Why Windows 7 updates are getting bigger

Microsoft’s monthly security rollups for Windows 7 have grown by 91% since the company revised the still-popular operating system’s update regimen in 2016.

Windows 7’s security rollups, the most comprehensive of the fixes it pushes out each Patch Tuesday, have doubled in size since Microsoft revamped the veteran operating system’s update regimen in 2016.

According to Microsoft’s own data, what it calls the “Security Quality Monthly Rollup” (rollup from here on) grew by more than 90% from the first to the twenty-first update. From its October 2016 inception, the x86 version of the update increased from 72MB to 137.5MB, a 91% jump. Meanwhile, the always-larger 64-bit version went from an initial 119.4MB to 227.5MB, also representing a 91% increase.

The swelling security updates were not, in themselves, a surprise. Last year, when Microsoft announced huge changes to how it services Windows 7, it admitted that rollups would put on the pounds. “The Rollups will start out small, but we expect that these will grow over time,” Nathan Mercer, a Microsoft product marketing manager, said at the time. Mercer’s explanation: “A Monthly Rollup in October will include all updates for October, while November will include October and November updates, and so on.”

Two months later, when he was asked about the growth issue, Mercer again conceded that the rollups could get big. “Eventually Monthly Rollup will grow to around the 500MB size,” Mercer said in mid-October 2016.

It looks like Mercer’s forecast may have been pessimistic.

At the 22-update pace that Windows 7’s rollups have established, the 64-bit version will weigh in at approximately 244MB by October 2018, and a year after that, as Windows 7 nears its expiration date, about 306MB. The latter would represent a 39% shortfall of Mercer’s target. Likewise, the x86 edition would increase to 147MB and 186MB in 2018 and 2019, respectively, if the 22-update growth rate continues.

Those numbers are not only far below Mercer’s 500MB maximum, but also lower than Computerworld’s estimates at the end of 2017. Then, using the first 12 updates as a guide to future update bloating, Computerworld said that the Windows 7 x86 updates would balloon to 216MB and 374MB by October 2018 and October 2019, respectively. Meanwhile, the Windows 8 x64 updates would expand to about 350MB by October 2018 and a whopping 600MB by October 2019, just months shy of its retirement.