IT raises eyebrows, as changes to Windows OS updates get underway

The update model Microsoft uses for Windows 10 started last month on Windows 7 and 8.1. Some admins are concerned it takes control out of IT's hands and have noticed issues with the new model.

Windows 7 and 8.1 now update with the same automatic process as Windows 10 does, and it's not a welcome change for some IT pros.

In the new model, launched in October, PCs running Windows 7 or 8.1 receive an update automatically on the second Tuesday of each month. The update consists of new patches and features, in addition to all patches and features from the prior month's update. Before this change, admins controlled when Windows 7 and 8.1 updates installed and could manually search for the latest updates when Microsoft released them. Experts said the new model could help organizations get used to Windows 10's model before moving to the new operating system, but some problems have already popped up.

At Ongweoweh Corp., a pallet and packing management company in Ithaca, N.Y., four of its HP EliteBook 840 laptops froze multiple times a day following the October update. Those Windows 7 PCs did not have any problems prior to the update, said Jim Davies, director of IT.

Admins did a factory reset, which wipes the PC and reconfigures it as if it just came out of the box, and the blue screens went away. The IT department will be on the lookout for any more issues that may occur around the time of monthly Windows OS updates, Davies said.

"We did everything we could think of to fix the problem before we did the [factory reset]," he said. "HP agreed it was a Microsoft update issue, but Microsoft didn't have any answer for it."

IT pros were initially concerned because, if an update includes a patch or feature that caused problems in a prior update, they would have no way to stop it from being installed again with the next automatic update. Each update includes a preview of what will be available in the next month's update, however, allowing admins to test what's to come with their legacy apps.

Some Windows shops said the good outweighs the bad with the new Windows OS updates.

Microsoft wants to create consistency across all models.
Stephen Monterosvice president at SIGMAnet

"I'm always looking for something wrong, and I haven't noticed any major issues on Windows 10 in about nine months," said Dominic Namnath, CIO at Tri-Counties Regional Center, a nonprofit in Santa Barbara, Calif., and an early adopter of Windows 10. "My worry factor for the updates on Windows 7 would be pretty low."

The implementation of the rollup model in Windows 7 and 8.1 could be an effort from Microsoft to get businesses to move to Windows 10. Some organizations that resist Windows 10 adoption are concerned about its new features, including the automatic updates, Namnath said.

If the update process on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 works well, it could help eliminate skepticism of Windows 10, said Stephen Monteros, vice president at SIGMAnet, an IT consultancy in Ontario, Calif.

"Microsoft wants to create consistency across all models," he said. "It is easier to manage one model."

But the model could have the opposite effect -- convincing organizations to stick with Windows 7 or 8.1 if they really like the new process on the older OSes.

"It makes it easier to stay with Windows 7 and 8.1 because it reduces the amount of time to test, deploy and update software," said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, a research firm in Austin, Texas. "Without this, it could take four to eight hours to update a PC from scratch. Many more people can appreciate and benefit from the cumulative rollup."

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