Choose a Management Style

Applies To: Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2003 R2, Windows Server 2003 with SP1, Windows Server 2003 with SP2, Windows Server Update Services

WSUS supports deployments in both central and distributed management models. These management models enable you to manage your update distribution solution in whatever way makes the most sense for your organization. The following sections feature the same organization, using both management models to stress the differences between the two. You do not have to use a single management model throughout your organization. It is perfectly acceptable for a single organization to have a centrally managed WSUS deployment serving some computers, and one or more independently managed WSUS deployments serving other computers.


You cannot import updates to a server that is being centrally managed. WSUS servers on disconnected networks are always autonomously managed.

Centralized Management

Centrally managed WSUS servers utilize the replica server role. The replica server role features a single administered server and one or more subordinate replicas, as depicted in the "WSUS Centralized Management (Replica Role)" illustration below. The approvals and targeting groups you create on the master server are replicated throughout the entire organization. Remember that computer group membership is not distributed throughout the replica group, only the computer groups themselves. In other words, you always have to load client computers into computer groups.

It is possible that not all the sites in your organization require the same computer groups. The important thing is to create enough computer groups on the administered server to satisfy the needs of the rest of the organization. Computers at different sites can be moved into a group appropriate for the site. Meanwhile, computer groups inappropriate for a particular site simply remain empty. All update approvals, like computer groups, must be created on the master server. You can only add WSUS servers to replica groups during setup. For step-by-step instructions, see Create a Replica Group later in this guide.


If you change language options, Microsoft recommends that you manually synchronize them between the centrally managed WSUS server and its replica servers. This avoids a situation where changing language options on the centrally managed server alone might result in the number of updates that are approved on it not matching the number approved on the replica servers.

Distributed Management

Distributed management offers you full control over approvals and computer groups for the WSUS server, as shown in the "WSUS Distributed Management" illustration below. With the distributed management model, you typically have an administrator at each site. Distributed management is the default installation option for all WSUS installations. You do not have to do anything to enable this mode.