Windows 10 update KB 3140743 brings few fixes but some significant changes

Win10 version 1511 build 10586.122 plugs some holes, but more important are the improvements Microsoft has made to its patching process

Windows 10 update KB 3140743 brings few fixes but some significant changes

Yesterday Microsoft released Cumulative Update 9 for the current version of Windows 10, bringing the most recent version of Windows to Win 10.1.9 (or "Windows 10 version 1511 build 10586.122" for you purists). It ain't perfect -- every Win10 cumulative update seems to trigger installation problems on some computers, and this one's no exception -- and the list of changes won't bring anyone to their feet shouting hosannas. But there's a quiet revolution taking shape, and it bodes well for Windows 10 customers.

Update KB 3140743 is the ninth cumulative update for Windows 10 version 1511, which is most likely the version of Windows 10 that you're using right now. (It also applies to Server 2016 Tech Preview 4.) Microsoft published a long list of the changes contained in this cumulative update. Unless you've been bitten by a rather obscure bug, the details won't interest you.

Here's what's really new.

The documentation appeared at almost the same time as the update. Microsoft missed by an hour or so, by my reckoning, with the bits flying out ahead of the description, but we're definitely seeing a concerted effort to get the word out simultaneously with the patch.

The changelog is worthy of the name. Nevermind that it's boring -- changelogs are almost always boring. The point is that, for the second time in a month, we actually have a list of what's being changed, and the list goes into substantial detail.

We have confirmation that Win10 cumulative updates aren't supposed to change default apps. You have to read between the lines a little bit, but last month's fully justified indignation about Win10 changing default program assignments has been addressed. From the Microsoft Answers forum:

We've seen behavior by some apps that have set themselves as default in unsupported ways by deleting or corrupting registry settings… Update KB3135173 for Windows [that's last month's cumulative update] addresses the problem and resets application defaults to the initial Windows settings when registry settings are deleted or corrupted.  We have worked with some of these app providers so the apps no longer exhibit this behavior in their latest versions. 

As the changelog puts it, this cumulative update includes changes to:

Reset app default when a registry setting is deleted or corrupted and streamlined notification about the corruption.

Microsoft is separating security fixes from general patches -- and telling us about it. To me, that's the key next step in Windows 10's evolution into a usable operating system. The changelog states, unequivocally:

This update includes quality improvements. No new operating system features or security fixes are being introduced in this update.

Why is that important? If you have the tools at hand (for example, the metered connection trick), you can delay the rollout of this cumulative update and feel secure in the knowledge that you won't be exposing your computer -- or your company's computers -- to unpatched security flaws. That gives you an extra bit of breathing room, to see if the patch clobbers anything important.

Of course, it would be nice if Microsoft gave all of its customers the tools necessary to stall on patching. I still hold out hope that Microsoft or a third party will develop such a product. For now, we're seeing a necessary prerequisite -- identifying security patches separately -- fall into place.

Microsoft is slowly knocking away at my six-month-old list of 10 reasons you shouldn't upgrade to Windows 10, and last month's 10 hurdles to Windows 10 adoption. The improvements we've seen so far go more than skin deep.

With Windows 10 adoption leveling off and resentment toward the "Get Windows 10" forced jackboot march growing every day, a little more carrot and a lot less stick will come as a welcome change.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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