IT Pros To Get Visual Studio Administrator Updates This Month

Microsoft soon will let IT pros apply updates to installed Visual Studio 2017 and Visual Studio 2019 products using so-called "administrator updates," according to a Thursday announcement.

The option to use administrator updates will kick off on "patch Tuesday" this month, according to David James, director of engineering for Configuration Manager and Desktop Analytics at Microsoft, in a recent Twitter post. This month's patch Tuesday (also called "update Tuesday") is scheduled to occur on April 13.

James acknowledged that back-and-forth scuffles exist between IT departments and developers when it comes to updating Visual Studio.

"This [control over the dev environment] is a unique tension between end user and IT that doesn't happen in almost any other app," James said, in the Twitter post.

Windows 10-Like Patch Model
Administrator updates appear to be a new scheme for Visual Studio, although they follow a structure that's similar to Windows 10's upgrade and patch model. For instance, IT pros get options to apply security updates, quality updates and feature updates (called "Feature Packs" within Windows Server Update Services) with these Visual Studio administrator updates. IT pros will be able to use Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager or other "standard deployment tools" to set up and apply the updates.  

Administrator updates will be published "via Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and the Microsoft Update Catalog," the announcement explained. However, the updates just point to Microsoft's content delivery network or other Internet-facing update repositories. Organizations that prefer to instead use an internal server to deliver updates can use that approach. It'll work, provided that the client device already connects to that internal server.

The bits that get delivered under the administrator updates approach are just partial ones for use with already installed Visual Studio 2017 and Visual Studio 2019 products. Microsoft doesn't deliver the full product bits with these updates, so it's not possible to use them to do fresh installations of Visual Studio.

Administrator updates will patch Visual Studio installations across certain version ranges. For instance, Visual Studio versions ranging from 16.9.0 to 16.9.4 might get updated to version 16.9.4 by an administrator update. Microsoft shows the version range right in the title of a particular administrator update.

The administrator updates scheme is highly nuanced. Microsoft's announcement included a table breaking down the details.

For instance, administrator security updates don't just contain security fixes. They also contain quality fixes. Microsoft may have taken that approach to avoid an issue seen in Windows 10 patching where organizations applying "security-only" patches had lost out on some important functionality delivered by the quality patches.

All Visual Studio editions get the security updates, according to the table. Just the enterprise-level editions, including Visual Studio Professional and Visual Studio Enterprise, will get the feature updates and quality updates.

WSUS users will have to manually import the feature updates and quality updates, according to Microsoft's description.

Opt In and Opt Out
Administrator updates is definitely an opt-in type of approach. IT pros will have to turn it on for Visual Studio clients. However, developer users of Visual Studio also could block it, if they have the appropriate permissions and know how.

A registry configuration change needs to be performed by IT pros to turn on administrator updates delivery to Visual Studio clients, as described in the announcement. More such details are listed in this Microsoft document.

However, if a developer has administrative rights on the client, they could block administrator updates from occurring by setting a key. Alternatively, developers can set a key that determines the baseline version of Visual Studio to stay at, which could prevent "a higher administrator feature update from applying," the announcement explained.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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