The Windows update dictionary Microsoft never wrote

With cumulative updates, monthly rollup updates, preview quality updates and more, Microsoft’s Windows update terminology is nearly indecipherable. We’re here to help.

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All it took was one question. One question of 26 asked by Microsoft in a survey about experiences with Windows Update. That one question encapsulated the struggle Windows users deal with in updating and upgrading the operating system.

What types of updates do you install? (Check all that apply.)

That was the question. Microsoft offered five possible responses.

win10 update types IDG

Microsoft's questionnaire asked participants to choose the types of updates they installed. But it didn't bother to define those choices.

Five. Possible. Responses.

Since Windows 10's introduction nearly four years ago, Microsoft has multiplied not only the number of updates — raising feature-changing upgrades by a factor of six, for instance — but has also increased the kinds of updates.

[ Further reading: How to handle Windows 10 updates ]

Where once there was but a single kind of update, the kind that showed up each second Tuesday to patch vulnerabilities, now there are multiples, enough that Microsoft has come to label some with letters of the alphabet. Yet understanding the updates, knowing what is which and what for, is more important than ever, even if Microsoft doesn't pause to explain the differences.

You need an update dictionary.

We'll try our best to put some meat on the terminology bones, but honestly, Microsoft's lexicon is so obtuse, so confusing, so contradictory, so... well, we gave it a shot. We'll update — pun unintended — as necessary.

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