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A hotfix was originally the term applied to software patches that were applied to live i.e. still running systems. Similar use of the terms can be seen in hot swappable disk drives
Hot swapping
Hot swapping and hot plugging are terms used to describe the functions of replacing computer system components without shutting down the system...

. The more recent usage of the term is likely due to software vendors wanting to either avoid the term patch or give the impression that they were proactively servicing their product.


A hotfix is a single, cumulative package that includes one or more files that are used to address a problem in a software
Computer software
Computer software, or just software, is a collection of computer programs and related data that provide the instructions for telling a computer what to do and how to do it....

 product (i.e. a software bug
Software bug
A software bug is the common term used to describe an error, flaw, mistake, failure, or fault in a computer program or system that produces an incorrect or unexpected result, or causes it to behave in unintended ways. Most bugs arise from mistakes and errors made by people in either a program's...

). Typically, hotfixes are made to address a specific customer situation and may not be distributed outside the customer organization.

A hotfix package might contain several encompassed bug fixes, raising the risk of possible regressions
Software regression
A software regression is a software bug which makes a feature stop functioning as intended after a certain event...

. An encompassed bug fix is a software bug fix which is not the main objective of a software patch
Patch (computing)
A patch is a piece of software designed to fix problems with, or update a computer program or its supporting data. This includes fixing security vulnerabilities and other bugs, and improving the usability or performance...

, but rather the side effect of it. Because of this some libraries for automatic updates like StableUpdate
StableUpdate is a cross platform library for automatic update of the installed applications on the client side. It supports the automated creation, detection, downloading, installation and removing of the service packs .- Features :...

 also offer features to uninstall the applied fixes if necessary.

In a Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows
Microsoft Windows is a series of operating systems produced by Microsoft.Microsoft introduced an operating environment named Windows on November 20, 1985 as an add-on to MS-DOS in response to the growing interest in graphical user interfaces . Microsoft Windows came to dominate the world's personal...

 context, hotfixes are small patches designed to address specific issues like Kernel Patch Protection
Kernel Patch Protection
Kernel Patch Protection , informally known as PatchGuard, is a feature of 64-bit editions of Microsoft Windows that prevents patching the kernel...

, accessibility service such as Multilingual User Interface (MUI) and freshly discovered security exploits
Exploit (computer security)
An exploit is a piece of software, a chunk of data, or sequence of commands that takes advantage of a bug, glitch or vulnerability in order to cause unintended or unanticipated behavior to occur on computer software, hardware, or something electronic...

 and other concerns of vulnerability. These services are usually in the forms of self-extracting patch files accessbile from Windows Update and compiled into a pack known as a Service Pack, per biquarterly. At times related updates are also available such as device driver updates and framework updates like DirectX componentry.

Most modern operating systems and many stand-alone programs offer the capability to download and apply fixes automatically. Instead of creating this feature from scratch, the developer may choose to use a proprietary (like RTPatch) or open-source (like StableUpdate
StableUpdate is a cross platform library for automatic update of the installed applications on the client side. It supports the automated creation, detection, downloading, installation and removing of the service packs .- Features :...

 and JUpdater
JUpdater is a project which aims to create a utility that allows developers to quickly implement version checks into Java programs. The utility ensures that the user can always be notified of new versions, and easily upgrade to the latest version from within the program, without having to do anything...

) package that provides the needed libraries and tools.

There are also a number of third-party software programs to aid in the installation of hotfixes to multiple machines at the same time. These software products also help the administrator by creating a list of hotfixes already installed on multiple machines.

The game company Blizzard Entertainment
Blizzard Entertainment
Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. is an American video game developer and publisher founded on February 8, 1991 under the name Silicon & Synapse by three graduates of UCLA, Michael Morhaime, Allen Adham and Frank Pearce and currently owned by French company Activision Blizzard...

 has a different use of the term hotfix for their game World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game by Blizzard Entertainment. It is the fourth released game set in the fantasy Warcraft universe, which was first introduced by Warcraft: Orcs & Humans in 1994...


"A hotfix is a change made to the game deemed critical enough that it cannot be held off until a regular content patch. Hotfixes require only a server-side change with no download and can be implemented with no downtime, or a short restart of the realms."

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