This year, I’ve revisited an ugly topic—the utter ineptitude of Windows 7 and 8.1 servicing—that I’d hoped to leave in the past. But with two major changes to this process in 2016, the question remains: Has Microsoft finally fixed this?
As a refresher, Microsoft back in May pledged that it would dramatically simplify the servicing of Windows 7 and 8.1. The biggest change was something called the Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Convenience Rollup—what normal people might call “Windows 7 Service Pack 2”—which combines all of the security and non-security fixes that Microsoft has released for Windows 7 since the release of Service Pack 1. But as I found in my own testing, the Convenience Rollup doesn’t solve the central issue with servicing on these older but still ostensibly supported versions of Windows. That is, servicing is still broken and it’s hard not to believe this is done on purpose as an incentive for users to upgrade to Windows 10.
Then, in August, Microsoft pledged again that it would dramatically simplify the servicing of Windows 7 and 8.1. (You seeing the theme here?) This time, it would do so by adopting a simpler servicing model: Staring with last week’s October Patch Tuesday event, Microsoft will release a single Monthly Rollup each month, for both Windows 7 and 8.1, for both security issues and reliability issues.
The best news? Each Monthly Rollup is cumulative, meaning that each will supersede the previous month’s rollup. So theoretically there will always be only one update required to get your Windows install up-to-date. And not 1,173 as it often feels like today.
In truth, it’s a little more complicated than that. Each OS actually gets two sets of updates each month, a monthly update that including both security and non-security updates, and is cumulative. And one or more security-only updates, which are not cumulative. (And as Woody Leonard notes over on InfoWorld, .NET will still be updated separately, with its own combined security/non-security rollup.) So it’s not “simple.” But still, it is simpler.
To see what this looks like in practice, I booted up my first-generation ASUS Ultrabook, which is still running Windows 7, and tortured it—and myself—by installing whatever Windows Updates were available. And while one month is hardly a great indication, I think it’s fair to say that the month-to-month experience hasn’t changed much: It still takes forever to install a handful of updates, especially the updates related to .NET, which apparently some sign from above before they will complete.
And of course, these changes—the Convenience Rollup and the new monthly servicing scheme—won’t help with the initial install experience on Windows 7, in particular. This remains the single worst part of using Windows 7 today. Well, that and the dated Aero Glass look and feel.
And in case it’s not obvious, this is important because Windows 7 is supported through January 14, 2020, and Windows 8.1 is supported even longer, through January 10, 2023. Windows 7 users could be living with this silliness for over three more years.
That’s a hell I don’t care to even contemplate.