New Year Technology Maintenance

With the start of a new year, this seems like a good time to do some maintenance and updates on the computers and related technology items and devices in your home. If possible, you should also do this in the homes of your immediate relatives and friends.

New Year Technology Maintenance

Many devices do a pretty decent job of automatically pulling down and installing updates by themselves (or they can be configured to do so). Despite this, you probably have a number of devices that need some attention and help.

These might include your various computers, wireless router, NAS, printers, home automation and AV gear, etc..

Windows Computers

For Windows-based computers that are owned/managed by individuals, you should manually check for updates by clicking the “Check for Updates” button. You should also make sure that the “Give me updates for other Microsoft products when I update Windows” option is enabled, under Advanced options. This will give you updates for things like Microsoft Office. This is important to do even if the machine is supposed to automatically check for updates, since many people (especially non-computer savvy people) don’t ever manually check for updates.  Many people do not leave their machines running for extended periods, so it is very common to find them woefully out of date.

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Figure 1: Windows Update Dialog

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Figure 2: Windows Update Advanced Options

 Windows Disk Cleanup

It is also a good idea to run Windows Disk Cleanup, and click on the “Clean up system files” button. This will give you the option of cleaning up Windows Update files and even removing previous versions of Windows (in Windows 10), meaning previous semi-annual update versions. Removing those old versions can often free up 20-40GB of disk space, although you won’t be able to rollback to the old versions anymore. Be warned that running disk cleanup can take quite a bit of time, even with a fast SSD.

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Figure 3: Disk Cleanup Default Dialog

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Figure 4: Disk Cleanup System Files Dialog

After getting Windows updated and running Disk Cleanup, you should make an effort to see if there are any BIOS/firmware or driver updates for each device. Most large hardware vendors have utilities that you can use to automatically look for any updates, and then download and install the updates. You may have to go to the vendor’s support site to download and install the utility (or update an old version of the utility), but once you have done that, getting the latest updates is usually pretty easy.

Updating White Box Machines

If the machine was built from parts or is not from a major vendor, you will probably need to do some research and manual updating, once you figure out what you are dealing with. A couple of good tools to identify the components in a strange computer are CPU-Z and HWiNFO64, which you can have on a USB thumb drive. These will let you identify the motherboard model and BIOS version, along with many other components, such as video cards and storage devices. Most motherboard vendors also have utilities that can be used to check for and install the latest updates for that motherboard.

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Figure 5: CPU-Z Mainboard Tab

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Figure 6: HWiNFO64 System Summary

Many individual components in a system may require updates, such as video cards and storage devices. Once you know what components you are dealing with, you should be able to go to the vendor’s support site and either use a utility to check for and install updates, or simply manually do it yourself. For example, Samsung and Intel have utilities to maintain and update their storage devices and NVidia and AMD have utilities to maintain and update their video cards.

Other Devices

After you have updated all of your computers, you should try to update all your other updateable devices as much as you can. I’m talking about things like routers, managed network switches, printers, home automation gear, AV components and the like. Many devices will have a web interface or downloadable utility program that you can use to check for and install firmware and software updates. Often they will have a built-in method for checking for updates, buried somewhere in the setup or configuration interface. You should make the effort to find whatever method is necessary, and then check for and install updates.

Here are some links for some of the more common brands and devices you may run into.

Firmware Updates

NETGEAR Download Center

Marantz Updates and Upgrades

HP Customer Support

Brother Support and Downloads

Software Updates

Samsung Magician

Intel Solid State Drive Toolbox

Synology Download Center

Sonos Support

Driver Updates

NVidia GeForce Drivers

AMD Radeon Drivers

ASUS Download Center

ASRock Download Center

Gigabyte Download Center

MSI Download Center

Conclusion

Perhaps you are wondering why you should go to this trouble, for yourself and for your family and friends? The main reason is that it will make their devices be more secure and work better.  It will also make it a little more difficult for bad things like viruses, trojans, and worms to spread so quickly in the wild. Since you are likely in the technology field if you are reading this, your friends and family probably rely on you (at least to a certain extent) for their computer and technology support. For example, if you are a DBA, that means you are “in computers”. That means you must know everything there is to know about desktop and network support, right?

