One of the disadvantages to using an older Microsoft operating system is the need to install several hundred megabytes of patches after the initial OS is loaded. In the past, Microsoft ameliorated this problem by releasing several service packs over the life of the OS, but Windows 7 only ever got one service pack, in 2011. As a result, the last four years of updates and patches has to be run manually.
Now, that’s changing. Microsoft isn’t calling this new “convenience rollup” Windows 7 SP2, but that’s functionally what it provides. The update will also support slipstream installations, meaning you can roll the software updates into a unified installer and bring a system fully up-to-date at base install.
No such update has been announced for Windows 8.1 yet, but Microsoft has also stated that it will begin releasing monthly comprehensive updates for non-security patches. Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows 2008 R2 SP1, Windows Server 2012, and Windows Server 2012 R2 will all begin receiving single updates on a monthly basis (security updates will continue to be released on their own schedule).
Update availability and contents
One significant change going forward is that updates will no longer be available via the Microsoft Download Center. Instead, they’ll use the Microsoft Update Catalog. If you’re wondering what that is, it’s a Windows XP relic that currently depends on Microsoft Internet Explorer and uses ActiveX. Chrome, Firefox, and other third-party browsers can’t access it (Microsoft says they’re working to modernize this).
Yeah. It’s a little… dated-looking is the kind way to put it.
One question we’re certain will come up is whether or not the Windows 7 roll-up includes the various updates and packages designed to push Windows 10. The answer to that, so far as we can tell, is no. There are a number of KB articles associated with the Windows 10 rollout and the telemetry updates to Windows 7, including:
We’ve gone through the included KB files in the Windows 7 convenience rollup and can confirm that the majority of these updates are not included in the software. There are three exceptions: KB3068708, KB3075249, and KB3080149. All three of these updates add additional telemetry tracking to Windows 7 to bring its reports into line with Windows 10, but they don’t add GWX.exe or any of the “Get Windows 10” adds that people have complained about since Microsoft’s latest OS went live.
While I realize that some readers won’t be thrilled with any backported changes from Windows 10 into Windows 7, the truth is, telemetry tracking in Windows 7 can still be disabled; you aren’t forced to participate in the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP). If you’re still doing Windows 7 installations on new hardware, turning off telemetry tracking is a lot less hassle than manually performing multiple patch / reboot cycles — and it takes a lot less time.