Running the Disk Cleanup Tool (cleanmgr.exe) Remotely on Multiple Computers

We recently received a question about how to successfully run the Windows Disk Cleanup Tool remotely using BatchPatch. The user noted that when running cleanmgr.exe in BatchPatch on a target computer, the cleanmgr.exe would stay running indefinitely. This is essentially the same problem that we discuss in numerous places on this website when it comes to silent application deployment. If you execute a remote deployment without specifying the proper silent/quiet installation switch, the installer package attempts to run interactively, which means that it pops up dialog boxes that it expects the user to acknowledge. The problem is that when a deployment runs remotely, it is hidden. No dialog boxes will be seen, and so instead what happens is the deployment appears to hang indefinitely while the package waits for the hidden dialog boxes to be acknowledged.

In the case of cleanmgr.exe, if you run it without any consideration for the fact that it is being run hidden and remotely, its default mode will pop a dialog that will hang indefinitely since it cannot be acknowledged. However, cleanmgr.exe does have a way of executing silently/quietly without any user interaction: The /SAGERUN switch. However, you can’t simply use /SAGERUN without some setup.

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/253597/automating-disk-cleanup-tool-in-windows

In the above link you can see that the cleanmgr.exe tool has two important switches: /SAGESET and /SAGERUN

The way these switches work is you manually run the following command on a particular computer at the cmd prompt:

cleanmgr.exe /SAGESET:123

Note, in the above command I specified the value 123 but you can actually use any integer from 0 to 65535. The number represents a kind of “profile”, for lack of a better term, for the cleanmgr to utilize. What happens when you run the above command is you’ll be presented with the cleanmgr.exe ‘Disk Cleanup Settings’ dialog.

This Disk Cleanup Settings dialog is where you would tick the various selections that you want the tool to clean for you. When you click OK, the tool creates some registry values that contain the settings/selections you chose. Then later if/when you run this command:

cleanmgr.exe /SAGERUN:123

The settings that you previously created for the “123” profile are used for the actual cleanup routine. So if you create multiple cleanup profiles, for example, using commands like these:

cleanmgr.exe /SAGESET:123
cleanmgr.exe /SAGESET:124
cleanmgr.exe /SAGESET:125

You can then later at any time execute a cleanup that specifies one of the previously created profiles:

cleanmgr.exe /SAGERUN:123
cleanmgr.exe /SAGERUN:124
cleanmgr.exe /SAGERUN:125

Now, the tricky part here is that if you want to run the disk cleanup tool on numerous computers, you’re not going to want to log on to each computer manually to run the SAGESET command since that defeats the purpose of using BatchPatch to execute the cleanup on numerous computers without having to log on to each computer. So the trick is that you would need to write a script to create the values that the SAGESET command would create if you were to run it for the desired cleanup operations that you select.

After I ran this command:

cleanmgr.exe /SAGESET:123

…a number of registry entries were made in the following registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\VolumeCaches

I’ve pasted below just a few of the keys/values, but in particular please note the StateFlags0123 REG_DWORD values that exists in the subkeys. The StateFlags0123 values were created when I ran cleanmgr.exe with the /SAGESET:123 switch. /SAGESET:124 would create registry values titled StateFlags0124.

OK, so what you can do to automate everything is run the cleanmgr tool with /SAGESET on a single computer. Then evaluate which registry values it created, and then write a script that will create the same registry values. This way you can then use a BatchPatch deployment to deploy your script, the script will create the desired StateFlagsXXXX registry values on the target computers, execute cleanmgr.exe with the appropriate SAGERUN switch to make use of the StateFlagsXXXX registry values that were set by the script, and then optionally delete the registry values it previously created.

The script below is just a sample. You should modify it for your needs. In particular please note that it actually creates a StateFlags0123 DWORD with value of 2 in *all* of the subkeys under this registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\VolumeCaches

However, this is not necessarily what you want because if you use /SAGESET:123 and you make only particular selections in that settings dialog for what you want cleaned, you’ll see the result is that only some subkeys get the StateFlags0123 DWORD with a value of 2. Other subkeys will have a value of 0. And some subkeys might have no value at all. Refer to my screenshots above of the registry where you can see that of the three subkey DWORDs I showed, only one of them had a value of 2. If you want the cleanmgr.exe to follow your settings created when you used SAGESET, then you need the registry values to match those that were created by the tool when SAGESET was used.

