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Windows 8.1 patches won't install without April update

To snag Microsoft's June patches and later ones, Windows 8.1 users better make sure they've installed the April update.

Windows 8.1 Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Windows 8.1 users who have not yet installed the major update rolled out in April will not be able to install future patches and bug fixes for the OS.

That requirement was first revealed when Microsoft launched the so-dubbed Windows 8.1 Update in early April. But a Microsoft spokewoman confirmed to CNET that the requirement is now in place starting with the June Patch Tuesday updates rolling out today.

"The majority of Windows 8.1 customers have installed the Windows 8.1 update ," Microsoft spokeswoman Jill Lovato told CNET in an email on Monday. "For those who have not yet made the transition, those newer updates offered with this month's Update Tuesday will be considered 'not applicable.' Customers' infrastructure will continue to function; however, it should be noted that they can't consume any further updates until they apply the Windows 8.1 Update."

The Windows 8.1 Update is in many ways Microsoft's latest mea culpa to Windows 8 PC users, many of whom found the initial release of the OS to have too much emphasis on touch-screen and tablet features. Designed with desktop and mouse users in mind, the April update offers greater support for right mouse clicks, a Start screen-accessible Power button, and the ability to pin Modern apps to the desktop. But Microsoft clearly is also using the April update as a necessary linchpin for all future Windows 8.1 updates.

So what happens if a Windows 8.1 user has not yet installed the April update? Lovato described the scenario to CNET:

"Customers who rely on Windows Updates (as opposed to Windows Server Update Service commonly used in corporate environments), and who have chosen to manually select and/or download updates instead of accepting Windows' default update settings to automatically install, and who have then deselected the Windows 8.1 update for download or installation, will not see subsequent updates because they only apply once the Windows 8.1 Update is installed. Manually downloading these subsequent updates will result in failed installation for the same reason."

So there you have it, Windows 8.1 users. Install the April update or you're out of luck as far as future updates. Fortunately, that's not a terrible burden. The April update isn't difficult to install and logically should be installed prior to any future updates anyway. Those of you who have Automatic Updates enabled should have already installed the update.

You can easily tell if the update is in place by peeking at your Windows 8.1 Start screen. If you see a Power button and a search icon in the upper right corner of the screen, you're all set. If not, launch the charms bar and click the Settings charm. Click the link for Change PC settings. Click the setting for Update and recovery. Make sure the setting for Windows Update is highlighted. Click the Check now button and then click View Details. You should see several important updates listed. Click the Install button to install them.