Patch Tuesday: October 2016

It’s the first day of a new era in Windows updates. Windows 7 and 8 now get updates in cumulative rollups, and updates are bundled together.

This month there are ten security bulletins. Each bulletin is associated with one fix for a specific vulnerability in an application, library, or API; or with a bundle of fixes that address several vulnerabilities in Windows.

Each bulletin is associated with at least one Knowledge Base article, and sometimes with additional KB articles that apply to different versions of Windows, Office, .NET, or some other application. Each additional KB article is associated with a version-specific update. There are often two sets of KB articles: one for the security only quality update and one for the security monthly quality update.

All of the security updates this month are available via Microsoft Update. Most are also available from the Microsoft Download Center and the Microsoft Update Catalog (MUC). Downloading updates from the MUC technically requires Internet Explorer, but you can use any other browser by navigating to http://catalog.update.microsoft.com/v7/site/Rss.aspx?q=KBxxxxxxx (replacing KBxxxxxxx with the KB article number).

So far I don’t see anything in these new updates that looks particularly worrisome. Of course there’s always a risk that Microsoft will slip something in that we don’t want, but there’s a non-trivial amount of scrutiny being directed toward Microsoft right now, and I’m confident someone will quickly spot anything untoward.

I was half-expecting the updates to be as poorly documented as Windows 10 updates, but instead the Windows 10 updates are now as well documented as the others. I also thought there would be fewer bundles, and I didn’t expect them to be grouped as sensibly as they are.

The new system is simpler in some ways, and it does at least unify all versions of Windows to some extent, although Windows 10 updates are still treated somewhat differently. It all actually seems less clunky than before, which is a very nice surprise.

Questions remain. It’s unclear how bad updates will be handled. In the past, if an update broke Windows, you could uninstall it. Now, presumably, you’d have to uninstall an entire bundle. Or something. We’ll see how it goes next month when rollups start arriving with multiple months worth of updates.

Update 2016Oct12: Brian Krebs’ take on the new Windows Update system.

About jrivett

Jeff Rivett has worked with and written about computers since the early 1980s. His first computer was an Apple II+, built by his father and heavily customized. Jeff's writing appeared in Computist Magazine in the 1980s, and he created and sold a game utility (Ultimaker 2, reviewed in the December 1983 Washington Apple Pi Journal) to international markets during the same period. Proceeds from writing, software sales, and contract programming gigs paid his way through university, earning him a Bachelor of Science (Computer Science) degree at UWO. Jeff went on to work as a programmer, sysadmin, and manager in various industries. There's more on the About page, and on the Jeff Rivett Consulting site.

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