Windows 10 will kill off 'Patch Tuesday' as Microsoft pushes constant stream of updates

With Windows 10, Microsoft could deploy patches as soon as they're ready, rather than wait for the second Tuesday of each month.

Windows 10 will mean the death of Patch Tuesday, Microsoft executives said this week, as Microsoft moves to a steady stream of patches that aren't confined to one particular day.

At the Ignite conference this week, Terry Myerson, Microsoft's executive vice president of operating systems, promised a "steady stream of innovation over time every month." Microsoft will not be delivering updates on a single day of the month, he said, but as Microsoft prepares them and rolls them out.

That could mean, for example, that as Microsoft evaluates and formulates a response to a so-called "zero-day" bug, that the patch could be in users' hands almost as soon as it's ready. (Patch Tuesday typically occurs on the second Tuesday of every month, when Microsoft releases patches for its products.) Myerson promised that Microsoft security researchers are following up on each and every potential security issue that is brought to their attention.

"We all know the most important thing we can do to keep any device secure, or to keep any business secure, is to keep devices up to date with the latest software, including the latest updates," he said.

Why this matters:  Generally speaking, the faster one can respond to a threat, the better--this isn't rocket science. And consumers who want their PCs to be frequently patched can do so, while those who opt for a more conservative approach can choose that route. (I'd also think that so-called "out of band" patches will be pushed even more frequently.) Microsoft has also provided for businesses who worry about new code breaking their business, with both dedicated code branches and Windows Update for Business. This seems like a well-organized hierarchy of threat response.

Conservative, aggressive patching options

Consumers will have the option to sign up for either a "fast ring" of security patches, where security patches are released quickly; or a more conservative "slow ring." That's the same approach Microsoft has used for its Windows 10 developer builds, which will continue even after Windows 10 is released. But whether there will be separate fast and slow rings for non-security patches, as well as new builds, is unclear.

Myerson didn't reveal how quickly the "fast" and "slow" rings would deploy their patches. In the Windows Insider program that governs Windows 10, "fast" builds are pushed out about every two weeks, while "slow" builds get released about once a month. It's unclear whether that timetable would be accelerated where security-related patches are concerned.

The concern, of course, is that a patch may get pushed to consumers before it's properly tested. Last August, for example, Microsoft had to pull back its August Windows update after users reported crashes. It's a dilemma Microsoft and its users will perch on the horns of: either users wait to install patches and leave themselves at risk, or install a patch quickly and risk introducing errors. The latter route seems the most unlikely to occur, but there's still some cause for concern.

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