More updates from Microsoft

Microsoft released a massive update for Windows 8.1 and a firmware update for Surface Pro 3 this week, in addition to the Save-The-World patch for Windows servers described in yesterday’s article.

If you’re a Windows 8.1 user, an odd update has appeared on your computer with no fanfare, listed as an “Optional” update in the Automatic Updates window in Control Panel. It’s the “November 2014 update rollup for Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1, and Windows Server 2012 R2,” and it’s a whopping 723Mb on my Windows 8.1 Pro computers. There’s been nothing to explain why such a large update was released outside of the normal Patch Tuesday schedule.

The words “Update Rollup” are not easy to interpret. In the past, update rollups have compiled all the updates for a period of time so a computer can be brought up to date in a single operation. The November update apparently includes all the updates since April, so that’s part of the story, and it means the update is not very important for people whose computers have been updated regularly – which is almost everyone.

The November update also includes new features and bug fixes that were not previously released. According to the Microsoft description, the update includes:

•  Refreshed language packs

•  Defense-in-depth security and Schannel hardening

•  Support for newer hardware (boot order allowance, SD card improvements, USB debugging)

•  Improved Web Services for Devices (WSD) printer support during network switches

•  Performance and reliability improvements in clustered virtual machine mission-critical environments

•  Improved manageability

•  Additional hardware support (devices that have third-party disk encryption software enabled can now be upgraded to Windows 8.1 more easily)

Nothing on that list seems crucial but clearly the rollup is more than a retread of old material.

I’ve seen scattered reports of problems resulting from attempts to install this update, and it was very slow to download and install on my computers. You might want to wait a couple of weeks to see if Microsoft makes any changes to the update after getting more feedback. I’m not going to approve it for Bruceb Remote Management subscribers yet. When you do get to it, be prepared to spend 30-45 minutes getting it downloaded and installed.

Separately – and again, not on Patch Tuesday for some reason – Microsoft released a firmware update specifically for the Surface Pro 3. The Surface Pro 3 is Microsoft’s cross between a 12” tablet and a full-power laptop, wrapped up in an impossibly thin and light package that includes a lot of latest-and-greatest technology. One of the choices of hardware, a network controller that apparently combines wireless and Bluetooth, has been a persistent problem. Microsoft has released several firmware updates aimed at fixing wireless problems; the one I personally experienced resulted in the wireless adapter disappearing from sight when the Surface comes out of sleep until the system is restarted or the wireless is turned off and on. This week’s update again tries to swat down more wi-fi bugs and addresses other issues, including another one that I’ve run into where the Surface wakes up from sleep while it’s being carried and runs the battery down.

It’s sometimes hard to be sure whether this kind of update is helpful but I’m a bit depressed because after installing it this morning, my Surface has been running hot and quickly sucking the battery dry. Those are the same things it did on the day I pulled it out of the box five months ago until the first firmware update fixed the problem. I’ll be depressed if the ninth firmware update made my Surface sick again. Maybe it’s coincidence. Sigh.

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