This drives me INSANE with my test bed. I can no longer test against specific patch levels because in order to run Windows Update I need to pass WGA but in order to pass WGA I need to activate Windows.
I, of course, just disable the add-in in order to continue my efforts but it is a load of crap in the end. I'm not proud of how I get the job done but it is all MS has left me with.
I guess I could just activate every test box I build. Yeah, in a week my XP activations would get bumped to phone activation and eventually the activation people would question what was going on. Actually, while I can't find it at the moment, MSDN docs recommend
you not activate if you are using an OS install for testing less than 90 days. That's just peachy if you want an RTM, pure SP1 or SP2 machine. No fully up to date boxes, especially no non-critical patches. Not without activating / passing WGA.
Yes, AU will pull criticals but who wants to wait on AU to pull what you need, not to mention you might only want a certain combo of updates... or non-criticals.
IMO it's another finger from MS.
Not as bad as it sounds, bro.
If you get the MSDN patch updates alerts, you can download the patched separately.
It is not easy, but at our Labs, we use VirtualPC to try to keep the stress level low.