The company bent this rule when it began packaging Windows 10 updates as single-shot cumulative downloads, and now it’s apparently breaking it altogether. The latest Internet Explorer 11 security patch also includes a Windows 10-related download, as spotted by InfoWorld.
For decades, Microsoft has split its patch offerings between security updates, bug fixes, and feature updates. The line between a bug fix and a feature update has often been blurry, with both being deployed in the same package, but security solutions have always been sandboxed and distributed as their own event.
This isn’t exactly a breach of a law, but it definitely upsets the apple cart as far as conforming to Microsoft’s historic practices. If you pull the KB entry for the upgrade (KB3146449), it reads: “This update adds functionality to Internet Explorer 11 on some computers that lets users learn about Windows 10 or start an upgrade to Windows 10.”
But, in contrast to what some sites are reporting, it’s not clear what the browser update actually did. I actually installed the patch on my own system, since I’m still running Windows 7, and I have yet to observe any significant difference in the browser.
IE11 and Windows 10
Some sites are reporting that after installing the update, Internet Explorer 11 presents you with a giant “Upgrade” banner after visiting MSN.com. This is true — but it’s also not at all new. I used to use IE11 for troubleshooting and on a few websites where I needed it for compatibility reasons. The giant pop-overs that prompt users to upgrade to Windows 10 started appearing on MSN.com after Windows 10 went live, not as a result of this update. Here’s a screenshot of my pre-patched version of IE11:
The pop-over banner seen above was MSN-specific before the patch and it’s MSN-specific afterwards. If you set your homepage to Google.com, it doesn’t show up. That’s also identical to what the browser did pre-update.
The post-patch screenshot is identical. If you click through to the banner, you get the same options as before. I use the GWX Control Panel Monitor application to prevent W10 from stealth-downloading itself on to my system, and that app has reported no changes to Windows Update. There’s also no new browser options, windows, settings, or information. There’s a “Sponsored” ad exhorting people to upgrade to Windows 10 running on MSN.com, but no evidence that this update stuck it there.
For all that we’ve railed against Microsoft’s rather dubious practices when it comes to updating Windows 10, I can’t find any evidence that this update changed anything of note. Maybe that’s because of the specific characteristics of my system, I honestly can’t tell. Either way, I agree with the sentiment that MS shouldn’t be shipping these kinds of updates as part of security patches. It’s bad practice to mix and match things like this, and it could lead to problems down the line if a hypothetical update caused an additional security flaw. It’s not even clear if Microsoft’s efforts to push more people to Windows 10 are working — as of last week, downloads were stuck in neutral.