A long-promised change to the Microsoft Update Catalog finally makes it available to those who want to use modern browsers -- Chrome, Firefox, Opera -- to download individual Microsoft patches.
Prior to the weekend, searching and downloading patches from Microsoft’s huge trove involved using Internet Explorer 11 and installing an ancient ActiveX control.
Now, if you point any browser to http://www.catalog.update.microsoft.com -- note the “www” -- the new Update Catalog search dialog appears (see screenshot).
Any browser works, that is, except Microsoft Edge. At this point, using Microsoft Edge to access the same site returns a singularly useless warning:
You've stumbled upon some vintage web tech
This website runs on older technology and will only work in Internet Explorer
Open with Internet Explorer
Using a link without the www -- http://catalog.update.microsoft.com -- brings back the old behavior, with Internet Explorer demanding installation of an ActiveX control, and other browsers being told “To use this Web site's full functionality, you must be running Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or later.”
How the new Update Catalog will ultimately work is all conjecture at this point because Microsoft hasn’t yet made an official announcement. Presumably, Edge needs to be told that it’s OK to show the page. There may be other changes in store. The Microsoft Update Product Team Blog, which will likely detail the change, hasn’t had any new entries since June 2014. That’s not a typo.
The Microsoft Update Catalog is basically a big, flat database containing all of Microsoft’s patches, which we commonly associate with KB numbers (although there are some odd exceptions). The Search function looks at the titles of all of the entries in the Update Catalog and returns database entries that match all of the search terms. It’s a very naïve search as best I can tell, with no filters, no quoted strings, no Boolean operations.
For example, searching for “october 2016 windows 7 security only x64” returns six different downloads that match all of the search terms. They're all identified by KB number. Click on the Download link next to one of those entries and you see yet another dialog that contains a link to the specific download file, typically an MSU installable Microsoft Update file. Click on that link and you finally get the update.
It’s a rudimentary system, at best, but in all of my tests it does work.
To make use of the new Update Catalog, you have to understand Microsoft’s odd naming conventions for patches. For example, 64-bit patches are always identified with the text “x64,” whereas 32-bit patches don’t normally include “x86” or “32” anywhere in the name.
As I explained in my patchocalypse article last week, the Microsoft Update Catalog plays a pivotal role in how Windows 7 and 8.1 users may want to install patches, starting with the patches this month. In short, those who want to install security patches only, avoiding nonsecurity patches, have to download and install them manually. The Security-only patches are available in the Microsoft Update Catalog:
Security patches will be combined each month into a single Security-only Update that can be downloaded from the Microsoft Update Catalog. .Net will be updated separately, with a combined security/nonsecurity .Net Framework Monthly Rollup, and a security-only update for the Update Catalog.
The new Microsoft Update Catalog plays a key part in Windows 7 and 8.1 patching, starting this month. Good to see it up and running.
Many thanks to abbodi86 who made the announcement on AskWoody.