What Is Patching? And When Should You Do It?

What Is Patching? And When Should You Do It?

 By Charles Joseph | Cybersecurity Advocate
 Last update: November 25, 2023

A patch, in the context of software, is a small piece of code designed to update, fix, or improve an existing software application or system.

Patches address various issues, such as fixing security vulnerabilities, resolving bugs, improving performance, and adding new features or functionalities.

How often you should patch depends on several factors:

Patch Release Schedule

Software developers often follow a regular release schedule for patches. Some developers might release updates monthly, while others might have a more frequent or less predictable schedule. It’s important to stay informed about patch releases for the software you use.

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If a patch addresses a critical security vulnerability, it’s essential to apply the patch as soon as possible to reduce the risk of a cyberattack. In general, you should prioritize security patches over non-critical updates.

Stability and Performance

Patches that improve the stability or performance of software should be applied regularly, but may not be as urgent as security patches. It’s still a good idea to apply these patches promptly to maintain optimal system performance.


Sometimes, patches are released to maintain compatibility with other software, hardware, or operating systems. Apply these patches as needed based on your specific setup and requirements.

Patching: What Else You Should Know

Here are some additional important aspects of patching:

1. Backup

Before applying a patch, it’s a good practice to back up your data and system configuration to ensure you can revert to a previous state if something goes wrong during the patching process. This can help minimize potential data loss or downtime.

2. Patch Testing

In some cases, especially for businesses and large organizations, it’s wise to test patches on a separate, non-production environment before deploying them to production systems. This can help identify potential issues or conflicts with existing software or configurations and minimize disruptions.

3. Patch Management

Implement a patch management strategy to stay organized and ensure that all your software remains up-to-date. Patch management tools can help automate the process, making it easier to track, prioritize, and apply patches across your systems.

4. Change Management

Coordinate patching efforts with your organization’s change management processes to ensure that all stakeholders are informed about planned updates and potential impacts.

5. Vendor Communication

Stay in touch with software vendors to receive timely notifications about patch releases, known issues, and other important information. Subscribe to mailing lists, follow social media accounts, or join community forums to stay informed.

6. Documentation

Keep track of patches you’ve applied, including dates, version numbers, and any issues encountered during the process. This can be helpful for troubleshooting or auditing purposes.

7. Educate Users

Make sure that users within your organization are aware of the importance of patching and how it affects the security and stability of their systems. Encourage them to keep their personal devices updated as well.

"Amateurs hack systems, professionals hack people."
-- Bruce Schneier, a renown computer security professional