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a computer program designed specifically to fix an error in software that is already installed on a computer, often downloaded from the Internet
'For years, tech enthusiasts have been compiling hotfixes into unofficial service packs for Windows, offering brave users a quick way to update their operating systems before Microsoft finishes its own …'BetaNews 4th April 2007
If you ever hear someone talking about how they solved their problems with a hotfix, then it's unlikely that they're talking about a warm bath and a hot cup of cocoa! Among the computer-savvy, a hotfix is computer code written specifically to address a particular problem in a piece of software.
on your home computer … it's likely that hotfixes exist as small files automatically installed by the Windows Update feature
Most typically, hotfixes are released by a particular company in response to a specific software bug in one of its products, and are not designed to be utilised in any other context. The term often crops up in the context of Microsoft Windows, where hotfixes are periodically issued to solve freshly discovered security problems. On your home computer for instance, it's likely that hotfixes exist as small files automatically installed by the Windows Update feature. In this and similar contexts, a set of hotfixes dealing with a group of related problems is often referred to as a service pack.
A hotfix that does not require you to restart your computer is sometimes called a hot patch, and in fact the word patch is now often used in a general way to refer to any piece of computer code tailored to solve a specific problem. This usage has led to the expression Patch Tuesday, coined in 2004 to refer to the second Tuesday of each month, the day when Microsoft conventionally releases security patches. The idea behind Patch Tuesday is that security patches are gathered together over a period of one month, and then released on an anticipated day which the system administrators within large companies can prepare for – in theory meaning that they can guard against any problems and knock-on effects associated with installing system updates. Though the term Patch Tuesday started with Microsoft, it is now also used by other software vendors to refer to a specific day set aside for releasing security patches. The expression Exploit Wednesday (or Hack Wednesday) is sometimes also used in IT contexts, emerging from the fact that a computer system is inevitably more vulnerable around the time that security patches are implemented, and therefore open to the exploits of computer hackers (people who illegally access and/or change information in computer systems).
The term hotfix, also sometimes occurring as an open compound hot fix, has been around for several years, though has gained ground considerably in recent months in the context of problems associated with the new Windows Vista™ operating system. There is some evidence for a derived activity noun hotfixing. A related expression introduced by Microsoft in the same context is QFE, standing for Quick Fix Engineering.
This article was first published on 9th July 2007.