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Windows 8.1 Update on WSUS Resumed; Install Deadline Now Aug. 12 for Orgs

Microsoft today announced that it has resumed distributing its Windows 8.1 Update through Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), and it relaxed a 60-day deadline for organizations to install it.

In addition, Microsoft announced that updates for Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry were available through WSUS today. Originally, Microsoft had released those updates on April 8, but it specifically held up distribution through WSUS because of a software problem. That problem was specific to WSUS version 3.2, particularly when it was configured to use the HTTPS protocol, but not the TLS 1.2 protocol.

A WSUS product team blog post today pointed to a fix for the problem for the WSUS 3.2 systems that were affected.

For unaffected systems, Microsoft is recommending IT pro approvals of the revised updates (KB 2919355), which now have a release date of April 16. The revised updates are arriving to systems with the Windows Update service turned on, and will automatically install if set to do so. However, for those individuals or organizations preferring manual installations or for those who want to perform the installations right away, the updates can be downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center at this page.

New OS Baseline
Microsoft is taking a different approach with the delivery of these operating system updates, which include feature changes to the OS. One change in Microsoft's approach is that the updates are getting pushed through Windows Update service, which is usually reserved for security and nonsecurity patches, not for OS feature changes. Another change with this distribution is that the updates will set a new "baseline" for the OS.

If that baseline doesn't get set by installing this update, future patches for Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry systems will be deemed "not applicable" by the OS and they won't get installed.

In no uncertain terms, Microsoft had previously explained that individuals and organizations using Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2 or Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry had just 30 days to install the updates or they would face not getting future updates after May 13. However, in today's announcement, Microsoft relaxed that upgrade deadline stance, at least for organizations.

Per the announcement, Microsoft is still saying that consumers must upgrade by May 13 or face not getting subsequent upgrades. Organizations, though, now have until August 12 to get that done.

Four-Month Install Window
Microsoft is extending the update deadline from 30 days to 120 days, but only for organizations. Those organizations that fail to install the updates will still get separate security updates, but just throughout the 120-day period and not after the August 12 date, Microsoft's announcement explained:

In order to receive future updates, all customers managing updates using WSUS, Windows Intune, or System Center Configuration Manager have until August 12th to apply the new updates. For those that decide to defer installation, separate security updates will be published during the 120-day window.

This new 120-day policy for organizations to install updates arose from Microsoft's work in "monitoring the release," according to the announcement. Microsoft also indicated that it listened to feedback from its enterprise customers in setting the new policy.

However, organizations may not have had much time to get acclimated even to the now "old" policy that was announced on April 8. That 30-day policy for installing the Windows 8.1 Update may have come as a surprise for many organizations because it hadn't been announced before April 8.

Organizations running Windows Server 2012 R2 will be getting a "four-month window" to apply this update, according to a Microsoft Windows Server team blog post:

This (Windows Server 2012 R2 Update release) provides a four-month window to deploy the update as appropriate to your organization. Any security updates during this four-month window can be applied to servers without requiring the full update to be installed. 

Microsoft of late has been experimenting with a faster software release cadence. It has switched to possible yearly OS releases instead of once every three years. That organization change of pace at Microsoft was publicized briefly back in June, but the fine details always have been lacking. It seems that Microsoft is still trying to nail those details down, even as its customers react to the new software release pace.

About the Author

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

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