Discover the Real Reason Behind Microsoft's Release of Office Sniffing Update KB5021751
Microsoft released the Windows update KB5021751 in mid-January via Windows Updates to collect data on unsupported Office installations on Windows systems.
Windows systems with the "receive updates for other Microsoft products" setting enabled receive the update via the operating system's built in updating system. The initial version of the support page revealed little details on the update, other than that it would help "Microsoft identify the number of users who are running out-of-support (or soon to be out-of-support) versions of Office, including Office 2013, Office 2010, and Office 2007".
Missing KB5021751 information added
An update of the support page provides some of the missing details. According to the updated section, KB5021751 is gathering data from "registry entries and APIs" and won't leave traces behind after it has retrieved the information.
Microsoft claims furthermore that it would not collect data on licenses, users or third-party products using the update. As Microsoft states in the updated details for KB5021751, the company values, protects and defends its customers' privacy.
Microsoft emphasizes in the update description that old Office versions pose a potential security risk, and that old Office installations may "face performance and reliability issues over time". The company fails to provide specifics regarding the issues that users of Office 2007, 2010 or 2013 may encounter.
It is also unclear what Microsoft means when it states that it collects the data to "determine how best to support and service these systems". Office 2007 and 2010 are no longer supported by Microsoft, and Office 2013 reaches end of support in April 2023.
Microsoft could use the data to develop and publish critical security updates for out-of-support versions of Office, if the population is large enough to warrant that. Microsoft makes no such promise, on the other hand, and there are certainly other, less user-friendly possibilities regarding the data.
Microsoft could, for example, advertise Microsoft 365 to these users, or an upgrade to Office 2021 to stay supported.
Another thing that is unclear is whether Microsoft would limit the offers to still supported versions of Windows. Quite a few Office 2013 and earlier installations are run on Windows 8.1 or older versions of Windows. Upgrade offers to Microsoft 365 or Office 2021 would not help these customers, as their operating systems are no longer supported by Microsoft.
It is also unclear if Microsoft would limit security updates for out-of-support versions of Office to Windows 10 and newer systems.
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