The script below first creates the registry values, then executes cleanmgr.exe with /SAGERUN specifying the value that corresponds to the registry values it previously created, then finally the script removes the registry values.

# Create registry values
$volumeCaches = Get-ChildItem "HKLM:\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\VolumeCaches"
foreach($key in $volumeCaches)
{
    New-ItemProperty -Path "$($key.PSPath)" -Name StateFlags0123 -Value 2 -Type DWORD -Force | Out-Null
}
 
# Execute Disk Cleanup Tool (cleanmgr.exe)
Start-Process -Wait "$env:SystemRoot\System32\cleanmgr.exe" -ArgumentList "/sagerun:123"
 
# Remove the previously created registry values
$volumeCaches = Get-ChildItem "HKLM:\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\VolumeCaches"
foreach($key in $volumeCaches)
{
    Remove-ItemProperty -Path "$($key.PSPath)" -Name StateFlags0123 -Force | Out-Null
}

If you save the above script to “cleanmgr.ps1” you can then deploy it to numerous computers using the BatchPatch deployment feature. See below for my deployment configuration. I have not made any modifications in the “Command to execute.” It’s simply the default commmand that BatchPatch generates when BatchPatch sees that I am deploying a .ps1 file, and that is all that is needed:

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Explanation of ‘Reattach Orphaned Windows Update Process’ Feature

There is a menu item in BatchPatch under ‘Actions > Windows updates > Reattach orphaned Windows Update process‘ that contains the following sub-menu-items:

  • Reattach orphan + do not reboot / shutdown
  • Reattach orphan + reboot if required
  • Reattach orphan + reboot always
  • Reattach orphan + shutdown

What is ‘Reattach orphan’ ?

The ‘Reattach orphan’ actions in BatchPatch are for the times where you might have accidentally (or perhaps intentionally) closed the BatchPatch grid while Windows Update actions were still being executed by BatchPatch on target computers. If you are not using cached mode and you have BatchPatch performing a Windows Update action such as “Download available updates” or “Download and install updates” or “Install downloaded updates” etc on target computers… but then you inadvertently close BatchPatch or (gasp!) BatchPatch happens to crash or your computer freaks out or you reboot it or something similar… the Windows Update process will still run on the target computer(s) until it completes. If this happens to you, you can simply re-launch BatchPatch and use one of the above listed menu items to reattach to the remote orphaned process so that BatchPatch can continue to monitor its progress (assuming it has not completed prior to your attempt to reattach), and so that BatchPatch can initiate the reboot or shutdown, if that was part of your original plan.

Example of ‘Reattach orphan’ usage

For example, let’s say that I executed “Download and install updates + reboot if required” on a remote computer, using BatchPatch. Then I closed BatchPatch while it was still running. At that point I could simply re-launch BatchPatch, enter the target host name into the grid, and then I could select ‘Actions > Windows updates > Reattach orphaned Windows Update process > Reattach orphan + reboot if required‘ to continue things as if I had never closed BatchPatch in the first place. If I don’t re-attach to the orphaned process, it will still finish downloading and installing updates, but the ‘reboot if required’ portion will never occur. If I re-attach to the orphaned process, I can re-attach with any of the reboot options listed at the top of this page.

