Microsoft releases

Making good on a promise made last week from Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer to simplify security-patch deployment for companies, Microsoft Corp. this week released a consolidated Windows XP update that brings together 22 critical updates into one downloadable package.

The new release, known as Update Rollup 1 for Microsoft Windows XP, was posted on the Redmond, Washington, company's Web site and includes almost 9M bytes of security fixes for machines running the operating system.

Software fixes for a wide range of Windows XP problems are in the Rollup, including 17 patches from 2002 and 2003 that were tied to Security Bulletins from Microsoft.

While Windows XP includes an automated update feature that can download and install security patches directly from Microsoft, the single Update Rollup is supposed to make it easier for XP users and administrators to deploy the security patches, if they have not already done so, Microsoft said.

The release of the XP Update Rollup comes as Microsoft revamps it technologies and policies for distributing software updates. Speaking at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana last week, Ballmer announced a number of changes in the way the company will handle software patches.

In response to customer complaints, the company is switching from weekly to monthly security patch releases, except in cases where customers are in imminent danger because of a flaw, Ballmer said.

The company is also working on developing smaller and higher quality software patches that are easy to rollback should problems arise after they are deployed, he said.

On Wednesday, Microsoft released the first of its cumulative security patches, warning users about five critical vulnerabilities, four affecting Windows and one in the Microsoft Exchange Server product.

Unfortunately for Windows XP customers, those patches are not included in the Update Rollup. That means that XP customers who apply the Rollup will have to download and deploy the updates separately.

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