My computer has 504 MB of RAM.
Well, that's better than my cheap old WinXP laptop (384 MB) but still pretty underpowered, all things considered.
Truth be told, your best option (for now) will be found in this post of mine in a related & recent thread:
Once you "flip" your default back to Windows Update, you should see marked improvement (and Microsoft Security Essentials will still auto-update itself).
But you MUST remember to "flip" back to Microsoft Update on or shortly after each month's Patch Tuesday in order for Automatic Updates to offer updates for Office, Silverlight, Windows Live Essentials and/orprogram (not definitions) updates for MSE.
Whaddya think about that?
PS: Yes, Microsoft is aware of the problem, trust me!
Is it possible to schedule when it should run, so that it won't run at critical times?
What anti-virus application or security suite is installed and is your subscription current? What anti-spyware applications (other than Defender)? What third-party firewall (if any)?
Has a(nother) Norton or McAfee application ever been installed on the computer?
Did a Norton or McAfee free-trial come preinstalled on the computer when you bought it? (Doesn't matter if you never used or Activated it.)
Thanks PA Bear. I use MSE, and it's current. No other real time protection.
Microsoft Security Essentials Version: 1.0.1963.0
Antimalware Client Version: 2.1.6805.0
Engine Version: 1.1.6004.0
Antivirus definitions: 1.87.1874.0
Antispyware definitions: 1.87.1874.0
No other firewall.
I had McAfee earlier, but it has been uninstalled for over a year, and remnants cleaned with a McAfee cleaner. These automatic update related slowdowns just started within the last 2 or 3 weeks.
To get around the system slowdowns associated with wuauclt.exe I turn off wuauserv temporarily when I cant afford a system slowdown. But that's a bit of a hassle, and I was hoping I could leave the service on and schedule the client to check for updates at convenient times. Got any other suggestions? Thanks.
Here's a straight-forward answer to your question: Yes, you may schedule Windows Update.
How to schedule Windows Update?
1. Click Start --> All Programs -->Accessories-->System Tools-->Scheduled Tasks.
2. Double-click "Add Scheduled Tasks."
3. Click Next.
4. Find and select Windows update from the list.
5. Select from the "Perform t his task:" portion when or how often would you want Windows Update to run (Daily, Weekly, Monthly, etc).
6. Continue setting it up until it completes.
@jayde: Can we have a KB or MSDN or WinXP Help reference to that, please?
QED: Is WUAUCLT.EXE = Windows Update?
QED: Can you run Automatic Updates as a Scheduled Task?
How to configure and use Automatic Updates in Windows XP
If you choose the Automatic setting, you can "select the day and time for scheduled updates to download and install. You can schedule Automatic Updates for any time of day."
Kinda/sorta: If you select a day and time, that's when Automatic Updates will install updates (assuming the computer's running & connected to the internet) but the installers for the updates can and will be downloaded at any time (assuming the computer's running & connected to the internet).
<edit> When you see WUAUCLT.EXE in Task Manager's Processes tab, Automatic Update is either checking for or downloading updates. </edit>
@LShel42: (Some of my reply to jayde's post was for you, too.)
Is Office, Silverlight or a Windows Live Essentials application installed?
Do you turn off your computer at the end of the day or do you live it running in Standby or Hibernate mode?
Please expand on "periodic near-shutdowns." What happens, when does it happen, what else are you doing when it happens, and what detrimental effects are you seeing when it happens?
Hi PABear. Sorry about the slow response, but I've been out of town, w/o a computer for a few days. I was hoping my system slowdowns would magically end while I was away, but............:-(
To answer your questions.... I have MS Office with Excel, Word and PP Viewer installed. I do not turn off my computer each night. My periodic near shutdowns occur several times a day. These system slowdowns just cause everything to operate in slow motion. Clicking on a link may take 2 minutes to complete instead of the normal 2 seconds. When I've checked task manager during a slowdown, the only system processes I see are wuauclt.exe and very occasionally I have seen msmpeng.exe. To the best of my knowledge I've never seen anything else running. Typically I notice these slowdowns when I'm reading RSS feeds in IE7, but the real killer is when my wife is playing bridge online, and the bridge server kicks her out. This system slowdown behavior is threatening my marriage :-)
By the way, I have my automatic updates set to Notify but do not download or install. Any suggestions for things I can try in order to eliminate these slowdowns?
More diagnostic questions (answer by number in your reply, no need to quote this post):
1. When (approx. date) did you install Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) and was the computer fully-patched at Windows Update at the time?
2. What anti-virus application was installed immediately before you installed MSE, was your subscription still current, and did you uninstall it before you installed MSE?
3. Was the "McAfee cleaner" you referenced in a previous post named the McAfee Consumer Products Removal Tool and did you run it BEFORE you installed your replacement anti-virus application over a year ago?
4. Was your McAfee subscription still current when you uninstalled it over a year ago or had the subscription already expired by then?
5. Has a Norton application ever been installed on the computer?
6. Did a Norton or McAfee free-trial come preinstalled on the computer when you bought it? (Doesn't matter if you never used or Activated it.)
1. Open Internet Explorer (only) to http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com | Select the CUSTOM option and scan | Install any critical security updates offered (e.g., KB2183461; KB981852; KB2160329; KB2286198). If a Root Certificates update is offered, install it to take full advantage of IE7's enhanced security.
NOTE #1: If IE8 offered, do NOT install it! Just hide it ("Don't show me this update again") for the time being.
NOTE #2: KB982167, KB982168, KB982524 and KB982671 are all Optional, non-security updates. If any of these updates are offered, you can hide them, too, without affecting the security of your computer.
NOTE #3: If a definitions update for Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) is offered, you don't have to install it since MSE auto-updates itself at least once every 24 hours anyway.
2. Assuming you were able to install any/all updates still offered, now open Internet Explorer tohttp://support.microsoft.com/kb/971058 & run the Fix It in AGGRESSIVE mode [Trust me] then reboot. 
3. Now monitor your computer's performance for a few days & see if these "system slowdowns" persist (or persist as long/severely as they had been prior to doing the reset).
COMMENT: I find that reading my RSS feeds in IE7 on my fairly-underpowered WinXP laptop can be a real drag on performance so I've gotten into the habit of selectingIE File | Work Offline before I start my reading. YMMV.
 Full Disclosure: Running the Fix It in AGGRESSIVE mode will delete your Update History at Microsoft Update website but not your list of installed updates in Add/Remove Programs.
I could send you a copy of the windowsupdate.log for that time period if would be useful...
No, please don't. I completely understand what's happening (and have seen it myself). Hopefully the ACTIONS I posted in my previous reply will calm things down a bit.
But I still need you to answer all of those questions, too. Thanks & see you tomorrow.
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