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Microsoft releases a new version of Windows Windows 8 Is The Most Secure Version Yet: Here’s Why Windows 8 Is The Most Secure Version Yet: Here’s Why Read More (be it a complete revision or a service pack) every couple years, but the space between these major releases is far from barren. In fact the company serves up a constant stream of minor updates that address bugs, security problems or minor functionality issues.

Updates that impact all versions of Windows are always released through the Windows Update service, but less important fixes are not. Searching for a hotfix is one of the first things you should do when your Windows PC has a problem.

What’s A Hotfix?

The word “hotfix” was originally coined to describe a patch that was applied to a computer without interrupting its function. Applying an update without shutting down a computer completely used to be rare, and indeed Windows Update Why Won’t My Windows 7 Updates Install? Why Won’t My Windows 7 Updates Install? Windows Update is one of the key elements of Microsoft’s operating system for keeping your computer working and up to date. Without it, your computer would freely collect malware, unpatched security holes would be exploited... Read More  still requires a system restart to apply downloads.

Windows Update Installing

Microsoft, however, tends to use the term differently. Updates labeled as a “hotfix” are optional updates, and they may or may not work best after a system reboot. They can cover a wide variety of issues, but usually fix very specific bugs that only impact a small number of users.

Unlike Windows Updates, which are recommended for installation  on all Windows PCs, a hotfix is recommended only in response to an issue. Users who haven’t noticed the problem the hotfix combats are not advised to install the fix because Microsoft does not test these solutions as thoroughly as other updates.

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Finding A Hotfix

Hotfix files won’t appear in Windows Update. Sometimes a hotfix will be bundled into an optional or even mandatory update if it becomes broadly applicable, but many never receive this treatment.

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The best way to find a solution is to search Microsoft’s support page. Each fix is associated with a specific article on the support page which has a unique article ID in a format such as “Article ID: 2964487.” If you know the ID you can enter it to find the fix page, which will include a download at the top. In my experience, these articles don’t always appear unless you search “All Microsoft” instead of “Support” alone. Searching for the article ID via Google Web Search Master the Google Operands: Search Really Fast Master the Google Operands: Search Really Fast Read More or Bing can work, too.

If you don’t have a specific fix in mind, but you would like to find one, then you can use the Windows support page to troubleshoot your issue. If there is a fix available, the troubleshooter will eventually direct you to it. However, since a hotfix is only meant for systems with a specific issue, Microsoft forces you to jump through a lot of hoops before it’ll cough up the file.

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While Microsoft does not have any single page where every download can be found, it does have a few pages that provide shortcuts to common fixes. Here are three you should know about.

  • OEM Partner Center Windows 8.1 / Server 2012 R2 Updates – Only applies to the latest versions of Windows, those being Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2.
  • Microsoft Security Bulletin – This is where the company posts its latest information on security issues. Most are not related to a hotfix, but some are. At the least, these bulletins will advise you on the settings you need to change to avoid a specific vulnerability.
  • Microsoft Popular Downloads – Again, this isn’t devoted to hotfix items, but some can be found. You’ll also find useful downloads you may need when troubleshooting, such as the DirectX installer.

Finally, you may be able to find a fix by searching or posting on the Microsoft Technet forums. This official website is full of experienced Windows users and IT veterans with a wealth of knowledge, who may know an obscure solution.

Windows Hotfix Downloader

Another way to obtain a fix is WHDownloader, a third-party tool that catalogs every update released from Microsoft, period. Using it is simple. Just download, install the program and then select the version of Windows (or Office) you’d like to view updates for from the drop-down menu next to the refresh button. You can view what a hotfix (or any update) does by double-clicking it. This will open the relevant Microsoft support page in your default browser.

whdownloader

While this tool is easy to use, I’m not sure it encourages the best habits. WHDownloader makes it easy to grab every hotfix ever published for your operating system, which is not how Microsoft meant for them to be used. The software also lacks update summaries, making it useless for finding a fix to a specific problem.

How To Install A Hotfix (From Microsoft)

The manner in which you install a fix obtained from Microsoft’s website can vary a bit depending on your operating system and the age of the fix itself. If you’re using Windows 7, 8 or 8.1, however, this is how it usually goes down.

First, you’ll find the hotfix article. At the top is a blue download button just below the title of the article, which also had a blue background. When you click the button, you’ll be taken to a new page that asks for your email address. Microsoft will only send you the file by emailing it to you, and the file will appear as download link rather than an attachment.

microsoftselfextractor1

Downloading and running the file will open the Microsoft Self-Extractor,  a self-contained compression utility.This will unzip the executable to the directory of your choice. Now open the directory you un-zipped to and run the executable. Follow the wizard’s instructions to complete the install.

