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    A patch, also called a service patch or bugfix, is a small piece of object code that is used to fix program bugs and make other minor software and security updates. Patches are important for the smooth functioning of operating systems and software. Installing patches helps organizations reduce the risk of security issues, all while improving performance. Learn more about patches, what they do, and how you can manage them in this definition.

    What Is a Patch?

    A patch is a piece of software code that can be used to either fix a bug or address new security vulnerabilities within an existing software program or operating system. Generally speaking, a patch is written to improve the usability and performance of a program. 

    Software companies develop and release patches regularly, usually making them downloadable from their websites. Patches range from small files of a few KBs to large file sizes of hundreds of MB, depending on the changes that need to be made.    

    Types of Patches

    Software companies release both minor and major patches to improve the performance of a software program. These are some of the most common patch types:


    A hotfix or Quick Fix Engineering (QFE) is an update that addresses a specific problem in an already-deployed software program. It helps to rectify issues immediately, but the same hotfix cannot be used for a future update as they are single use.

    Point release

    A point release is a frequently released software update format that addresses bugs and small cleanups. Although it cannot solve all bugs, these updates include some bug fixes.

    Program temporary fix

    Program temporary fix (PTF) is a patch released to fix a single bug or group of bugs. It is distributed in a ready-to-install format.

    Security patch

    The security patch is a significant patching strategy for mitigating security vulnerabilities. The security patch successfully prevents the possible exploitation of vulnerabilities and mitigates the risk of being exploited. 

    Service pack

    A service pack, or feature pack, is a major type of patch that includes fixes, updates, and enhancements as a single installable package to improve the overall performance of an existing software product. Releasing service packs is common for large software applications like operating systems, database software, and office suites.

    Why Are Patches Used?

    Patches are mainly intended to fix bugs; however, they can be used to address security vulnerabilities and other software-related updates. Here are some common reasons for using patches:

    • Security maintenance: Patches fix bugs and address security vulnerabilities. This lowers security risks and can prevent possible cyber attacks.
    • Simple functionality updates: Installing patches helps organizations confirm that software and applications are updated and running smoothly.
    • New feature offerings: Apart from bug fixing, some patches are released to add new features or functionalities to an existing software product. This patching strategy is particularly effective for continual customer experience (CX) improvements.

    Mitigating security risks, adding new functionalities, and developing timely updates allow businesses to run smoothly and increase productivity. It also helps organizations protect all significant data related to their organization and their customers.

    How Do Developers Create and Deploy Patches?

    When customers or users of a particular software product report a bug or other security vulnerabilities, the product development team analyzes the issue and creates a patch from its repository if found necessary. 

    Patches are created as separate files to keep main software components stable. Developers make a duplicate copy of the parent project and apply patches to the copy to test their changes.

    After successfully testing changes, the developer team makes the patch available as a downloadable file to customers, most often on a website’s product pages. Users can download the file using their login credentials and install the patch from there.

    Top Patch Management Software Solutions

    Patch management software makes it easier for organizations to track and install application patches. Here are some of the top patch management software solutions:

    Patch My PC Patch My PC Logo

    Patch My PC is a low-cost solution that helps Microsoft Configuration Manager customers automatically update software, run custom scripts if necessary, and easily deploy applications. It can also disable automatic updates to avoid unnecessary updates.

    NinjaOne NinjaOne Logo

    NinjaOne enhances the efficiency of the IT team by helping them automate and manage IT tasks from a single platform. This is a strong option for IT teams that want to focus on the end user and their experience with a product.

    ManageEngine Patch Manager Plus ManageEngine Patch Manager Plus Logo

    ManageEngine Patch Manager Plus is a top solution that scans all applications and identifies missing patches, tests them, and deploys them automatically to reduce security risks.

    Not sure if these solutions are right for your organization? Explore other Best Patch Management Software and Tools here.