‘Reattach orphan’ is not designed for usage when BatchPatch’s ‘cached mode’ is enabled

Note, if you have cached mode enabled (this includes both online as well as offline cached mode), things work a bit differently, so re-attach orphan won’t necessarily work the same as when cached mode is disabled. The reason for this is that in normal/default online mode, each Windows Update action is a single task that executes on target computers. If you close BatchPatch and then reattach to an orphaned process that is running on the target computer(s), you essentially get to come back right where you left off. However, when cached mode is enabled each Windows Update action is generally comprised of at least two or three separate individual task actions that BatchPatch strings together automatically in a kind of “macro.” This means that if you use ‘reattach orphan’ when cached mode is enabled, the orphaned task that BatchPatch reattaches to might be task 1 of 3 or task 2 of 3, and not necessarily task 3 of 3. BatchPatch will be able to successfully monitor the particular individual task that was orphaned (assuming it is still running when you attempt to reattach to it), but BatchPatch won’t have awareness of the state of original entire macro that was executed. This means that the individual task that was running on the target computer would be able to complete, but the other components of the macro action that the BatchPatch console would normally be responsible for executing would not occur. Therefore in cases like that you would have to re-execute the cached-mode action from scratch and make sure that you leave the BatchPatch window open until the process completes.

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October 2019 Version of BatchPatch Released

We released a new version of BatchPatch at the end of last week. Below I’ll explain some of the updates that we made.

  • Added Task Scheduler option to ‘Add/subtract days/hours/minutes to/from next scheduled run time

    We’ve had a lot of requests from users who want to more easily be able to modify existing scheduled task run-times on large numbers of hosts, particularly in cases where they simply need to push back their entire maintenance window due to a scheduling change. The challenge previously was that if they had lots of scheduled tasks configured with various different start times, if they then wanted to push the entire maintenance back by and hour or a day or whatever, there was no easy way to modify all of the different start times without dealing with each separate start time individually. Now BatchPatch includes an option that lets you select the desired hosts and just add or subtract days/hours/minutes to them, thereby enabling you to modify them all at once while still preserving the relative differences between each individual start time. You’ll find this option under ‘Actions > Task scheduler > Add/subtract days/hours/minutes to/from next scheduled run time’.

  • Added the following job queue special items:
    *Enable online cached mode (override global setting for this queue only)
    *Enable offline cached mode (override global setting for this queue only)
    *Disable cached mode (override global setting for this queue only)

    Most of our users operate BatchPatch in either the default operating mode or in offline mode. However, we do have some people using online cached mode. At some point in the not too distant past, Microsoft made a change to how the Windows Update Client works that caused the large cumulative monthly update to no longer download successfully when using online cached mode. One workaround for this problem is to use offline cached mode to install the cumulative update each month. However, for online cached mode users this creates more work because then they have to run BatchPatch on each target in both online and offline cached modes in order to get all the updates installed. By adding the ability to change the mode inside of the job queue on a per-target basis, it’s now possible to automate the process of downloading/installing updates using one mode followed by the other mode inside a single job queue.

  • Added ‘Search for only optional software updates‘ to Windows Update settings

    Microsoft made a change not too long ago that enables “seekers” (their term, not ours) to download/install updates that are not otherwise available through normal update channels. These updates would only be available when manually going into the Windows Update control panel on a given computer to click the “Check for updates” button a couple of times. However, the new version of BatchPatch now enables BatchPatch users to download/install these optional “seeker” updates using BatchPatch, if desired. Read more on this topic here. To find these optional “seeker” updates when using BatchPatch, go to ‘Tools > Settings > Windows Update‘ and tick the box for ‘Search for only optional software updates

  • Added recursive file search to BP cache folder methods for downloading and copying files so that users can re-organize previously cached files into subdirectories, if desired

    This is another commonly requested feature by people who use cached mode. A lot of folks want to be able to re-arrange the update files in the cache folder, but up until now if they were to create subfolders to organize the files, BatchPatch wouldn’t find the files because BatchPatch would only look in the defined cache folder and not in any subfolders. However, now if you want to re-arrange the update files in subfolders you may do so without issue. BatchPatch will search for available updates in the top level cache folder as well as all subfolders, recursively.

  • Added the following menu items:
    *Get list of VMs on Hyper-V host + add to grid directly under host
    *Get list of VMs on Hyper-V host + add to grid at bottom

    I know that most of you virtual machine users are probably using VMWare, not Hyper-V. However, for the Hyper-V people out there, you can now instruct BatchPatch to automatically add the guest VMs that reside on a particular VM host to the BatchPatch grid.