SQL Server 2008 R2 SP2 CU9

Microsoft has released SQL Server 2008 R2 SP2 CU9, which is Build 10.50.4295. This CU has eighteen hotfixes in the public fix list. Some of the more important ones are listed below:

FIX: Poor performance when SQL Server 2008 or SQL Server 2008 R2 requires memory from a local node in a NUMA environment

FIX: Nonclustered index corruption may occur when you run a complex UPDATE statement together with a NOLOCK hint against a table in SQL Server 2008 or in SQL Server 2008 R2

FIX: It takes longer than expected to create a filtered statistic after you create a clustered index on a partitioned table in SQL Server 2008 R2

If you are running SQL Server 2008 R2, you need to be on the SP2 branch, since the SP1 branch was retired earlier this year. If you are on SQL Server 2008 R2 SP2, I think you should be planning on getting on the latest CU9 as soon as it makes sense. That does not mean you install it in Production the day it is released, but rather, you have a set procedure and test plan that you follow (just as you would for any other type of change), that you actually execute on a regular basis.

Being proactive with important updates as part of a regular, well planned and tested maintenance procedure will reduce the amount of problems you have with your system over the long term.

Microsoft Update offering SQL Server 2012 SP1 Cumulative Update 2

I was doing some routine maintenance on one of the SQLskills lab servers (a pretty nice Dell PowerEdge R720) on Sunday night when I noticed that Microsoft Update (which is a superset of Windows Update) was offering “Update Rollup for SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1 (KB2790947)” as an Optional Update for a Windows Server 2012 system as shown in Figure 1. This is either a special case or a change in the SQL Server servicing policy from Microsoft. Previously, Microsoft would offer SQL Server Service Packs as Optional Updates from Microsoft Update, but they would not offer Cumulative Updates that way.

CU Offered as an Optional Update

Figure 1: Update Rollup for SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1 (KB2790947) in Microsoft Update

Microsoft Update is an optional component that you have to install on your server or client machine. Once you do that, you will get notifications about certain updates for products like Microsoft Office, Visual Studio, and SQL Server to name a few products that are covered.

When I first saw this optional update, I initially thought it was some sort of special, out-of-band QFE fix for SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1. Then I decided to Bing the KB2790947 article that was referenced (since I don’t memorize KB article numbers like Kimberly L. Tripp does), and I discovered that it was simply SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1 Cumulative Update 2, which was released on January 21, 2013. This is interesting (at least to me), since Microsoft has always made people jump through some hoops to get a Cumulative Update for SQL Server.

Normally, you have to first discover that a new CU has been released, then you have to find the KB article for it, and then “request the hotfix download”, after which you will get a link e-mailed to you that lets you download a self-extracting executable with the CU setup program. This whole process is somewhat obscure and complicated, and many people seem to have problems understanding how it works.

Even though I am a big proponent of staying current with SQL Server Cumulative Updates (which makes me a target for some criticism), I don’t know if I like CUs being offered as Optional Updates in Microsoft Update. I think you should have a good test and deployment plan in place for whenever you install a SQL Server Service Pack or Cumulative Update on a production SQL Server instance. The complexity of your testing and deployment plan will vary based on your resources and organization, but any testing and any specific deployment plan is much better than having someone just “accidentally” deploy a SQL Server Cumulative Update when they decide to install all of their pending Microsoft Updates.

I would much rather install a Service Pack or Cumulative Update “on purpose” during a maintenance window after the organization had gone through the testing and deployment planning process. I am curious about whether this is actually going to be a change in how SQL Server is serviced going forward, or whether this was a one time occurrence?

What do you think about this?

Update: I have heard from a contact at Microsoft about this subject. Here is what they had to say:

“This was a special case.  This was to address the issue described in KB2793634. The WU will offer either CU2 (if the SP1 instance has taken a hotfix or CU to date) or an individual hotfix if not. The latter of course is to not force customers on the CU servicing train just to obtain the update.”

So, my interpretation is that nothing has really changed as far as Microsoft’s servicing policy goes, since this was just a special case to fix the issue described in KB2793634 with either SP1 CU2 or just an individual hotfix, depending on the previous patch level of your machine.