How To Uninstall A Hotfix

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Any hotfix you install can be viewed by doing a Windows Search for “uninstall” and opening the Uninstall Programs and Features How To Force Uninstall Unwanted Windows Programs Using IObit Uninstaller How To Force Uninstall Unwanted Windows Programs Using IObit Uninstaller Read More window. Click the “view installed updates” link on the left hand side. This will show you all the updates you installed on your computer, including Windows Updates and hotfix files. To uninstall, select the hotfix How To Roll Back Windows Hot Fixes & Patches How To Roll Back Windows Hot Fixes & Patches Read More  in the list and then click “Uninstall” at the top of the window.

Conclusion

Most users will never need to install a Windows hotfix. They are an absolute must-have for only a small subset of users impacted by a specific issue, but everyone else can safely ignore them. With that said, knowing how to find and install a fix can save you hours of troubleshooting Windows 8 Crashing? How to Easily Troubleshoot Blue Screen & Other Issues Windows 8 Crashing? How to Easily Troubleshoot Blue Screen & Other Issues Windows 8 isn't perfect. That said, most blue screens and application crashes aren't Windows' fault. Our tips will help you identify exactly what's wrong with your PC and fix it. Read More when something goes wrong.

Have you ever installed a hotfix, and if so, did it actually resolve your problem? Let us know in the comments!

Image credit: Stephanie-Inlove via DeviantArt, Mathieu Plurde via Flickr

  1. Ron
    August 15, 2014 at 7:02 am

    Matt S: Sure you can avoid Metro. I do it all the time. I use Win 8.0 8-12hrs a day and see "Metro" maybe a couple of times a week.

    Actually, there is a an even better way to identify applicable hotfixes specifically for MS Office. That is via a tool called "OffCat.exe". You can get it here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=36852

    Here are links to a couple of reviews of the tool:
    http://betanews.com/2014/03/16/microsoft-office-configuration-analyzer-1-2-now-available/

    http://4sysops.com/archives/free-microsoft-offcat-office-configuration-analyzer-tool-1-1/ Review of V1.1

  2. Richard B
    August 13, 2014 at 2:10 am

    Hotfixes certainly can be helpful, and it's nice that MS has made them relatively easy to get to.

  3. Guffe
    August 10, 2014 at 11:16 am

    @Matt
    What is so bad about Windows 8.1?

    Please dont say Metro/Modern/whatever you want to call it , as you can avoid that and have a Win 7 like experience. I am no fan of Metro/ModernUi myself.

    @Rusty
    So many of the big selling titles are horrible?

    I agree that some of them are horrible, certainly not all of them, but it is undeaniable that they have sold or are selling in big numbers, and yet they still do not support Linux.

    Blizzard, Rockstar, Bethesda, Need for Speed and Modern Warfare just to name a few.

    It is not always about easy or the money. Sometimes it is a statement, like when Google or Apple refuse to make apps for Microsoft platforms. In other cases it is about agreements, or being bullied by MS, Google, Apple or others.

    As for the study you mention, a link to a trustworthy source would have been nice.

    Anyway studies, surveys and statistics only show what the presenter want it to show. It is all about who you ask, how you ask, what you ask, how you chose to interpret it and how you present it. They can probably show that the earth it flat, if you go around it the right way.

    There a probably loads of arguments speaking for any platform, they dont really matter much. It is all about how the user sees it, not what you, I or studies tell them.

    I apologize for my poor english.

    • Matt S
      August 10, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      You can't avoid Metro. Not without very extensive modifications. Or a selective memory.

  4. Rusty Raptor
    August 9, 2014 at 10:09 am

    There are very few reasons to use windows now. Only gamers who need to play certain horrible games that have not ported to linux yet and people who need adobe creative suite or some other corporate production software that only runs on windows.

    There are now so many games available for linux and once steamOS is stable and steam boxes are being built and sold any company that doesn't see the opportunity is crazy. It is so easy to port games to linux now than ever. It used to be that you had to port it to every distribution and release. Despite that not being a big deal, with steam, it is a completely different story now because steam provides the programs with all the libraries and APIs needed in it's own directory.

    Linux is also way more user-friendly than windows and before you disagree with me please note that a study was done on this.

    • Matt S
      August 9, 2014 at 6:48 pm

      I'm not as bullish on Linux as you, but I am starting to see Windows more and more as an operating system for games. I mean, I'm fine for now with my Windows 7 rig, but what am I going to upgrade to when the time comes? Not Windows 8.1 that's for sure.

  5. dragonmouth
    August 8, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Your leading picture is very appropriate. Instead of correcting the problems permanently, M$ releases BandAid fixes hoping that will satisfy the users.

    • johndoe
      August 9, 2014 at 12:23 am

      Linux and OSX is twice as buggy. No OS Is perfect.

    • michel
      August 9, 2014 at 12:47 am

      Oh no, johndoe, you said the others were worse than Windows in some way. The floodgates will one any minute now, and Linux Geeks will froth at the mouth chastising you and "proving" you're wrong. You're just a troll, aren't you?

    • dragonmouth
      August 9, 2014 at 11:50 am

      So, michel, when is Sir William getting cannonized?

    • Matt S
      August 9, 2014 at 6:48 pm

      --> Johndoe *citation needed

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