To view the complete list of changes/updates/fixes in the October 2019 release, check out the changelog inside the software under ‘Help > Check for updates > View changelog‘.

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BatchPatch Host Status “LED” Indicator Image Icons

GREEN – online

BLUE – online after reboot (BatchPatch does its best to determine if a host was rebooted by counting the number of ping timeouts that are tracked immediately before a ping success. You can modify this setting in ‘Tools > Settings > Ping Failure Threshold‘)

ORANGE – host doesn’t exist / not found

RED – host offline / ping timed out / destination unreachable

YELLOW – BatchPatch is actively checking to see if the host is online

GRAY – no information

LIGHT PINK-GRAY – disabled from host status check thread

Host Status LED Image Usage / Behavior:

There are 2 ways that the orb icons are colored:

  1. The Host Status Check thread can be set to run in the background all the time. You simply left-click on the LED column header. You can also set it to run automatically if you want, in ‘Tools > Settings > Automatically start host status check on startup‘. However, it is not necessary to have it running all the time, unless that is your preference. See number 2.
  2. When an individual host is pinged (or when it’s rebooted and automatically pinged) by BatchPatch, BatchPatch will set the orb icon color based on the same criteria listed above. Personally, I prefer to leave the host status check disabled at all times so that the orb icon coloring is always controlled by each individual row, rather than by the Host Status Check thread, which runs independently of each row, and operates globally.

Miscellaneous:

  • The Host Status Check thread can be disabled by clicking on the orb icon column header. It can also be disabled from starting up when BatchPatch starts by unchecking the Tools > Settings > Automatically start host online/offline status check on startup.
  • You can reset all the colors by middle-clicking on the orb icon column header.
  • You can color an orb blue, manually, by shift-middle clicking an orb icon. This is handy sometimes when you want to indicate a status of “completed” for a given row, so that you know not to go back to it.
  • You can disable an individual row from the Host Status Check thread so that it will be skipped every time the check thread comes around to it, by middle-clicking the orb icon for a given row. You’ll see that the color becomes a light gray-pink.
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How to Automate Monthly Windows Patching and Updates for Numerous Computers

While it’s true that our favorite way to use BatchPatch is for real-time control of the Windows Update process, it also works great for automating Windows updates and everything that goes along with Windows updates like reboots etc. In fact, BatchPatch is arguably one of the most powerful tools available when it comes to automation of complex sequences, especially around patching. Let’s go through some of the ways you can automate tasks with BatchPatch.

Task Scheduler

It goes almost without saying that in BatchPatch you can schedule nearly any task that BatchPatch can run manually. So, for example, if you want to schedule your target computers to apply Windows updates and reboot at 3AM, that’s very simple to do.

  1. Select all the of the desired computers, then click ‘Actions > Task scheduler > Create/modify scheduled task‘.
  2. In the Task Scheduler window select the desired task from the drop-down menu, and then set the run time and click OK.
  3. Lastly, click the small red clock/timer icon in the upper right corner of the main BatchPatch window to enable the scheduler. If the icon has a small red X on it, it’s disabled. When you click to enable it, the red X changes to a green + sign. Scheduled tasks will only be executed if the scheduler has been enabled.

  4. Note, if you want BatchPatch to execute scheduled tasks even when the application is not open, please check out the run-as-a-service feature.

Job Queue

Not only can you set almost any task in BatchPatch to run at a scheduled day/time, but perhaps more powerfully you can also create a queue of actions to execute on each target computer, and you can optionally schedule that queue to run via the task scheduler at the set day/time. One common way that people like to use the job queue is for executing multiple Windows update + reboot cycles in a row for the situations when Windows is a bit annoying and presents a new update to install only after you have installed the existing available updates and rebooted the computer. In this way you can, if you choose, have BatchPatch automatically download and install updates, then reboot, then download and install updates, then reboot, and repeat as many times as desired.

