Microsoft

Get a grip on Windows 8 update policies

Greg Shultz take a look at Microsoft's Windows 8 update policies and the naming schema associated with new versions of the operating system.

If you're running Windows 8.1, and you read my previous article, then you already know that you must move up to Windows 8.1 Update if you want to continue to receive any future updates. But what if you're still running Windows 8? Will you have to update to Windows 8.1 and then to Windows 8.1 Update in order to receive future updates? Well, the answer to that question is yes and no. Let's take a closer look Microsoft's Windows 8 update policies.

Windows 8.1 Update

First, we'll examine the Windows 8.1 Update policy. When you select the Details link from the Update and recovery screen, you'll see the notice (Figure A) that includes the following warning:

"You must install Windows 8.1 Update to ensure that your computer can continue to receive future Windows Updates, including security updates."

Figure A

Figure A

If you check the Update details, you'll discover a new twist in Microsoft's Update policy.

If you then click the Support info link, you'll be taken to the Microsoft Knowledge Base article (Figure B) that states:

"All future security and nonsecurity updates for Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1, and Windows Server 2012 R2 require this update to be installed. We recommend that you install this update on your Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1, or Windows Server 2012 R2-based computer in order to receive continued future updates."

Figure B

Figure B

The Knowledge Base article goes into a bit more detail on Microsoft's new update policy.

If we keep digging, we find a Springboard Series Blog post by Brandon LeBlanc, titled "Windows 8.1 Update: WSUS Availability, Extended Deployment Timing," which contains a more detailed note for consumers and the most current information for IT professionals. The majority of the post is geared towards IT pros and talks about how the update will work on Windows Server Update Services (WSUS). The key here is that the deployment timeline (deadline) for the enterprise has been extended from 30 to 120 days. (Enterprise IT pros should also read "Windows 8.1 Update: The IT Pro Perspective.")

Later in the post, LeBlanc addresses the update requirement from the consumer point of view:

"For our consumer customers, the Windows 8.1 Update is a required update to keep Windows 8.1 devices current. It will need to be installed to receive new updates from Windows Update starting on May 13th. The vast majority of these customers already have Automatic Update turned on, so they don't need to be concerned since the update will simply install in the background prior to May 13th. For customers managing updates on their devices manually who haven't installed the Windows 8.1 Update prior to May 13th, moving forward they will only see the option to install the Windows 8.1 Update in Windows Update. No new updates will be visible to them until they install the Windows 8.1 Update. For customers on metered networks, they will get the same experience until they install the Windows 8.1 Update."

The information from this blog indicates that until you install the Windows 8.1 Update, that's all you'll find in Windows Update and the Update and recovery screen (Figure C).

Figure C

Figure C

Until you install it, the Windows 8.1 Update is the only update you'll see in Windows Update/Update and recovery screen.

Windows 8

While Microsoft is essentially forcing Windows 8.1 users to move up to Windows 8.1 Update, they're leaving standard Windows 8 users out of this immediate upgrade requirement. In a recent Microsoft TechNet post, Steve Thomas states:

"For those users who are still using Windows 8 and Windows 2012 (and not Windows 8.1 and Windows 2012 R2) you are unaffected and will continue to receive updates as normal."

However, it's important to note that Microsoft can make this statement at this time, because they already put a time limit on Windows 8's life expectancy back in October of 2013 when Windows 8.1 made its debut. In an article posted on the Microsoft Support site, titled "Windows 8.1 Support Lifecycle Policy," this is spelled out quite clearly:

"The lifecycle of Windows 8.1 will remain under the same lifecycle policy as Windows 8 with support ending 1/10/2023. Windows 8 customers now have two years to move to Windows 8.1 after its General Availability to continue to remain supported under the Windows 8 lifecycle."

However, Microsoft gave Windows 8 users slightly more than two years, extending the end of support date an additional two months and some change. This is discussed in another Microsoft Support site article, titled "Windows 8.1 Support Lifecycle Policy FAQ," which states:

"With the General Availability of Windows 8.1, customers on Windows 8 have 2 years, until January 12, 2016, to move to Windows 8.1 in order to remain supported."

This means that if you decide to stay on Windows 8, you can continue to receive regular updates until early 2016.

The real versions

After tracking down all this information, I began to wonder how Microsoft could justify such a dramatic change in support policy for what, on the surface, appears to simply be a service pack type of update. Well, the answer may be that Microsoft actually considers this to be a more major operating system update than the 8.1 moniker would indicate. You can see this if you take a look at the About Windows dialog boxes for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1/Windows 8.1 Update (Figure D).

Figure D

Figure D

Microsoft actually considers Windows 8.1 to be a more major update than the .1 moniker would indicate.

As you can see, Windows 8 is Version 6.2 and Windows 8.1 is Version 6.3. (Keep in mind that both Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update are listed in the About Windows dialog box as Version 6.3.)

On the surface, a .1 jump in version numbers might not seem to be a big deal. But if we look back on the evolution of the Windows operating system, we'll find that in the recent past, this level of version number increment usually indicated a major operating system upgrade and name change. For example, the jump from Windows 2000 to Window XP (Figure E) was a pretty monumental change in the operating system, yet it only represented a version number increment from 5.0 to 5.1.

Figure E

Figure E

When we went from Windows 2000 to XP, we also went from version 5.0 to 5.1.

The increment from 6.0 to 6.1 was the jump from Windows Vista to Windows 7 (Figure F), which also represented a big operating system change.

Figure F

Figure F

When we went from Windows Vista to Windows 7, we also went from version 6.0 to 6.1.

So, if we jumped from Version 6.2 to Version 6.3, shouldn't we have also seen a new name? Like maybe Windows 9?

The old playbook

Further pondering the naming and version numbers, I began to wonder... if Microsoft had reached back into their early 1990's playbook, would things be less confusing? Back then, we had progressions that went like this:

  • Windows 3.0
  • Windows 3.1
  • Windows (for Workgroups) 3.11

And

  • Windows NT 3.1
  • Windows NT 3.5
  • Windows NT 4.0

If they had used this type of scheme with current Windows operating system, we might have had:

  • Windows 8.0
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 8.11

Or maybe:

  • Windows 8.0
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 8.5

If they had used the late 1990's playbook, which gave us:

  • Windows 95
  • Windows 98
  • Windows 98 Second Edition

We might have had something like this:

  • Windows 8
  • Windows 8 Second Edition
  • Windows 8 Third Edition

If they had used the playbook from the 2000's we might have had something like this:

  • Windows 8
  • Windows 8 SP1
  • Windows 8 SP2

What's your take?

What are your thoughts about Microsoft's Windows 8 update policies and the current naming schema with new versions? Let us know in the discussion thread below.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

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