Windows Update - Why 3 am? & Help! I can't update anymore!

By default, Windows XP downloads and installs updates from Windows Update nightly at 3 a.m; why did Microsoft choose 3 a.m.?  I mean, the average user does not have their computer on that that time of day so it seems a rather bizarre default setting to to choose to me.  The reason I am blogging about this 'issue' is because the other day my brother left his XP computer on overnight because he was converting a 500GB FAT32 drive to NTFS.  At 3am, the patches downloaded, installed and then rebooted his computer even though he had a rather important process running; luckily his convert process had finished so his drive was alright.  However, it could have been much worse for him had the process been terminated halfway though.


Anyway, without forewarning, the Microsoft people who look after our update servers decided to (*internally* only) redirect my Windows Update for Windows Vista search to our internal servers.  So, when I press the button "Check for updates" from Control Panel the program goes to an internal server rather than the public ones.  I have no problem with that, in fact, I have even implemented the configuration in some client sites myself so I understand the reason behind it.  However, because we were not told about this change, I started to receive the following error when trying to update my work computer:




It took me a while to realise why, and then a little bit longer to work out what to do.  So, if your admin has implemented this change, you can click on the following link in the Windows Update window in order to force Windows Update to use the public servers to check for updates one time only:




Why am I posting this?  Well, as a consultant, I am almost never ever in the office.  Consequently, Windows Update ceased functioning for me because it never found the Microsoft internal servers from my house.  Being a good employee, I like to keep my computer patched so it worried me somewhat that Windows Update had ceased functioning (or perhaps I could say that it was 'off the twig! Kicked the bucket, shuffled off his mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!!' in true Monty Python style :-) ).  I am sure that I am not alone in this situation, therefore, if this happens to you, here is how to keep your computer updated!