  1. To setup something like this you would select ‘Actions > Job Queue > Create/modify job queue‘. Then in the Job Queue window you can create a job queue that looks like what I have in the screenshot below. Give it a title and use the double-right-arrow button to save it. Once it has been saved, you’ll see it appear in the drop-down menu in the Task Scheduler window, thus enabling you to schedule the job queue to execute at a specific day/time.

Advanced Multi-Row Queue Sequence

Another great option you have in BatchPatch for automation is the ‘Advanced Multi-Row Queue Sequence’. This feature doesn’t limit you to executing a set of actions on a group of target computers. Instead with the advanced sequence you can actually orchestrate an operation that involves multiple dependent systems. So for example you could have target computers A, B, and C execute a certain set of tasks such as the job queue we created above, and you can use the advanced sequence configuration to ensure that target computers C, D, and E do not start executing their job queues until after all of A, B, and C have completed their queues. And mind you, each of these systems can have its own custom job queue. They don’t need to all be running the same queue. So if you have multiple dependent systems that operate together such that only one can be offline at a time or maybe a group of hosts can be offline at one time but certain other hosts must remain online during that same time, you can use the advanced multi-row queue sequence to create an entire patching/updating/rebooting routine that can be launched with just a single click (or through the Task Scheduler) but that executes actions across multiple systems in a specific sequence. Another use case is for virtual machines when you want to have a single click sequence to download and install updates on the guest computers but wait until all guest computers have completed installing updates before you download and install updates plus reboot the virtual host. Those are just a couple of example, but there are many other potential use cases for the advanced multi row queue sequence. We have tutorials for this feature posted at the following links. Once you have a good understanding of how it works you’ll be able to see how it might help you with various tasks that are specific to your environment:

Advanced Multi Row Queue Sequence – Video Tutorial
Advanced Multi Row Queue Sequence
Virtual Machine Guest Host Update And Reboot Sequence Automation
Custom Update And Reboot Sequences For Multiple Computers

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How to Convert HRESULT Decimal (DEC) Values to Hexadecimal (HEX)

How to convert HRESULT decimal values to hexadecimal

In the Windows operating system, when an exception is generated it is delivered with an HRESULT value. The HRESULT value is essentially a “reason code” that describes the underlying cause of the exception. In BatchPatch the HRESULT values are generally included in the text of any error, but HRESULTs will be in decimal format, which is not always optimal. In order to figure out what they mean we sometimes need to convert them to hexadecimal first. It’s especially the case for google searching the HRESULT value. If you enter a DEC HRESULT into google you probably won’t find much, but if you convert it to HEX first and then search the HEX value you’ll end up with more useful results, which in turn means you’ll likely have a much higher degree of success in figuring out what it means. The easiest way to perform the DEC to HEX conversion is with your Windows calculator app. Go to ‘Start > Run‘ and type calc.exe to launch the Windows calculator application. Once it is open, switch to the ‘Programmer’ calculator by clicking the button in the upper left corner of the calculator window, and then choose ‘Programmer’ from the drop-down menu.

In the Programmer calculator select DEC by simply clicking on it. With DEC selected, copy your HRESULT value to the clipboard (CTRL-C), and then paste the value from the clipboard into the calculator (CTRL-V). Yes, you can type it manually instead of using copy/paste, but just note that the HRESULT values are negative integers. Therefore if you type a positive integer into the calculator, the conversion will be incorrect, so you must type the complete HRESULT value with the negative symbol. It’s usually easier to just copy and paste it. Once you’ve done that you can immediately then see the HEX value appear directly above the DEC value in the calculator. In this example I’ve pasted DEC value -2147012867, and we can see the HEX value is 80072EFD.

Once you have the HEX representation of the HRESULT, you can look it up here to see what it means: Windows Update Error Code List. Unfortunately that list isn’t a complete list of every possible HRESULT, so if you don’t find it in that list try entering it into a google search to see what comes up. You may also enter it into the search box in the upper right section of this page as well as in our support forum.

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Clarifying the Confusion Surrounding Optional Updates for “Seekers”

Beginning with Windows 10 and Windows 2019 build 1809, Microsoft began pre-releasing some updates in advance of their formal release date. This has created a fair amount of confusion both for our users as well as for Windows users around the globe, so today I wanted to take a few minutes to try to clarify what’s going on.

