A Quick Look at This Month’s Windows 7/8.1 Servicing Changes

Posted on October 17, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in Windows with 18 Comments

A Quick Look at This Month's Windows 7/8.1 Servicing Changes

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.

updates

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.

 

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9 Comments
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  1. 0 | Reply
    mortarm - 1 month ago

    >...worst part of using Windows 7...the dated Aero Glass.

    I'll take it over the so-called modern look of Windows 10, which is visually more boring than 3.1.

     

  2. 0 | Reply
    jrswarr Alpha Member #114 - 1 month ago

    Just install Windows 10 already.  Other than the folks who have win32 apps or devices that can't run under Windows 10 there is no good reason not to have installed it - especially when it was FREE. Now it is not - so I suppose there'll be a group of folks that'll gripe about that. 

    For those that have to live with Windows 7 for now - I'd be looking for the fixes to get to Windows 10.

  3. 0 | Reply
    Awhispersecho Alpha Member #1649 - 1 month ago

    I have updates for Windows 7 turned completely off. Haven't updated in over a year and have had zero problems. My Windows 8.1 machine was turned off for almost a year because I could not allow it to install Windows 10. I still have it turned off but have occasionally gone in a manual installed a few updates here and there. Until MS stops forcing updates, until they stop trying to sneak the damn telemetry updates in by changing the update # or the category it falls under, and until they figure out how to release updates that don't break something, I won't allow them to install updates on any machine that I actually still have control over.

  4. 0 | Reply
    Goochland Alpha Member #1952 - 1 month ago

    One thing that is not clear to me - cumulative from when?  Starting with updates new this month, then going forward?

    1. 0 | Reply
      StagyarZilDoggo Alpha Member #1793 - 1 month ago
      In reply to Goochland:

      For now, it's cumultive starting with this month. So, not very... yet. But Microsoft said they will start adding previous fixes soon(ish). So we should end up with Win7/8.1 with the Win10 model sooner or later.

    2. 0 | Reply
      Goochland Alpha Member #1952 - 1 month ago

      Thanks!  I have some machines running software that "breaks" with some older patches.  Have those "hidden" for now but have to wonder if they will be included in the cumulative patch down the road.?

    3. 0 | Reply
      jr.flynn Alpha Member #424 - 1 month ago
      In reply to StagyarZilDoggo:

      This is the issue I have with it. In a corporate environment where we have painstakingly had to roll back specific patches on specific systems due to issues we have encountered, a random approach to applying previous patches is going to be a serious problem.

      I would prefer they cut a hard line in the sand, release a new cumulative patch that includes all patches since the last SP, then build the new updates on top of it. At least then we would know when everything is going to break.

    4. 0 | Reply
      StagyarZilDoggo Alpha Member #1793 - 1 month ago
      In reply to jr.flynn:

      I guess it would be possible to use the security-only updates instead. As I understand, these will not be cumulative, so won't ever include the older patches. But these will only be available via WSUS and the WU Catalog, not via Windows Update.

  5. 0 | Reply
    Skolvikings Alpha Member #2561 - 1 month ago

    Windows 10 doesn't seem to have the both the security-only and the security + non-security updates. There's only one update for Windows 10. Windows 8.x/7 do have both updates.