Windows 7 and 8.1 To Follow Windows 10's Model of Monthly Updates

Starting this fall, Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 PCs will switch to a monthly update model that's similar to what Microsoft has implemented with Windows 10.

Microsoft's Monday announcement of the change indicated that this "monthly rollup" model will take effect in October, and will also apply to Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2.

An "update rollup" is just a collection of patches that Microsoft packages as a convenience for organizations, and they've typically been optional to apply. Traditionally, organizations also have had the option to install patches individually, but it seems that this individual patch model will be going away for Microsoft's client and server OSes.

Instead, starting in October, organizations using Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 will get an update model that's much like Windows 10, which already follows the monthly rollup model. With this approach, an October rollup (for instance) will contain all of the fixes for that particular month. However, Microsoft also plans to grow these monthly rollups over time, making them more like cumulative updates. Here's how Microsoft's announcement explained it:

Over time, Windows will also proactively add patches to the Monthly Rollup that have been released in the past. Our goal is eventually to include all of the patches we have shipped in the past since the last baseline, so that the Monthly Rollup becomes fully cumulative and you need only to install the latest single rollup to be up to date.

Microsoft didn't explain the "baseline" term, described above. In Microsoft's old update model, a new baseline was set by a new OS release or a new service pack release. In this case, each monthly update perhaps sets a new baseline.

Microsoft's announcement offered a rationale for the update model change, contending that the old individual patch approach has just led to problems. It resulted in fragmentation problems, "where different PCs could have a different set of updates installed." Consequently, organizations faced "testing complexity." They had problems finding patches. Sometimes, they'd experience "sync and dependency errors." The new model will improve matters by "eliminating update fragmentation," Microsoft's announcement proposed.

Of course, IT pros typically roll back individual Microsoft patches because of problems experienced in their computing environments. It's not clear if they will still have such individual patch control when Microsoft's initiates its new monthly rollup approach.

The Two Update Types
There will be two types of monthly releases for Windows clients and servers, starting in October. There will be a "monthly rollup" and a "security-only update."

The monthly rollup will address "both security issues and reliability issues in a single update." It will get published via Windows Update, Windows Server Update Services, System Center Configuration Manager and the Microsoft Update Catalog.

The security-only update will contain only the "new security patches that are released for that month." It'll be available via Windows Server Update Services, System Center Configuration Manager and the Microsoft Update Catalog. The security-only update is not going to be available through Windows Update. Moreover, organizations won't be able to get security patches individually as "individual patches will no longer be available," Microsoft's announcement indicated.

Organizations looking for individual OS security updates via the Microsoft Download Center likely won't find them there either. Microsoft stopped publishing them there and started housing them instead in the Microsoft Update Catalog. Microsoft noted that policy change back in May when it announced the so-called "convenience rollup," a one-shot cumulative update scheme that sounds similar to the model that Microsoft is planning for October.

Microsoft also is planning to improve the Microsoft Update Catalog by removing its current requirements to use ActiveX and the Internet Explorer browser to access content. The site soon will "work with any browser," Microsoft's announcement indicated.

.NET Framework Updates
Microsoft's new monthly update approach also will be extended to Microsoft's .NET Framework, which is a bundle of code-execution support technologies. A new ".NET Framework monthly rollup," presumably also starting up in October, will include "security and quality updates." Microsoft didn't describe the delivery mechanism, though.

There also will be a .NET Framework "security-only update." It will be available monthly through the Windows Server Update Services and Microsoft Update Catalog.

The .NET Framework updates won't automatically update the version of the framework that's installed, Microsoft indicated. It just patches the version that's already installed.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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