As an example let’s look at the July 2019 cumulative update: “2019-07 Cumulative Update for Windows Server 2019 (1809) for x64-based Systems (KB4507469) (2019-07-09) – Security Updates.” This update was released on July 9, 2019, which was the Microsoft Patch Tuesday (second Tuesday) for that month. It was released in the ‘Security Updates’ classification through the normal update release channels: Windows Update, Microsoft Update, and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS). BatchPatch would find/download/install this update, as expected.

KB4507469

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4507469/windows-10-update-kb4507469

If you were to install the update (along with whatever other updates were available at the time), and then if you subsequently used BatchPatch to check for available updates again, you would find no more applicable updates available for download/install. However, if you then waited until July 22, 2019, and on that day or soon after (but prior to August 2019 Patch Tuesday) you visited the Windows Update control panel directly on the target computer and clicked on the ‘Check for updates’ you would notice that Windows would download and install a different cumulative update: “2019-07 Cumulative Update for Windows Server 2019 (1809) for x64-based Systems (KB4505658) (2019-07-22) – Updates.” This July 22 cumulative update was released *NOT* in the ‘Security Updates’ classification but rather in just the ‘Updates’ classification. Furthermore, if you used BatchPatch to scan for updates on that target system, BatchPatch wouldn’t have found the KB4505658 as applicable for installation. So, what’s the deal?


KB4505658

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4505658/windows-10-update-kb4505658

If you scrutinize the links and images above you’ll notice that the ‘Available’ and ‘Next Step’ columns of the charts that Microsoft posted are not the same for the two updates. What Microsoft is doing (and has been doing since the release of build 1809 for Windows 10/2019) is release the normal cumulative security update on Patch Tuesday of each month to all release channels, but then later in the same month they release a new cumulative non-security update, but they do not release it to the the normal release channels. Instead they only release it to those who they consider “Seekers” — people who actively go to the Windows Update control panel on a computer and click on the ‘Check for updates’ button. In this case the way it usually manifests in the GUI is that there are no available updates visible until *after* you click on the ‘Check for updates’ button. Furthermore, it seems to be the case that you need to sometimes actually click on this button more than one time before it triggers the search that finds these optional “Seeker” updates. The content of each of these optional updates gets released as part of the following month’s normal/regular cumulative update, which makes these “Seeker” updates essentially like a “Preview” update. Microsoft does not use the term “Preview” per se, but they are nevertheless a preview of what is to come in the following month’s normal Patch Tuesday update release.

With all that said we do not recommend installing these optional updates. Unless you have a specific need for one of these updates (they may contain a fix for something that you need but they will never contain security/critical updates), we generally do not recommend installing them. We believe that unless you have a specific need for a fix that is included in one of these updates, it usually makes the most sense to wait until the following month when Microsoft moves them from optional status to the normal deployment channels.

At the time of this writing (September 2019) BatchPatch does not provide a facility to find/download/install these optional updates, but in the next release of BatchPatch (coming late 2019) we do expect to include such functionality just so that it’s there if you need/want it.

EDIT: This functionality was added in the October 2019 release of BatchPatch. You can access it under ‘Tools > Settings > Windows Update > Search for only optional software updates’.

In the meantime if you ever have a specific need for one of these updates in between the time that they are released as optional and the time that they are published to the normal release channels (typically just a couple/few weeks later), you would need to either visit each target computer’s Windows Update control panel manually to trigger the download/installation, or you could download the update from the Windows Update catalog for deployment via BatchPatch’s deployment feature. In the next release of BatchPatch you’ll be able to use its normal Windows Update actions with a separate configuration option selected to find the optional “Seeker” updates.

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Remote .MSI (or .MSU / .MSP) Package Deployment to Multiple Target Computers

If you have a .MSI package that you need to deploy to numerous computers, it’s very easy to accomplish this with BatchPatch. The great thing is that not only does it only take a moment to create the deployment, when you are ready to execute the process you can do it for as many target computers as needed, all at the same time.

