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Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 Users Face New Upgrade Deadlines

Microsoft released updates today to Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2, which would be unsurprising except for some strong language coming from Microsoft, warning of installation deadlines.

In addition, the two updates, which change the functionality of those operating systems, are going to arrive through Microsoft's Windows Update service, which is the service many users turn on to get security updates to their systems. Usually, Windows Update isn't used to install a new OS -- that is "new" in terms of functionality.

Microsoft's announcements of the updates include specific language saying that users won't get future upgrades through Windows Update in May if they fail to install the new updates to their existing Windows 8.1 or Windows Server 2012 systems.

"Failure to install this Update will prevent Windows Update from patching your system with any future updates starting with Updates released in May 2014," Microsoft warned, in a post about the Windows 8.1 Update release.

"We encourage you to apply this update to your Windows Server 2012 R2 systems as soon as possible," a Microsoft blog post advised. "As a reminder, this becomes the new servicing baseline for Windows Server 2012 R2 systems, so next month's security updates (i.e. May "patch Tuesday") will be dependent on Windows Server 2012 R2 Update being installed."

Microsoft's May "patch Tuesday" release of security updates happens on May 13, so that gives Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 users less than five weeks to apply the new updates. A Microsoft spokesperson suggested that those who opt to manually install upgdates would have "30 days" to apply them. If not, future updates would be "not applicable":

Updates (including security updates) starting patch Tuesday in May 2014 and beyond will require this update to be installed. If the Windows 8.1 Update is not installed, those newer updates will be considered "not applicable." Customers' infrastructure will continue to function; however, it should be noted that their Windows 8.1 devices can't consume any further updates until they apply the Update.

The new baselines, update schedules and the delivery of OS updates with functional changes through Windows Update all represent a new trend for Microsoft, according to Wes Miller, an analyst at the Kirkland, Wash.-based Directions on Microsoft independent consultancy.

"There are two security fixes included in the update, which could explain their 'enthusiasm' for promoting it," Miller stated, in an e-mail. "That said, it's definitely a new direction. Frankly, though, Windows 8+ has reimagined many of the standard support and servicing guidelines we've been used to for years."

Organizations typically might have expected to upgrade the underlying Windows OS at earliest once every three years, but that world has changed. Microsoft first gave notice that it was accelerating its software releases back in June. Desktop and server OSes are getting released now at a near yearly pace, although this Windows 8.1 Update is an exception. Windows 8.1 was first released about six months ago.

Organizations that may be scratching their heads about Microsoft's faster release cadence may consider some early advice offered by Gartner Inc. Gartner analyst Michael Silver has said that organizations can "hold up" and stay on Windows 7. They can try to "keep up" with Microsoft's yearly release cycles, in which case they have to also cope with Internet Explorer updates. Lastly, they can just "give up" and turn to using Remote Desktop Services or virtual desktop infrastructure approaches to keep their systems up to date on their own terms.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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