Kudos to Microsoft for using new way to distribute Windows 10 update KB 3216755

The latest cumulative update is only available in the Update Catalog. Let's hope it's a blueprint for patches to come

Microsoft distributes Windows 10 cumulative update KB 3216755 in new way
Thinkstock/Microsoft

In spite of what you may have read, the latest cumulative update for Windows 10 is not solely a Preview Release. KB 3216755, which brings Windows 10 1607 up to version 14393.726, has been distributed in an entirely new way that makes a whole lot of sense.

This new cumulative update isn’t confined to the confusing Windows Insider Release Preview ring, and it isn’t being pushed out the usual Windows Update chute. Instead, it’s sitting in the Windows Catalog, readily available to install, should you so wish.

Reports about KB 3216755 are garbled, and confusion reigns because we’ve never seen this approach before from Microsoft. I’m convinced this method works better than any Windows 10 patch distribution technique to date, and hope Microsoft adopts this approach going forward.

First, the patch itself.

Windows patching guru and patchmanagement.org moderator Susan Bradley has long lamented that Win10 Anniversary Update, version 1607, introduced a hard bug in network shares. Creating, renaming, or deleting a folder on a network share fails after installing 1607. The problem doesn’t exist in the Fall Update, version 1511, but it persists in every version of 1607. Microsoft was first notified of the problem on August 6, 2016, four days after 1607 shipped. That’s almost six months ago.

It looks like this cumulative update finally fixes that problem – and dozens more as well. The official list on the Win10 changelog page contains dozens of separately identified fixes, ranging from network connection problems to bugs in Internet Explorer and Edge. Oddly, Bradley’s bugaboo isn’t mentioned in that laundry list. But I’m assured the issue has been fixed.

Just as important as the patch itself, though, is the way it was distributed.

According to Microsoft engineer Chris Puckett, Microsoft originally released KB 3216755 to the obscure Windows Insider Release Preview ring late Tuesday night:

A fix for this issue is included in a Release Preview update offered to machines enrolled in the Windows Insiders Program Release Preview ring. It is KB 3216755.  If you have a machine enrolled in the Insiders Program, you can set the Insider level to Release Preview and do a Windows Update scan to get it.  There is no other manual download option that I know of.  Feel free to try it and provide feedback.

The problem is that few companies or individuals have a spare PC devoted to testing Win10 cumulative updates before their release. Devoting a machine (or VM) to the Windows Insider Release Preview ring represents a bridge too far for many – and hooking up a production system to the Insider Release Preview ring is a recipe for disaster. Consumers on the Insider Release Preview ring create all sorts of havoc. In my experience, the Release Preview ring is the least understood ring in the new Windows pantheon.

By Thursday, somebody at Microsoft had a patch epiphany. Puckett describes it this way:

The KB 3216755 release preview package was made available on the Windows Update Catalog today.

http://catalog.update.microsoft.com/v7/site/Search.aspx?q=3216755

This will allow you to get the fix on machines ahead of the February 2017 patch Tuesday update without having to enroll in Windows Insider.

More than that, a full description of the cumulative update was added to the Win10 changelog, and the result is what we’re seeing now—and it’s great. Those who want to apply the cumulative update can do so. (You can call it a Preview Package if you like, but it’s still a cumulative update.) Those who don’t care have nothing to fear – the next cumulative update will no doubt be distributed in the usual way, and will roll in the latest versions of all the fixes.

Noel Carboni, on the TechNet forum, says:

Will some good come of this?

Perhaps Microsoft could see a realization dawn that consumers testing pre-release code don’t really cover all of the needs of business usage.

We can only hope.

That summarizes the situation nicely. The Release Preview ring has all sorts of faults. For example, there’s no way to implement Release Previews of cumulative updates for earlier versions of Win10. There’s no easy way to pick which previews you get. Getting into the Release Preview ring is a time-consuming process that can take many hours. And on and on. Posting the cumulative update early, fully documented, but not sending it out the Windows Update chute is so much better.

Hat’s off to whomever made the decision to stick the (interim) cumulative update out in the open, clearly identified, but not forced onto any Win10 PCs. It’s the way to go, Microsoft.

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