates should be part of every user's regular routine, no matter which operating system they use.

But sometimes Windows XP gets stuck in update mode. It will continue to show the flashing yellow shield in the System Tray suggesting you need to download and install important security patches. Windows may even display a chat bubble reminding you there is a system patch available. This may appear even after you have already applied all the patches -- Windows just doesn't recognize its current status.

Or, as in the case of TechRepublic member Riggy001, Windows may be telling you that SP3 is available, even though you have decided you don't want to apply it right now or in the near future. This is the dilemma Riggy001 described in a TechRepublic Discussion Thread. To relieve this annoyance, Riggy001 called Microsoft support and finagled a procedure to reset the Windows update management system.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.

Resetting Windows

  1. Click Start | Control Panel and then double-click Administrative Tools.
  2. Click on Services to open the dialog box (Figure A).

Figure A

Services dialog box

  1. From the list of services, right-click and then click Stop for the following services:
  • Automatic Updates
  • Background Intelligent Transfer Service
  • Cryptographic Services

  1. Next click Start | My Computer.
  2. Double-click the drive where XP is installed, usually C:\.
  3. Double-click Windows.
  4. Right-click on the file folder SoftwareDistribution and rename it SoftwareDistribution.old.
  5. Next double-click on the System32 file folder.
  6. Right-click on the folder Catroot2 and rename it Catroot2.old.
  7. Right-click on the folder SoftwareDistribution and rename it SoftwareDistribution.old.
  8. Close C:\Windows\System32 explorer window.
  9. Now, go back to the Services folder, right-click and then start the following services:
  • Automatic Updates
  • Background Intelligent Transfer Service (unless it was originally set to manual and you never had to stop the service in the beginning)
  • Cryptographic Services

  1. Close the Services Window and go to the Administrative Tools window (which should still be open).
  2. Click the Back Button on your toolbar to get back to the Control Panel.
  3. Double-click Automatic Updates (Figure B).

Figure B

Automatic Updates

  1. Select "Notify Me but Don't Automatically Download or Install Them" radio button and then click the OK button.
  2. Close the Control Panel and resume computing.

One annoyance gone

This procedure forces Windows to reset the files that track what updates you have installed. This means that the automatic update will stop nagging you to update even though you already have. For Riggy001, this procedure means Windows will stop trying to download and install SP3.

One word of warning though, in general Windows updates are important not only for your security and peace of mind but also for the security of everyone else. I highly recommend that you apply the patches as soon as you can. Our Windows Patch Tuesday feature will keep you informed of just what each patch contains.