  1. Start by adding the target computers to your BatchPatch grid. You can drag and drop a list of computers onto the grid to populate it, or you can use one of the ‘Grid > Add hosts‘ options to get the host names into the grid by whichever method works best for you. This includes the ability to synchronize your grid with Active Directory organization units or security groups.

  2. With the computers added to the BatchPatch grid you may now create the deployment. Note you could also create the deployment before adding the computers, and then just save the deployment for later. It doesn’t make a difference. In this case though we’ll highlight the targets in the grid and then click on ‘Actions > Deploy > Create/modify deployment
  3. In the Deployment window you’ll need to click on the browse button (…) to locate the .MSI file on your computer. If the .MSI file is a standalone package that does not require any additional files, then there is no need to tick the checkbox for ‘Copy entire directory contents‘. However, if the .MSI package comes in a folder with various other files that are required by the installer during the installation process, then in order to get all of those files to the target computer, use the ‘Copy entire directory contents‘ checkbox. The idea here is that you’ll put the .MSI file and all required files in a single folder. Select the .MSI in the ‘Exe,msi,cmd,etc‘ field, and then check the ‘Copy entire directory…‘ box. When the deployment is executed BatchPatch will copy the entire folder, including the .MSI file and everything else contained in the same folder. This way all of the files will be available on the target computer when the execution of the installation occurs. If the installer might trigger a restart, consider checking the ‘/norestart‘ checkbox if you need to prevent that from happening. And of course you can certainly always initiate a reboot from within BatchPatch at a later time, if needed or desired.
  4. We’re nearly done already. Pretty quick and simple, right? At this point if you want to save the deployment for future / later usage, just click on the double-arrow ‘>>‘ button. You’ll see an entry appear in the ‘Saved Deployments’ grid on the right side of the window. Alternatively you can choose ‘Execute now‘ which will start the deployment for all of the currently selected computers in the grid. Or you can choose ‘Apply deployment to row(s) without executing‘, which will put the deployment configuration options into the corresponding fields for each selected/highlighted row. This essentially just gives you another way to execute the deployment later or as part of a job queue without saving the deployment to the ‘Saved Deployments’ grid.

    NOTE: We always recommend testing a deployment on a single computer before trying it out on many computers.
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Windows Update: Error 1611/1620: -1073741502. Failure

A BatchPatch user recently reported a new error that we had never encountered before. It comes in two flavors, depending on whether the action was executed with integrated security or alternate logon credentials:

Windows Update: Error 1611: -1073741502. Failure
Windows Update: Error 1620: -1073741502. Failure

You may also see something like this screenshot, likely with a corresponding entry in the Windows application event log, though not necessarily.

Note, to review the event log on the BatchPatch computer click on ‘Start > Run‘ and then type ‘eventvwr‘ without the quotes.

Then in the left-side pane of the Event Viewer window, expand Windows Logs and then select Application to view the application event log.

What does this error mean?

HRESULT -1073741502 C0000142 STATUS_DLL_INIT_FAILED

When it comes to memory allocation in Windows, there is a system heap for all system processes, a desktop heap for all user processes running under a particular interactive logon session, and then there is also non-interactive desktop heap for processes that run in a non-interactive session. The interactive session is the logon session that you are literally interacting with when you are using your computer– the session where you have applications visible in front of you. Non-interactive sessions are for processes that run outside of the interactive session, like the BatchPatch service instance. It may be possible under certain circumstances to exhaust the available heap memory, particularly in a non-interactive session, which subsequently may cause the aforementioned error to occur.

While this error is exceedingly rare (we have only ever had a single report of it), if you encounter this error it is most likely going to be due to a resource allocation limitation on the BatchPatch server at the time of execution. Specifically it’s likely to be caused by not enough allocated non-interactive heap memory. As a consequence of the resource limitation, at least one DLL required for the application (in this case PsExec) to run fails to initialize. It’s likely that you would only ever encounter this error when running BatchPatch as a service because the default interactive heap size is significantly larger than the default non-interactive heap size. The non-interactive heap, which is used by the BatchPatch service instance, is therefore much more likely to run out of space. To be clear, the issue is not likely to be caused by there not being enough physical RAM in the system. Rather, the issue appears to occur because of how Windows is configured by default to allocate the heap memory.

