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Run WSUS with a SQL Server

We’ve been using Microsoft’s free WSUS solution for almost 2 years at work now. It provides a wonderful way of updating all our computers whilst only needing to download updates once. In the past, we’ve run it off our main server, which also happened to be our domain controller, DNS, DHCP, file server and so on. At the time, I set up WSUS to use the Windows Internal database for its database as we were in a hurry and we didn’t want to tax that server with SQL Server on top of everything. The server is more than capable actually, but is constrained by the fact that it only has 5GB of RAM.

While the configuration worked, one thing became clear quite soon: the WSUS console was painfully slow to use locally or remotely. Updates to the client computers ran very well and at full speed, as these were simply being pushed from a file share over HTTP. The WSUS console relies on a database to keep track of all the updates, client computers, status and information of updates etc, and was being severely hampered by the sluggish Windows Internal Database.

When we set up our virtual server a few weeks ago, one of the first servers we set up was a new Windows 2008 R2 server to serve as both a WSUS and NOD32 anti-virus server. Having decent resources, I installed Microsoft’s free SQL Server 2008 R2 Express Server onto the new server. The Express edition may lack many features compared to the full blown SQL Server, but it’s free and is absolutely perfect for the job of handling WSUS is a small to medium sized environment.

When we set up WSUS on the new server, I noticed a big performance improvement in the console locally and on my computer for remote administration. The WSUS database itself is currently about 1.2GB in size, which is pretty big I guess. The actual size of all the updates is now close to 29GB in size. Luckily, we were smart and first mirrored our old WSUS server so that we could reuse all the updates without needing to download them again from scratch.

In short, I highly recommend using WSUS in combination with SQL Server for vastly improved performance in the management console. Apart from the fact that it is an extra program to install on your server, I cannot think of a reason why you would want to run WSUS with the Windows Internal Database when you have SQL Server Express available for free. The performance increases make it worthwhile in every way.

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