How do software patches work?

What is a patch? Easily explained

For software and operating systems, a so-called patch is offered for download from time to time. But what is it actually? Roughly speaking, this is an update. However, there are differences to so-called updates or upgrades.

Patch - what is it?

Software manufacturers use patches to correct errors in programs, close security gaps or upgrade functions.

  • With a patch, errors can be corrected without having to restart the entire program. One also speaks of "bug fixes".
  • The term patch means something like "plaster". It comes from the time of the punch cards. Back then, patches were used to seal individual holes.
  • Patches are often offered as packages. Microsoft, for example, offers the updates for Windows as service packs. This includes several patches.
  • Patches either delete files of the software in question and replace them with new ones, or the source code of the program is changed.

What is the difference between patch and update?

Patch isn't the only term used to describe software improvements.

  • With an update, or update, the range of functions of the program is expanded or improved. In some cases, however, errors are also corrected, as with a patch (cf. update and upgrade).
  • A term related to the patch is the bug fix. A bug fix corrects errors in the source code of a program.
  • A hotfix is ​​the same as a patch. The special thing about it is that particularly important and urgent bug fixes are carried out with it.

In another article we will explain the terms hack and crack to you.