Microsoft Switching to Bite-Sized Windows 8.1 and Server Updates

Unmark those calendars. The days of major patches are gone as Microsoft switches to a diet of smaller, more frequent updates.


The Windows Service Pack era is well and truly over.

Although dubbed "updates" in recent times (e.g., Windows 8.1 Update), Microsoft's habit of packaging new features, enhancements and security patches into major service packs has endured since before the days of its classic Windows XP desktop operating system. Each service pack marked a big milestone and required enterprises to plan ahead or risk software compatibility headaches.

Now, the company is breaking from tradition and switching to a consistent pattern of continual updates, announced Microsoft spokesperson Brandon LeBlanc in an Aug. 5 blog post.

After issuing the Windows 8.1 Update and the Windows Server 2012 R2 Update in April, Microsoft's goal was "to deliver improvements to Windows through regular updates in order to respond more quickly to customer and partner feedback," said LeBlanc. "After all, we already have a regular monthly update process that includes security and non-security updates."

Starting Aug. 12, the company is finally putting its new approach into action with a subtle rebrand of its "Patch Tuesday" ritual. Microsoft typically releases new security patches and bug fixes on Patch Tuesday, typically the second Tuesday of each month.

LeBlanc wrote that instead of "waiting for months and bundling together a bunch of improvements into a larger update as we did for the Windows 8.1 Update, customers can expect that we'll use our already existing monthly update process to deliver more frequent improvements along with the security updates normally provided as part of 'Update Tuesday.'"

Examples of this month's non-security Windows enhancements include new touchpad input settings, Miracast support and streamlined SharePoint Online log-in procedures. "So despite rumors and speculation, we are not planning to deliver a Windows 8.1 'Update 2,'" he added.

For users, the update process will be business as usual. Microsoft plans to "continue to use our normal channels such as Windows Update (WU), Microsoft Update (MU), and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) to deliver updates to Windows," said LeBlanc.

The move is similar to Microsoft's recent practice of releasing a steady stream of updates to Office 365, steadily layering new functionality onto the company's cloud-enabled productivity software suite. Next week, it's Windows' turn.

"With these monthly updates, we continue to refine and improve Windows 8.1 in a more nimble way, creating a richer experience for all Windows customers," said LeBlanc. The same applies to Windows Server 2012 R2.

In a separate blog post from the Windows Server Team, the company referenced its "intent to deliver regular improvements to Windows in order to address feedback quickly while continuing to bring you an enterprise-class platform." The first of the updates under the new system will include security updates and bug fixes aimed at improving the "performance and reliability" of customers' infrastructures. "There are no changes to system APIs, your applications should 'just work' without the need for re-certification or re-validation."

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...