Resolution steps:

There is a registry value that controls how much memory is allocated to each of the three heaps in Windows. More details here: “Out of Memory” error message appears when you have a large number of programs running

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\CurrentControlSet\Control\Session Manager\SubSystems\Windows

The registry value above contains a parameter for SharedSection that will look something like this: SharedSection=1024,20480,768

The numerical values 1024,20480,768 define the memory, in KB, that Windows allocates for the system, desktop, and non-interactive heaps, respectively: SharedSection=[system],[desktop],[non-interactive]

If you encounter the error mentioned in the title of this posting while running BatchPatch as a service, try increasing the size of the non-interactive heap in Windows. I wouldn’t suggest increasing it to an arbitrarily determined very large number. Instead try increasing it enough to resolve the issue without going way overboard. On my system if this were occurring, as a first test I would probably try changing it from 768KB to 2048KB (SharedSection=1024,20480,768 to SharedSection=1024,20480,2048) and then see how it goes.

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Applying Windows Security Updates to Air-Gapped Systems

BatchPatch provides two basic methods for applying updates to so-called “air-gapped” systems that are isolated from the rest of the world. Patching systems in isolated networks has always been both a challenge and a pain because you can’t simply follow your normal/typical procedures to get updates applied to these systems. Air-gapped systems virtually always have stricter security in place and more rules setup to prevent unauthorized access. Additionally, the systems themselves often tend to be the operating backbone of various other high-security systems or services, so they have an especially critical role just by virtue of what they do. The irony here is that the computers on these air-gapped networks are isolated specifically to create and facilitate a higher level of security, but at the same time the fact that they are isolated on a segregated network makes them harder to keep updated… and keeping systems updated is of paramount importance to keeping them as secure as possible. It’s a bit of a catch-22. You isolate the systems to make them harder to penetrate and more secure, but in isolating them you also make them harder to update… but keeping them updated is something that helps keep them secure.

All of the BatchPatch cached mode and offline update options are described in more detail here: Cached Mode and Offline Updates

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In the case where you have to apply Windows security updates to systems that are not connected to the internet or a WSUS your two options for using BatchPatch to complete this task can be broken down as follows:

Method A: Determine which updates are needed by the target computers, and then download just those particular updates on an internet-connected computer. Then transfer the cache of downloaded updates to the offline / air-gapped network. Then apply the updates to the target computers.

Step-by-step tutorial for option A: Patching an air-gapped environment with less stringent security rules

Method B: Without first determining which particular updates are needed by the target computers, use an internet-connected computer to download *all* possible updates that could be needed. Then transfer the cache of downloaded updates to the offline / air-gapped network. Then apply the needed updates to the target computers.

Step-by-step tutorial for option B: Patching an air-gapped environment with strict security rules

Why two different methods?

Method A requires first scanning the offline computers to discover which updates they need installed. When this operation is performed BatchPatch will produce a list of updates and URLs. That list has to then be moved to a computer that has internet access so that BatchPatch can process the list and download all of the needed updates. Once the updates have been downloaded they can then be moved to the offline network for consumption by target computers. The problem with this approach is that in some cases the security rules for the isolated network prevent/disallow people from taking *anything* from the isolated network to a different network, even if it’s just a text file list of updates and URLs. In other cases the rules might allow for such a file to be removed from the offline network, but doing this would require a whole change management process to be initiated, and the bureaucratic overhead of this option might simply make it more of a pain than anyone wants to deal with, especially if it needs to be done on a regular basis every month or two or three.

Method B does not require for any files to be taken from the air-gapped network, so it can be more convenient. However, the downside of method B is that since you don’t determine in advance which updates are needed by the air-gapped systems, you have to download *all* of the possible updates that could be needed. Since this could end up being quite a few updates it will take more time, more bandwidth, and more storage space.

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