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Google Updater is probably the only application from Google that does not have a face and is also not in your face. Because it runs periodically in the background.

Google Updater is a part of the Google Pack (Google’s own apps and a few third party tools like Firefox, Norton Security Scan etc.). Google Updater is the small itsy bitsy “installer” that downloads and installs the software. But its brevity goes beyond that as it also monitors the apps for updates and manages their run. In short, it’s a meta-installer and auto-updater.

The two hitches “¦

Being a package management app also means that Google Updater continues to run behind the scenes though in the new version it is controlled by the Windows Task Manager to run once every hour. You can see it running in the background by doing a Ctrl + Alt + Del and going down the Task Manager entries. Some users feel that apps should give the option of self-timed updates rather than the auto-updater butting in. (It is especially annoying when the firewall catches it while auto-updating). Also, a separate service running in the computer (and consuming resources) for update checking is the exception rather than the rule.

Then according to Google,

When Google Update communicates with Google servers, it sends IDs of Google Update-managed applications on your computer and general usage information for these applications. Google Update also uses its own, randomly-generated unique ID number to accurately count total users. This information includes version numbers, languages, operating system, and other install or update-related details, such as whether or not the applications have been run. This information is not associated with you or your Google Account. Additional information may be sent if you choose to send your usage statistics for Google Chrome.

It is this point where a lot of brow wrinkling has come about. Though the information is sent using random IDs, any user might feel a bit ill at ease with his usage information being uploaded however benign the intention. While Google has tried to ease the issues by open sourcing the Google Updater code (the Omaha project), a lot of us will still have a go at blocking it.

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The 2 ways to disable Google Updater

A. Remove from startup

  1. Click on Start – Run. Type in msconfig in the Open field and click OK.
  2. The System Configuration Utility opens up. Select the Startup tab. Go down to the GoogleUpdate startup item and deselect it.
  3. Restart the computer.

B. Stop the Google Update service from running

  1. Click on Start – Run. Type in services.msc in the Open field and click OK.
  2. In Services, scroll down to GoogleUpdate Service. Double click on it to open the Properties box (or right click and select Properties).  The Startup Type drop-down lists three options – select Disabled.
  3. Click on Apply and OK.

The 2 ways to manage Google Updater

Manage Updates using the Task Scheduler

Spurred by the concerns of an automatic updater as a background process, Google now has added the option – Let me check for updates myself under the Preferences tab. Also, the Updater runs only periodically as per the Windows Task Scheduler.

To run the task scheduler, click Start – All Programs – Accessories – System Tools – Scheduled Tasks.

The default interval for Updates is to connect to Google’s servers once an hour. It will stop running after it checks for updates. You can change the schedule double clicking on the Google Software Updater and setting a new time in the Schedule Tab.

But as Google says, if the Updater or the Task scheduler is seen to be not working properly then Google Update resumes its automatic behavior. I am also not sure whether a new install of a Google app affect the user set update time.

The Google Updater can also be configured to update either all software in the Google Pack or only software developed by Google. And if you no longer use any Google apps, it uninstalls itself.

Manage Updates using the Group Policy Editor

In mid-May, Google explained how the Google Update could be customized (set update periods or disable it) for enterprise users using the Group Policy Editor (gpedit.msc) using an imported administrative template. Power users can check out the detailed instructions given in the help.

Most software these days feature automatic updates. The need to keep applications updated is vital to plug malware attacks and remove bugs. But many users voice that there is no need to check for updates so frequently. If your voice is one of them then these methods would help in “˜caging the little beast’.

Do you agree with the concerns or do you feel that automatic updates are the way to go? Let us know in the comments.

  1. benphane
    July 12, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Automatic updates would be fine if there was not the significant potential of crippling or crashing a working application or system. Better to be notified and go into a repair with eyes open.

    • Saikat
      July 12, 2009 at 11:49 pm

      Yes, that's the general consensus as I read in all forums and comments. Earlier, I used to get really bugged with Chrome's frequent auto-updates which my firewall used to catch.

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