How to automate software updates to remote devices

Brock Bingham candid headshot
Brock Bingham|May 18, 2023
Illustration that shows logo of PDQ Connect
Illustration that shows logo of PDQ Connect

If you asked 100 sysadmins why they joined the IT workforce, you’d receive tons of different responses. Maybe it was their love of technology. Or perhaps they have a passion for problem solving. While I won’t presume to know what every response would be, I can guarantee that not a single person would say they became a sysadmin because they love managing updates.

While patch management is nobody’s idea of a good time, it’s just one of those things that comes with the territory. Thankfully, managing updates doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming, even when managing a fleet of remote devices.

The problem with managing remote device software updates

In the past, I’ve covered how to automate software updates using PDQ Deploy & Inventory. This article is a great resource for administering devices that live on your managed network. However, IT departments are managing more remote devices than ever before, a trend almost guaranteed to increase.

Remote devices are inherently more difficult to manage. Sysadmins have limited control over the infrastructure used by remote devices to connect to company resources. Utilizing a VPN is one way to secure greater control over remote devices, but VPNs have been known to introduce their own issues, including unreliable connectivity.

To truly overcome the hurdles of remote device management, an agent-based solution, like PDQ Connect, is the best option. An agent-based solution provides sysadmins almost the same level of control as a local solution, and the only requirement is a steady internet connection, giving sysadmins a reliable system to manage remote devices and their patching requirements.

How to automate remote device software updates with PDQ Connect

Automating software updates for your remote devices with PDQ Connect is incredibly simple. However, the process varies slightly if your organization doesn’t have access to prebuilt groups.

Prebuilt groups are a newer feature in PDQ Connect, and they haven’t rolled out to all instances of Connect yet. If you don’t currently have access to prebuilt groups, don’t worry. I’ll show you how to build your own groups using just a couple of filters in PDQ Connect.

Creating custom groups in PDQ Connect

Creating custom groups in PDQ Connect is easy and usually only involves adding a couple of filters. For this example, we’ll create a custom group that identifies computers running old versions of PowerShell 7-x64.

  1. In PDQ Connect, ensure the Devices tab is selected, and click Create group.

    Creating a group in PDQ Connect.

  2. Add the filter Where | Software | Name | contains | PowerShell 7-x64.

  3. Click Add filter, then set the additional filter to AND | Software | Version | is less than | $(AppVerPowerShell7).

    Add filters to the group in PDQ Connect.

  4. Click Save as group.

  5. Name the group PowerShell 7-x64 (Old), then click Save.

This new group should contain all endpoints with an old version of PowerShell 7-x64 installed. In my instance of Connect, I have three devices that match this group’s filters.

Inspect the results of the new group in PDQ Connect.

It’s important to note that this group does not contain computers that don’t have PowerShell 7 installed. Additional filters would be necessary to include devices missing PowerShell 7.

Creating automations in PDQ Connect

With our group created, we’re now ready to configure an automated deployment. Setting up automations in PDQ Connect is as simple as selecting your packages, targeting your groups, and configuring a schedule. Here’s how it works:

  1. In PDQ Connect, click Automation, then click Create automation.

  2. Add a name to the automation. For this example, I’ll name mine PowerShell 7-x64 Automation.

  3. In the Packages field, search for and add the PowerShell 7 package, and ensure the version is set to Latest.

  4. Select Recurring for the trigger.

  5. Configure your deployment schedule. I’ve set my schedule to repeat every two weeks on Tuesdays.

  6. Add the PowerShell 7-x64 (Old) group we created in the previous section, then click Save to save the new automation.

    Configured automation in PDQ Connect.

Now that we’ve created the automation, the latest version of PowerShell 7 automatically deploys to any workstations that are members of the PowerShell Old group we created. And because PDQ maintains the PowerShell package, it automatically updates when a new version is released, so you can spend more time listening to your favorite PowerShell podcast.

Automation, the key to enjoying patch management

If you ever meet a sysadmin that loves managing patches, it’s probably because they’ve automated the entire process. Nothing is quite as satisfying as automating away your least favorite tasks. If you’ve yet to discover the joy of automation, PDQ Connect can help. Try PDQ Connect for free with a 14-day trial. Your future self will thank you as they enjoy all their free time.

Brock Bingham candid headshot
Brock Bingham

Born in the '80s and raised by his NES, Brock quickly fell in love with everything tech. With over 15 years of IT experience, Brock now enjoys the life of luxury as a renowned tech blogger and receiver of many Dundie Awards. In his free time, Brock enjoys adventuring with his wife, kids, and dogs, while dreaming of retirement.

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