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Microsoft takes a patch breather

Last month, a dozen updates. This month, none. One analyst calls Redmond's restraint "a good sign."

Microsoft plans to forgo its regular monthly patch release next Tuesday, after having taken the more unusual step of issuing a dozen updates in last month's release.

System administrators may appreciate the reprieve, after facing a broad swath of updates last month, eight of which were rated "critical," the company's highest severity rating. Critical updates included fixes for vulnerabilities in Microsoft's Office XP, Internet Explorer 6 and MSN Messenger.

"I suspect that Microsoft feels there is no need for a critical patch that needs to be pushed out," said Charles Kolodgy, an IDC analyst. "That's a good sign there is no need for critical patches every month."

Last week, Microsoft pushed out a patch for a bug that had the capacity to crash some Windows systems running other vendors' antivirus and firewall software. The bug affected only computers running Windows XP with Service Pack 2 installed along with Windows Server 2003 and XP Tablet PC Edition 2005.

And following its monthly patch release last month, Microsoft issued an update to fix a flaw in its copy-protection technology in Windows Media Player. The patch addressed vulnerabilities that could allow hackers to remove copy protection from Windows Media files, as well as potentially entice users to download malicious software onto their computers.