Changes have been applied to the Microsoft patching policy for Windows 7 and 8.1. From Tuesday October 11, patches for both operating systems will now be rolled out as cumulative updates. Users will no longer be able to select specific patches that they want to install. Instead, they will only be able to install the full update. It is no longer possible to split updates into smaller parts. Microsoft has also confirmed that updates for internet Explorer 11 will also be included in the cumulative updates.
In a recent post, Microsoft has explained there will now be three updates issued each month for Windows 7 and 8.1. A security-only quality update and a security monthly quality rollup will be released on the second Tuesday of the month (Patch Tuesday). On the third Tuesday of the month, Microsoft will release a “Preview Rollup” which will contain early versions of the updates scheduled to be released on Patch Tuesday the following month.
The new Microsoft patching policy brings Windows 7 and 8.1 in line with Windows 10, which has always been updated using cumulative patches. However, the decision to change the patching policy on older Windows versions has made many system administrators nervous. Previous patches could be tested prior to installation, with IT administrators only choosing those updates that could be installed without causing problems.
Now, the all or nothing approach means that Windows 7 and 8.1 users only have the choice of accepting the entire bundle of updates or rejecting the lot. If there is a problem with one element of the bundle, potentially important updates will have to be rejected. This could result in businesses avoiding installing critical updates, which could leave them vulnerable to cyberattacks.
Microsoft has defended the move saying the new patch policy will result in a reduced administrative overhead and will allow higher quality updates to be issued. It will also reduce fragmentation – where different computers have different updates applied – which can lead to multiple problems being experienced.
The need to install cumulative updates put many businesses off upgrading to Windows 10. Now that the same Microsoft patch policy has been applied to Windows 8.1 and Windows 7, that final barrier no longer exists. This suggests that Microsoft is using the change to its patch policy to encourage businesses to upgrade to Windows 10.