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I have installed sql server 2019 in Jan 2021.

We are planning to patch the sqlserver and from this link there are 2 options:

  1. GDR

  2. CU

https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/sql/database-engine/install-windows/latest-updates-for-microsoft-sql-server?view=sql-server-ver15

I couldn't find clear reference to understand the basis on how to decide whether to choose GDR or CU?

2 Answers 2

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GDR stands for General Distribution Release, whilst CU stands for Cumulative Update. The difference is that GDR patches contain only security fixes, and CUs include security fixes and functional fixes.

As for which patch branch to follow, Microsoft's own advice from the forementioned page says:

For any given baseline, either the GDR or CU updates could be options (see below).

  • If SQL Server installation is at a baseline version, you can choose either the GDR or CU update.
  • If SQL Server installation has intentionally only installed past GDR updates, then choose to install the GDR update package.
  • If SQL Server installation has intentionally installed previous CU updates, then chose to install the CU security update package.

As a rule of a thumb, install Cumulative Updates unless you know that GDR is required. Please read CU patch notes before installing, as they do change SQL Server's behaviour.

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  • @variable Baseline is the version without any updates. Since GDR contains only security fixes, picking it will exclude any functional updates. Please take a look at recent CU fix list to see what kind of issues are being fixed.
    – vonPryz
    Aug 24, 2021 at 14:26
  • A minor, but important clarification: GDR updates are a subset that will only include the most critical fixes. They are usually security related, but could be other wide-ranging critical issues. There will be security fixes that only go to CU & not GDR. This is designed to allow folks to push out those most critical fixes by reducing test surface area.
    – AMtwo
    Aug 24, 2021 at 15:51
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Unless you're specifically required to use GDR, go with CU. The fixes and feature updates in CUs may be useful "non-critical fixes" and can include performance fixes. In almost all cases, you want the ability to benefit from these non-critical fixes. In my experience, the install base for CU instances is so much larger that it is the presumed default.

The only time I've encountered GDR is when a vendor, customer, or contract specifically required that the instance of SQL Server have it. Those specific applications require that the RDBMS be as maximally code-stable as possible. The software may require validation, verification, or satisfy some other whatever technical, regulatory, legal, or contractual obligations.

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