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MS lawyers take out AutoPatcher

Redmond cracks down on Windows Update alternative

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Microsoft has forced the effective shut down of the AutoPatcher download service.

AutoPatcher offered an alternative to Windows Update by providing an up-to-date collection of security patches and tweaks in a single file for each supported version of Windows. Sys admins could save time and bandwidth by updating machines from a single file obtained from the service rather than downloading everything for Windows Update.

The unofficial service had been ticking along happily for four years until early this week, when a legal nastygram from Microsoft forced AutoPatcher to pull the plug.

"We received an e-mail from Microsoft, requesting the immediate take-down of the download page, which of course means that AutoPatcher is probably history. As much as we disagree, we can do very little, and although the download page is merely a collection of mirrors, we took the download page down," a statement from AutoPatcher explains.

"We would like to thank you for your support. For the past four years, it has been a blast. Unfortunately, it seems like it's the end of AutoPatcher as we know it."

Windows news site Neowin, a co-sponsor of AutoPatcher, also received a cease-and-desist notice from Microsoft. Neowin stopped hosting the AutoPatcher support forum after receiving the notice.

Microsoft cited the security risks of allowing third party distribution of patches in explaining its decision to force the closure of AutoPatcher.

"It is Microsoft policy that the distribution of supplemental code such as hotfixes, security updates, and service packs is discouraged. This policy is in place due to concern for the safety and security of our customers, as we can only guarantee the download’s contents when it comes from a Microsoft Web site. Distribution of these materials without permission is also an infringement of our copyright," Microsoft said in a statement.

"We contacted AutoPatcher earlier today {Wednesday] to request that they stop redistributing our Microsoft intellectual property. As of this afternoon, it is our understanding that they no longer offer the Microsoft updates from their site."

The security giant declined to explain the timing of decision, leaving critics to suggest that getting rid of a service the allowed users to obtain patches without Windows Genuine Advantage controls might be among the reasons behind the move.

In related news, Firefox users running pre-Vista versions of Windows can download patches directly from Windows Update, following changes to the service by Microsoft.

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