Microsoft Updates its Updaters

It's an effort to shore up potential security weaknesses.

In an effort to beef up security, Microsoft has updated its Update services.

This update is specifically for users of Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows Server 2012, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. When installed, the update will establish a more secure connection between the client and the Windows Update/Microsoft update service, according to Microsoft's announcement. In addition, it will harden "the infrastructure" used by the client.

The update will install automatically for those individuals or organizations that have their Windows Update/Microsoft Update client set for automatic installations. It's not clear when the update will arrive. Microsoft suggested it will roll out gradually.

Organizations using Windows Server Update Services to control their Windows updates will have to wait for this update to be available as "a standalone package," according to Microsoft's Knowledge Base article (KB 2887535) associated with the update.

Those individuals and organizations using Microsoft's newest flagship operating systems may have already received the update. For instance, Microsoft's April update (KB 2919355) for Windows RT 8.1, Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 already contains the improvements to the Windows Update/Microsoft Update client.

In other update news, Microsoft cleared up a two mysteries this week that may have perplexed IT pros. One of the mysteries concerned Internet Explorer, which IT pros said was popping up an upgrade message in a separate tab after the installation of Microsoft's June update. The other mystery concerned Windows 8.1, which sometimes does not report its software version correctly. Those two issues were recently discussed in the list-serv for IT pros.

IE Welcome Tab Issue
The Internet Explorer upgrade message tab popup is by design, although it's thought by IT pros to be confusing to end users. The tab popup appears after the June update is applied for users of IE 10 on Windows 7, as well as users of IE 9 on Windows 7 or Windows Vista, according to this Microsoft blog post.

The blog post offered a couple of tips on how to suppress this so-called "Welcome tab" in IE. It can be suppressed either by making a change in the Windows Registry or by pushing down a Group Policy preference to end users.

Windows 8.1 Version Reporting
The second mystery concerned Windows 8.1, which sometimes reports that it is "Windows 8." It turns out that Microsoft routinely lies about its Windows versions. Chris Jackson, worldwide lead for application compatibility at Microsoft, explained in a blog post that Microsoft lied about Windows 7, which was actually "Windows 6.1." Windows 8 was actually "Windows 6.2," he added.

Windows 8.1 will tell you that it's running Windows 8.0 unless a certain "manifest" is added.

"Until you put in this manifest, we'll tell you that you're running on Windows 8.0 (6.2). Once you do, we'll stop lying and call ourselves Windows 8.1 (6.3)," Jackson explained.

The lying is intentional and Microsoft was motivated to carry out this practice to address "the overwhelming compatibility impact of apps refusing to run for no valid technical reason," he said. "So, if you're wondering why the version check APIs seem to be a bit flaky, hopefully this explains why," he added.

Jackson contends that apps shouldn't require Windows version checks to run. He didn't explain what compatibility issues Microsoft addresses by "lying" about the Windows versions, though.

About the Author

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

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