What is the difference between general distribution and limited distribution releases?

One of the recent advancements in delivering updates to all Microsoft’s customers is the advent of creating separate development environments in which updates are created from. So what does this really mean and how does it apply to my computers? Microsoft updates now offer packages for general distribution release as well as QFE (Quick Fix Engineering) also known as hotfixes, for specific issues. When you download a Windows Update you are downloading one of the following:

  • Security updates
  • Feature packs
  • Update roll-ups
  • Drivers
  • Critical updates

These are GDR (General Distribution Release) updates. GDR updates can be found on Windows Update site so as to be available to a wider audience. Another key item is GDRs are tested to a greater degree than LDRs (Limited Distribution Release). LDR, also known as hotfixes or QFEs, are created when a hardware, BIOS or a software issue is identified that needs a fix in a specific and small subset of customer environments. These fixes have not been tested for the same length of time for regressions or incompatibilities as what a GDR fix typically goes through. Another key point is LDRs generally contain all the prior fixes from both GDR and LDR while GDR releases do not contain LDR fixes.

We have all heard the adage; if it isn’t broken, then don't fix it. Well if you are connected to a network, sharing files, folders or any other activities that could expose your computer to viruses, trojan programs, and other conditions where your machine is vulnerable, or attaching the latest and greatest consumer device to your computer, installing the critical updates is something you should consider. That is why Windows Operating Systems offer the ability for users and administrators to set automatic updates to Microsoft Download Center. This has been designed to assist users in finding out what the latest GDR files for your version of Windows are. Many times, I hear and see requests for hotfixes. The first question will be, are you experiencing this problem, do you have that particular hardware or BIOS version or use that software mentioned in this hotfix. This is where the adage; if it isn’t broken, then don't fix it comes in. As mentioned above, LDRs are not tested to same levels as GDRs, so if you are not experiencing the problem then it’s best to stay with GDR updates you get from the Microsoft Download Center. If you need the LDR version then they are available from Microsoft Support, just don’t be surprised if they ask, are you seeing this problem?

If you are considering a choice between LDR or GDR updates, you may want to review the following article: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/824994. GDR branch fixes are available from the Microsoft Download Center and LDR branch fixes are available directly from Microsoft Support. Remember a hotfix is to fix a specific issue quickly while Microsoft Update GDRs are created to improve everyone's experience.