By Stephen Shankland
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
August 29, 2007
update - AutoPatcher, a 4-year-old project to distribute Microsoft
patches and other updates to software that runs on Windows, has shut
down because of a Microsoft request.
"Today we received an e-mail from Microsoft, requesting the immediate
takedown of the download page, which of course means that AutoPatcher is
probably history," said project manager Antonis Kaladis in a post
Wednesday. "As much as we disagree, we can do very little, and...we took
the download page down."
AutoPatcher had a variety of uses. For example, people with limited
bandwidth could download patches once and install them on multiple
computers, or people setting up new machines could apply security
updates without having to expose the computer to network security risks.
AutoPatcher could handle updates from Microsoft as well as third-party
software such as Sun Microsystems' Java.
Microsoft said it "discourages" others from distributing supplemental
software such as hot fixes, security patches and service packs and that
doing so infringes the company's copyright. "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," the company said in a statement. "We contacted AutoPatcher
earlier today to request that they stop redistributing our Microsoft
According to a post on the Neowin news and discussion site, which hosted
the official AutoPatcher forum, the company wants to be the sole
distributor of its own software updates. Microsoft's legal department
notified Neowin co-founder Steven Parker of the company's objections and
had requested Neowin cut a tie it had to AutoPatcher.
"I had a call from Microsoft Legal this morning and they have told me
that we are no longer allowed to endorse AutoPatcher on Neowin.
Microsoft will only allow updates to be downloaded from its own
servers," Parker said in the post.
Microsoft indicated it acted now because it just found out about the
site. "Microsoft tries to contact anyone who is in violation of our
policy as soon as we can once we are aware of what they're doing," the
However, the company has had plenty of time.
AutoPatcher and its network of download "mirror" sites have been
operating for four years, and the project's frequently-asked-questions
page describes it as legal. "The AutoPatcher project has been going
strong since 2003 and never had a sniff of trouble from Microsoft," the
page says. "Kaladis once spoke to a Microsoft employee and apparently
they know about us but don't care what we do," the page also says.
Parker reported that Windows Genuine Advantage, a Microsoft antipiracy
program that checks legitimacy of a version of Windows, apparently isn't
involved. WGA certification is required to install some software
"I asked the representative if Windows Genuine Advantage had anything to
do with it, and he categorically told me this was not the case," Parker
said. "The concern at Microsoft had more to do with the possible
malicious code that could be redistributed with certified Microsoft
The representative also told Parker that Firefox, an open-source Web
browser rival to Microsoft's Internet Explorer, now can be used to
access Microsoft's Windows Update service for versions of Windows
predating Vista. However, some forum posters said they were unable to do
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