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Useful SPQuery 3.0 automates hotfixes

Useful SPQuery 3.0 automates hotfixes

As everyone knows, operating systems are far from perfect. Microsoft and Novell constantly release new patches and updates to their operating systems, fixing bugs here and perhaps enhancing security there.

As a network manager, one of the most important tasks you handle with every operating system in the enterprise is making sure the latest patches and updates are installed. While maintaining a Windows NT system, digging through its registry to discover the patches - called hotfixes by Microsoft - that are already loaded can be tricky work.

No matter what a hassle it can be to find out, you need to know which hotfixes are installed in a given system and in which order they are installed. Otherwise, you may accidentally overwrite a newer version of a file with an older version, which can break the operating system.

MTE Software has responded to this need with the latest release of SPQuery, a handy Windows NT utility. Version 3.0 makes locating and installing Windows NT hotfixes a breeze.

A tool for every NT network

SPQuery 3.0 is a great administrative and cost-saving tool for any Windows NT environment.

It quickly determines which hotfixes are installed on a particular system and which are missing. SPQuery 3.0 can then automatically download and install the hotfixes that you still need to load on that system.

The latest version of SPQuery adds support for Service Pack 5, as well as support for the older Service Packs 1 and 2. It also has an improved interface and expanded reporting capabilities.

SPQuery 3.0 runs on Windows NT Server 4.0 and NT Workstation 4.0. It can also work with the remote machines on your network.

Currently, SPQuery 3.0 faces only one competitor, and surprisingly, it is not Microsoft, which does not provide a tool to make the hotfix discovery process easier. Gravity Storm Software offers Service Pack Manager, which costs less than SPQuery 3.0 but has an inferior reporting interface.

Living up to expectations

I tested SPQuery 3.0 on a Windows NT 4.0 workstation. Installing it was very quick and easy: I chose a destination directory and a program folder name, and I was finished. The software's setup program copied the necessary files onto the system, and I was ready to start using it.

First, I used SPQuery 3.0 to enumerate all the machines on my network. In my test environment, I had only four systems: two local Windows NT 4.0 servers, one remote NT server, and one local NT workstation.

SPQuery 3.0 found all four of the machines quickly. It then presented them in the dialog box and ordered them by NT Domain name.

Next, I selected one test machine and queried its registry to discover which hotfixes were already installed. SPQuery 3.0 then presented its findings in an easy-to-read interface on that system's desktop.

The dialogs in the interface showed me which hotfixes were installed and which were missing. SPQuery 3.0 then offered the option of downloading the missing hotfixes and installing them onto the selected machine.

SPQuery 3.0's interface has two basic modes for displaying information: Machine Status and Hotfix Info.

The Machine Status mode displays the systems on your network and their associated hotfix information.

The Hotfix Info mode shows service packs and hotfixes.

In the Hotfix Info mode, I could select a particular hotfix, right-click, and then select Information, pulling up that hotfix's associated Support Online article.

In addition, with a single mouse click, you can perform quick and useful actions with buttons located at the top of the interface screen.

For instance, clicking on the Enumerate button makes SPQuery 3.0 list all the machines on your network. Also, the Download and Install buttons download the selected hotfix and install it on the selected machine. With the Query Machine button, you can select and query a particular system to determine which hotfixes are installed.

Automatic, but awkward

Even though I thought SPQuery 3.0 was a useful tool overall, I found its process of downloading and installing hotfixes tedious. Unfortunately, it is a multi-step linear procedure.

First you download the hotfix, and then you click the Install button to schedule the hotfix's installation. The scheduling requires two reboots of the machine - one to schedule the installation and another to perform the installation.

Furthermore, I could only schedule one hotfix at a time for installation. I found it quicker to use SPQuery 3.0 solely to query systems and download hotfixes. I preferred to then manually perform the hotfix installations, one after the other, rather than use SPQuery to complete the procedure. With this routine, I had to reboot the system only once.

A fixable shortcoming

In my testing, I ran across another shortcoming, but it's one that MTE Software should be able to remedy in Version 4.0. Even though SPQuery 3.0's help file suggests a proper loading order for hotfixes, the software did not seem to ensure that the order was followed.

The order in which hotfixes are installed is sometimes crucial to proper operation, and Microsoft provides the loading sequence to help ensure compliance. I hope MTE Software will take advantage of this information with the next release.

Even though SPQuery 3.0 certainly has a few shortcomings, it nevertheless is a great tool. SPQuery 3.0 will definitely save you and your staff time and money through its ability to automate the process of locating missing hotfixes in machines across your network and downloading and installing them.

If you manage NT systems, I highly recommend taking a close look at SPQuery 3.0.

The bottom line

MTE Software SPQuery 3.0

Summary: This tool helps you determine which Windows NT hotfixes need to be installed on a given NT system. When it discovers any missing hotfixes, it automatically downloads and installs them.

Business Case: SPQuery fits into any size Windows NT network. It can save your IT staff time by automating the previously manual task of detecting missing hotfixes and installing them.

Pros: Easy-to-use interface

Simple hotfix downloading

Supports all Windows NT service packs

Cons:Tedious hotfix installation requires two system reboots per hotfix installationCost: $US189 for a single system installation; $599 for a multi-system installation. Either version will monitor an unlimited number of machines on your network.

Available from: The product can be purchased directly through MTE Software's online facility. Resellers interested in the product should contact Tom Black at tomdb@sunbelt-software.com for information.

Platforms: Windows NT 4.0, Server or Workstation.

MTE Software

http://www.mtesoft.com

(Mark Joseph Edwards is a writer and network consultant for Netropolis Technology Group with more than 17 years experience in the IT industry. He can be reached at mark@ntsecurity.net)


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