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Volume License Subscribers' Windows 8.1 Update Released

Microsoft on Monday released Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry updates at its Volume License Service Center (VLSC).

The VLSC is a place on the Web for Microsoft's volume licensing customers to get various software releases. While Microsoft released those updates earlier on April 8, including a slipstreamed release for MSDN subscribers, today's April 14 VLSC release is supposed to be bringing "updated" images. It turns out, however, that's not exactly correct.

Full complete update releases will be arriving through the Windows Update service, according to Microsoft's announcement.

This [VLSC release] is the final part of the release cycle that included the release via MSDN on the 2nd and Windows Update on the 8th. The VLSC and MSDN updated media does not contain the complete set of fixes that are offered from Windows Update. Therefore, Windows Update and WSUS will offer the Update again to devices that are deployed by using this media. This is expected and does not result in the full reinstallation of the Update but only a small component of it. The rest of the update will not be downloaded or reinstalled.

Nothing's particularly odd about Microsoft delivering its bits though Windows Update, but this update does change the features of Windows 8.1, as previously described. Delivering new functionality of the operating system through Microsoft's patch service is a new practice for Microsoft. Moreover, this update will set a "new baseline" for a system. Users of Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Embedded 8.1 Industry have about 30 days to install it, if they install their updates manually. If users fail to do so in that time, they won't get future security and nonsecurity updates that may get pushed down on May 13 and thereafter, Microsoft has warned.

However, people or organizations sticking with Windows 8 won't be reset to a new baseline by this update. They will continue to get security and nonsecurity updates using the old Windows 8 baseline.

Organizations using Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) 3.2 with certain Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 versions are out of luck for now. Microsoft suspended the delivery of Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 updates for those users last week. The problem has to do with using WSUS 3.2 and the HTTPS protocol without also using Transport Layer Security 1.2, as described in this Microsoft Knowledge Base article. Microsoft indicated that it is "working on a fix to resolve this problem" but there's no timeline as yet for when the solution will arrive.

The Windows 8.1 Update includes some enhancements for keyboard and mouse users, including a new Power button and Search button appearing at the top right side of the Start Screen. Microsoft has previously said that the Power icon does not appear on devices with screens of "less than 8.5" inches, but some users have commented that the power icon isn't appearing in other cases as well, including on Microsoft's own Surface machines.

Microsoft has since offered a refinement on whether users will see the Power icon or not with the Windows 8.1 Update.

"On most tablets you will not see the Power button on the Start screen as they have connected standby and a physical power button that lets you quickly shut down or put the device to sleep," wrote Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc, in a blog post. "However, on tablets larger than 8.5-inches without connected standby, you will see the Power button on the Start screen."

Connected standby is a feature of both Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 machines that supposedly causes them to consume less power while also staying connected to the Internet, according to Microsoft's description. It runs on 150 milliwatts vs. 500 milliwatts for Sleep mode.

Microsoft MVP Günter Born has weighed in on the disappearing Power icon and says that it appears on most tablets, but not on Microsoft's Surface 2 machines. His recent blog post offers a registry fix. However, Microsoft appears to be interpreting the disappearing Power icon as a feature of Windows 8.1 Update for some machines, rather than a problem.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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