How to Install Windows Updates from MSU and CAB files

You might be familiar with the process of updating your Windows operating system through Windows Update. It is simple and all you need to do is check for updates and then reboot your computer if required. But what if the process gets stuck and there is nothing you can do?

Well, you can manually install the updates using the MSU or CAB standalone files available to download from Microsoft’s website. This will update your OS and save you the hassle of unnecessarily rebooting your computer and troubleshooting the Windows Update process.

This article discusses how you can manually install Windows updates by downloading standalone MSU or CAB files.

What is MSU/CAB file

An MSU file is a package that contains all the information and data needed to successfully execute the update package within itself. The MSU file contains the following:

  • Windows Update metadata – It describes the individual update file within the package.
  • .cab files – Each cab file contains one update.
  • .xml file – This file describes the .msu package.
  • Properties file – This file contains information like KB (update) ID, Package type, the title of the associated article in Microsoft Knowledge Base, etc. These properties will be used by the Windows Update Standalone Installer (WUSA) when the installation begins.

In other words, an MSU file has all the data to check whether the update applies to your PC by checking its metadata. If it does, extract the contents of the .cab files and install them on your PC.

If the update does not apply to your computer, you may see a prompt stating “The update is not applicable to your computer.”

not applicable

A .cab file, also known as a cabinet file, are compressed files containing system drivers or files. As from what we have discussed above, these are already included in a .msu file. This contains the updates that are applicable to your OS. This file type supports lossless data compressions, hence deemed best to deliver standalone software updates.

CAB files are mostly used when installing updates through WSUS, as the files only have the updated content. However, MSU files have made the installation of Windows updates much convenient for individual users.

Microsoft uses both of these formats depending upon the type of release. For example, Microsoft recently released the update KB4601319 in a .cab file. However, the update before that, KB4598291, was released in a .msu file. Hence, Microsoft releases dynamic cumulative updates as CAB files and cumulative updates as MSU files.

IT won’t matter which updates you are installing, as the end result is the same, but the processes to install are different, as you will discover in the article.

How to install Windows updates from MSU files

AN MSU file contains all the metadata required to automatically detect and install the correct update on your PC. Nonetheless, there are still several different ways to install an update using a .msu file.

Install Windows updates from MSU files regularly

If you want to perform a basic installation using an MSU file, all you need to do is execute the file. Double-click the .msu file and they will do the rest for you. If the update is applied to your version of Windows, it will install it automatically.

You may be prompted with a confirmation box. If so, click Yes to install the update.

Install Windows updates from MSU files using Command Prompt

Another way to install Windows updates from an MSU file is through the Command Prompt. It is especially helpful if you want to quietly install it, meaning you do not want any confirmation while doing so. Follow the simple steps below to do so:

  1. First, download the MSU file from Microsoft Update Catalog and place it at any location on your PC.
  2. Now launch Command Prompt with administrative privileges.
  3. Use the following command to execute the MSU package that you have already downloaded:
    wusa.exe Path\UpdateKBName.msu /quiet /norestart
    Replace Path with the complete path for the file location and UpdateKBName with the full name of the MSU file, as in the example below:
    msu wusa

Your installation will now begin without you even noticing, and the computer will not restart unless you manually do it.

Extract .cab files from .msu files

This section illustrates how you can extract the .cab files from MSU files which you can install using the technique given further in the article where we discuss the installation method for CAB files.

This is especially useful if you are unable to install an MSU update, then you can extract the .cab files and still install the update. Follow the steps below to do so:

  1. Initially, create an empty folder at any location of your choosing to which we will later extract the MSU file.
  2. Launch Command Prompt with administrative privileges.
  3. Now use the command below to extract the .msu file which will give you the .cab file separately.
    expand _f:* “PathToMSU\UpdateKBName.msu” PathToEmptyFolder\EmptyFolderName
    In the command above, replace PathToMSU with the complete path to the MSU file you want to extract, UpdateKBName with the name of the MSU update, PathToEmptyFolder with the complete path to where you have created an empty folder in step 1, and finally, EmptyFolderName with the name of that folder. Here is an example:
    msu extracted

As you can see in the image above, 4 files have been extracted which are the same ones as we have discussed earlier in the article. You can now find the extracted files within the folder that you have created.

extracted stuff

How to install Windows updates from CAB files

CAB files might be somewhat complicated for some to install as they cannot be installed simply by executing the package.

Install Windows updates from CAB files using Command Prompt

You can use Command Prompt to install a .cab file containing a Windows update, even the one you may have extracted from a .msu file. Follow the steps below to do so:

  1. Launch the Command Prompt with administrative privileges.
  2. Use the following DISM command to install an update from a CAB file:
    dism /online /add-package /packagepath:""
    Replace PathToCabFile with the complete path and name of the CAB file as in the example below:

Your installation should now begin directly from a .cab file. If there are multiple CAB files then you will need to execute them with the above command individually.

Closing words

As we mentioned earlier, there isn’t any difference in the Windows update regardless of the file type. However, the methods to install the MSU and CAB files are very distinct, as you may have learned in the article above.

Let us know which method you prefer to install your Windows updates with in the comments section below.

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Subhan Zafar
Subhan holds a degree in Electrical Engineering and has completed several systems and network certifications including Huwaei, Cisco and Microsoft certs. He mostly researches and writes about the Windows world.

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