Patch

Why Trust Techopedia

What Does Patch Mean?

A patch is a software update comprised code inserted (or patched) into the code of an executable program. Typically, a patch is installed into an existing software program. Patches are often temporary fixes between full releases of a software package.

Advertisements

Patches may do any of the following:

  • Fix a software bug
  • Install new drivers
  • Address new security vulnerabilities
  • Address software stability issues
  • Upgrade the software

Techopedia Explains Patch

Software patches can be free or available for sale. Some companies deliver patches to registered users only. Patches are usually available as Internet downloads.

If the original source code is proprietary and not released to the general public, then patches are released as executable binary code. Patches alter the existing programming code by modifying it or replacing it completely.

Patches have become extremely important as a methodology for updating programs or new system security threats which appear regularly, especially in online environments. Formerly patches were installed manually. Today automatic updates are very popular and are available as self-installing packages from the software vendors support pages at their website.

Although patches can vary in size from several kilobytes to hundreds of megabytes, patches are usually perceived as being rather small. Common to Microsoft Windows operating system large patches are generally named service packs, and can be over 100Mb.

Advertisements

Related Terms

Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.