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What’s what with recent Microsoft changes: updates vs. upgrades

What’s what with recent Microsoft changes: updates vs. upgrades

By Jamie Wolbeck,
Vice President of Operations, SUCCESS Computer Consulting

In recent months, Microsoft has made significant changes to their updating, upgrading, and patching routines, impacting all supported Windows devices and creating a new process for the latest versions of Windows 10. While updates and upgrades may sound deceptively similar, there are key differences to keep in mind as you educate yourself about these changes.

If your eyes are already starting to cross, have no fear; we’ll break it down for you simply, below.


Updates, also referred to as “patches,” are downloads for a software package or operating system, and provide “fixes” or corrective action to your current software. These fixes can correct security problems, errors, or add support for new devices. Updates tend to apply quickly, and can be installed in a matter of minutes.

What you need to know/do: SUCCESS clients on the Advantage Point Network Watch service have updates for Windows and third-party applications installed automatically as a part of a nightly or weekly routine, so if this is you, you can relax and know this has already been taken care of on your behalf. If you’re not sure if you’re already taking advantage of this service, ask your organization’s primary point-of-contact, or give us a call at (763) 593-3000.


Upgrades are entirely new versions of software or operating systems. While updates repair or alter your existing systems, upgrades offer an entirely new version—it’s like the difference between patching a puncture in an otherwise serviceable tire or getting a whole new one installed. Makes sense, right?

Upgrades are also larger in size and complexity than updates, and can include multiple fixes, as well as new features, new behavior, and even new visuals. Sometimes, software upgrades have to be purchased, or they may be part of a monthly subscription. The process to install upgrades also takes much longer—sometimes hours—and must be supported by the device, or it can end in error. The upgrade versions usually have a number associated with their name. For example: Windows 7 can be upgraded to Windows 8, and Windows 10 has multiple versions built in (such as Windows 10 version 1709, which can be upgraded to Windows 10 version 1803 or 1809).

Note: Unlike updates, which can be completed in minutes, these upgrades must be scheduled for specific times, so as to not interfere with day-to-day functionality.

What, exactly, is changing?

There is one significant change in Microsoft’s update process, and several notable changes in the upgrade process.

The updating process will remain the same in almost every way, with one exception: driver updates will be pushed, along with security and critical updates. Microsoft services will roll out Microsoft signed drivers to your device as manufacturers make them available.

The upgrade process, however, will now be significantly different. In previous versions of Windows, major version releases were usually accompanied by a hardware refresh. For example, when going from Windows 7 to Windows 8, a new laptop or desktop was the impetus for the transition. In the case of “in-place” upgrades, going from Windows 7 to Windows 10, upgrades happened without purchasing hardware, and tended to be painful and slow.

Now, with Windows 10 upgrades, the over-arching Windows 10 stays in place, but the upgrade process happens internally, and is less painful. Generally, no new hardware purchase is needed to go to the latest version, as long as there is still an available warranty on the device. This process is driven from Microsoft, and new versions come out at least twice a year. This also means that older versions fall out of support much more quickly, usually at the one-year mark. Additionally, these upgrades on Windows 10 must be monitored, scheduled, and managed moving forward, so that they don’t interfere with your work day.

As always, SUCCESS Computer Consulting can assist you in everything from scheduling your Windows upgrades to conducting a review of your regular IT maintenance program. In fact, if you’re already one of our clients, we’ve been in touch with your primary company contact to discuss next steps and timelines. If not? Contact us at or (763) 593-3000 to get started today.