In the world of computing, a question that pops up every now and then is, “Can a computer update without an internet connection?”

At first, this question might seem obvious; of course, you’d need a connection, that’s how updates work.

But this isn’t always so and in this article, we’re going to explore why.

So whether you happen to be living in a remote location with limited internet access, dealing with intermittent connectivity issues at home, or just trying to reduce your system’s reliance on the internet for security reasons, understanding the ins and outs of offline updates could be well worth your time.

Can a Computer Update Without Internet?

Yes, a computer can update without an Internet connection. Offline updates, though less common, are possible via external storage devices containing update files downloaded from another Internet-connected device. The process, however, is manual and can be more complex, often involving navigating system settings or using command-line tools.

When you update an app or your computer’s software, things don’t always work as expected and can sometimes end up just plain broken. If this happens, your best option might be to revert back to the version of the software you were using before the update. 

With this in mind, I’d advise also having an older build of the software you are installing saved on disk, just in case the update breaks some stuff and your best option is to revert back to a previous build of the software.

How Do Offline Updates Work?

Offline updates, while sometimes more manual and potentially complex than online updates, operate under a straightforward principle: you’re essentially moving update files from an Internet-connected computer to the one that needs updating, using some form of transferable media. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how that looks:

Identify the Required Updates

The first step is to identify which updates your offline computer requires. This could be system updates, security patches, driver updates, or updates to specific applications. You can usually find this information in the system settings or individual application settings on your computer.

Download the Updates on Another Device

Once you’ve identified the needed updates, you’ll need an Internet-connected computer to download these from the respective software’s official website. Always ensure you’re downloading from trusted sources to avoid security risks. If it’s an operating system update, go to the manufacturer’s official site (like Microsoft for Windows, or Apple for macOS). For software, visit the specific software company’s site.

Transfer Updates to External Storage

After downloading the updates, transfer these files to a portable storage device, such as a USB flash drive or an external hard drive or even your phone. This device will serve as the bridge between the Internet-connected computer and the offline computer.

Apply the Updates on the Offline Computer

Plug the storage device into the offline computer. Locate the update files on the drive and run them. This process might vary depending on the update and the operating system, but typically it involves executing a file that will guide you through the installation process.

Restart the Computer (if required)

Many updates require a system restart to fully apply the changes. Follow the instructions provided with the update, and if a restart is required, make sure to save any open work before proceeding.

The process might vary depending on the operating system and the type of update. Always refer to the official documentation or support channels if you’re uncertain about any steps.

When Might a Computer Need to Update Offline?

There are a variety of scenarios where offline computer updates might become necessary or preferable. Let’s delve into some of these situations:

Limited Internet Access

This is perhaps the most obvious scenario. If you’re in a location with unreliable or non-existent Internet connectivity—such as a remote rural area—an offline update is a practical way to enjoy new features and keep your computer’s software up-to-date.

Bandwidth Constraints

In situations where Internet usage needs to be rationed due to bandwidth limits or costs, downloading large updates can be prohibitive. In these cases, you might opt to download the update files elsewhere—say, at an office or public library—and then apply the updates offline at home.

Network Security Risks

In some high-security environments, computers may be deliberately kept off the Internet to minimize potential cyber threats. Here, offline updates provide a way to keep these “air-gapped” systems up-to-date without exposing them to online risks.


Sometimes, software or hardware issues may prevent a computer from connecting to the Internet. In these cases, an offline update—particularly one that fixes the problem at hand—might be necessary to restore Internet functionality.

Legacy Systems

In some cases, older computers that don’t support the latest Internet protocols or software might need to be updated offline. This could be because they’re unable to access the online update servers, or because their older software versions aren’t compatible with online updates.

Controlling Updates

Some people just prefer to manually control their updates. This could be to avoid potential issues with automatic updates, to control when and how updates are applied, or simply to stay personally informed about what changes are being made to their system.

Updates often break systems, leaving you having to roll back to a previous software build just to get things working again. I wouldn’t blame anyone who’s experienced that to wait and see if others are having issues with an update before installing it themselves.

The Potential Downsides of Updating Your Computer Offline

While offline updates provide a valuable option in certain situations, they also come with several challenges and drawbacks compared to standard online updates. Here are a few key things to consider:

Manual Process

Offline updates require more manual involvement, which can be a hassle for anyone accustomed to automatic updates. This includes identifying the necessary updates, downloading them on a different device, transferring them to the offline device, and then manually installing them.

Related Article: Can a Laptop Do Everything a Desktop Can? (Explained)

Potential for Errors

With increased manual involvement comes the potential for more mistakes. An incorrect update version, a missed update, or a mistake during the installation process can lead to system issues or even render the device unusable.


Offline updates are not as immediate as online updates. The delay between the release of an update and its installation might expose the system to security risks or bugs that the update was designed to address.

Dependency on Another Device

For offline updates, you will need another device with Internet access to download the necessary updates. If such a device isn’t readily available, this can pose a challenge.

Compatibility Issues

Sometimes, certain updates are dependent on others. If you miss one or install them out of order, it can lead to compatibility issues and if your computer isn’t online, this can be a real pain to put right.

Difficulty with Bulk Updates

If multiple updates are needed, managing and installing them all can become a complex and time-consuming task.

Version Tracking

Keeping track of which updates have been installed can become difficult over time, particularly for systems that receive frequent updates.

Tips for Successful Offline Updates

Let’s dive into some useful tips to ensure a smooth and successful offline updating process:

Understand Your System

Before you start, take the time to familiarize yourself with your system. Understand its specifications, installed software, and the current version of the operating system. This knowledge will help you identify the correct updates and avoid compatibility issues. Keep a record of these details for future reference.

Check for Dependencies

Some updates rely on other updates being installed first. Make sure to check if there are any dependencies before proceeding with the installation. Installing updates in the wrong order can lead to software conflicts and system instability.

Download from Official Sources

Always download updates from official, trusted sources—usually the software vendor’s website—to avoid malware, and bloatware like unwanted toolbars or corrupted files. Unofficial sites can carry significant risks, including counterfeit or modified files that can harm your system.

Use Reliable Storage Media

The storage device you use to transfer updates is also crucial. Use reliable, well-functioning USB drives or external hard disks. Ensure they have enough space for updates and, importantly, are free of any malware.

Backup Before Updating

As a precaution, back up important files before applying updates. Although it’s rare, updates can occasionally cause system issues, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Be Patient

Some updates may take a while to install, especially larger ones. Patience is key. Interrupting an update midway can lead to software corruption and other issues.

Track Your Updates

Tracking updates and keeping a log of the ones you’ve installed, including the date and any issues you encountered. This can help you troubleshoot future problems and keep track of your update history.

Plan Your Updates

Updates can sometimes require a system restart or temporarily slow down your system. Plan your updates at a time when you can afford to be without your computer for a bit, like during a lunch break or after work hours.

Stay Informed

Software vendors often release notes with their updates, outlining what changes the update brings and any known issues. It’s worth taking the time to read these so you know what to expect.

Don’t Skip Smaller Updates

Even minor updates can have significant security patches or bug fixes, so don’t skip them. A well-maintained system is a composite of all updates, not just the major ones.

Seek Help if Needed

If you’re unsure about anything, seek help. This could be from the software vendor’s support channels, online forums, or an IT professional. It’s better to ask questions than risk a mistake.