Updated Microsoft has added “non-security updates” to an Update Tuesday patch.
MS16-023, billed as a “Security update for Internet Explorer” and issued on March 8, includes six “General distribution release (GDR) fixes”.
Five are innocuous as they address glitches like “Empty textarea loses its closing tag in Internet Explorer 11 after conversion from XML to HTML.”
But the last item on the list item 3146449, has the rather more interesting title “Updated Internet Explorer 11 capabilities to upgrade Windows 8.1 and Windows 7.”
A great many users just accept all Windows updates, so will never see item 3146449. Even if you are diligent enough to visit the page for MS16-023 you'll probably miss it, because it's far enough down the page that scrolling is required to see it.
Only once you visit 3146449's knowledge base page you'll find the following explanation for the patch:
This update adds functionality to Internet Explorer 11 on some computers that lets users learn about Windows 10 or start an upgrade to Windows 10.
We've no idea what that means, so have asked Microsoft what that sentence means in an effort to understand the sentence and the purpose of item 3146449.
Some users report that the update adds ads to older versions of Windows. Those ads include a button to initiate a Windows 10 upgrade.
Windows 10 is growing nicely, gaining one per cent of global market share in February alone. Microsoft's made no secret of its ambitions to quickly kill off Windows 8.x and its predecessors.
Whether promoting Windows 10 is worth giving users a reason to distrust the very valuable Windows Update service is ultimately Microsoft's decision to make (you can of course feel free to comment below).
If Microsoft replies to our request and explains the purpose of item 3146449, we'll update this story. ®
Updated to add
A spokeswoman for Microsoft has been in touch to say:
Since launching Windows 10, our number-one customer support request has been “how do I get my upgrade?” We’ve been using notifications from the task bar to inform people when their upgrade is ready. We are evolving our notifications to be more approachable and hopefully clear, and will continue to test new things in different markets around the world. This is part of that effort. Users that have turned off the GWX app or disabled notifications in settings will not see this recent change, nor will Windows Professional users.