Windows OS updates get simpler -- but there's a trade-off

Microsoft's new monthly rollups will make Windows OS updates less hectic. IT won't be able to pick and choose which updates and patches to deploy, however.

Microsoft's new approach to Windows OS updates will reduce IT complexity, but there could be problems when admins can’t block patches they don’t want.

Starting in October, Microsoft will release one bundle of patches and feature updates for Windows 7 and 8.1 each month, in an attempt to help IT shops to stay current with the operating systems. The company currently issues updates and fixes on its monthly Patch Tuesday, but there are additional updates that come out throughout the month. Microsoft will still release additional updates when necessary, but there will be fewer.

The new model is a welcome change because the current process is too complex, said Stephen Monteros, vice president at SIGMAnet, a Microsoft partner in Ontario, Calif.

"Managing updates can be a fulltime job," Monteros said. "Microsoft can't keep doing it this way. Now you'll know when they are coming, and it'll make it easier."

For most businesses, the monthly updates will work fine and will simplify the process
Allen Falcon, CEO, Cumulus Global

But it could also throw a wrench in things for IT. If any part of an update doesn't work well with a company’s existing Windows operating systems, the IT department would have to deal with that issue in each monthly update. Companies can still test these updates before deploying them, but they won't be able to block certain parts.

"There is no way to get around that,” Monteros said. “It's going to be a big issue at the start."

There are other changes as well. The monthly rollups will include all updates from prior months, which is not the case in today's model.  This approach makes it easier for organizations to stay current and ensure they didn't miss any previous updates or patches, said Patrick Moorhead, president of research firm Moor Insights and Strategy in Austin, Texas.

Security-only Windows OS updates

Also new in October is the security-only monthly update, which combines all the new security patches, plus those from prior months. Organizations will no longer be able to download individual security patches.

"For most businesses, the monthly updates will work fine and will simplify the process," said Allen Falcon, CEO of Cumulus Global, a Microsoft partner in Westborough, Mass. "Microsoft is lowering the complexity of the monthly updates."

In the IT department at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Fla., there are concerns about how IT will be able to control the new Windows OS updates, CTO Mehran Basiratmand said. He hopes the third-party patch management software the university uses will prevent any problems the monthly updates cause, he said.

Microsoft should also stay consistent with the timing of emergency updates after it detects problems, Monteros said. For example, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update that came out earlier this month disabled PCs’ webcams. Microsoft said it would release a patch to resolve the problem. 

Next Steps

Windows Update for Business: What we know so far

How to change Windows Update settings

What are Windows update rings?

Dig Deeper on Patches, alerts and critical updates