Microsoft yesterday threw a bone to Windows 7 users by releasing a cumulative roll-up that collects all the bug fixes from February 2011 to April 2016, making it easier to update a PC running the still-standard OS.
The Redmond, Wash. company has ditched the "service pack" moniker, and so named Tuesday's collection a "convenience rollup update." The label was meaningless, however: The update was identical to a service pack.
"This convenience rollup is intended to make it easy to integrate fixes that were released after SP1 for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2," Microsoft said in a document explaining the update.
"Install this one update, and then you only need new updates released after April 2016," added Nathan Mercer, a senior product marketing manager, in a post to a company blog yesterday.
By using the roll-up, Windows 7 users can skip the tedious process of downloading and installing hundreds of individual updates via Windows Update, or on the business side, through an IT-managed patch system like Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).
IT administrators can also use the roll-up to modify their existing Windows 7 images to produce a more up-to-date image for deploying on new PCs. Instructions on that process can be found on Microsoft's site.
Microsoft did not offer a similar roll-up for Windows 8.1, but promised that it will issue monthly cumulative packages for Windows 7, 8.1, Server 2008 R2 SP1, Server 2012 and Server 2012 R2. The first such roll-up for Windows 8.1, which will likely appear in June, would, by definition, include all the individual fixes released since that edition's October 2013 debut.
"These fixes will be available through Windows Update, WSUS, and SCCM as well as the Microsoft Update catalog," said Mercer. SCCM (System Center Configuration Manager) is a management platform that Microsoft pitches to large organizations.
The Windows 7 roll-up, however, is available only from the Update Catalog, a site that requires Internet Explorer 6 (IE6) or later, and is, to put it kindly, a mess. Previously, roll-ups and service packs have also been published to Microsoft's download center and/or to Windows Update.
The restriction to the Update Catalog was part of yet another Microsoft initiative, one that Mercer claimed was to simplify access to updates and bug fixes. Most users, of course, rely on Windows Update, WSUS, or other patch management platforms, but some -- who want to manually download only those fixes they believe are safe and suitable -- have turned to the download center. That will not be an option.
Mercer said that Microsoft would rework the Update Catalog so that customers could use browsers other than IE to access the roll-ups and other fixes. "Later this summer, we will be updating the site to eliminate the ActiveX control in order to support other browsers," he said.
Microsoft has been beating the Windows 10 drum almost exclusively since that operating system's launch last July, virtually ignoring 10's predecessors. The cumulative roll-up, while certainly a convenience to Windows 7 users, also plays to Microsoft's pitch to upgrade to Windows 10.
Although the Get Windows 10 (GWX) app -- which Microsoft seeded to millions of PCs last year, and has repeatedly refreshed and re-issued to Windows 7 and 8.1 devices since then -- was not listed in the enormous manifest of fixes (download .csv file) included in the roll-up, Microsoft will benefit from a larger number of up-to-date Windows 7 PCs. The more machines with a current Windows 7 configuration, the more that will be able to process a Windows 10 upgrade without significant problems.
The Windows 7 roll-up can be downloaded from the Update Catalog. Again, IE6 or later is required to access the online catalog.