What is a Hotfix? | Benefits , Challenges & How to Test?

December 27, 2023Kiruthika Devaraj
What is a Hotfix Benefits , Challenges; How to Test

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What is a Hotfix? Someone once said, “Hotfixes are like band-aids on a broken bone. They can stop the bleeding and prevent further damage, but they are not a long-term solution.”

Facts say, According to a study by Veracode, 80% of software applications have at least one security vulnerability. Hotfixes are often used to address these vulnerabilities quickly and effectively. Hotfixes can be complex and difficult to apply. In some cases, hotfixes may even require users to edit system files manually.

So, from all these, you can understand that hotfixes are the necessary evil of software testing.

What else you don’t know? Let me tell you everything: benefits, challenges, and how to test in this blog. 

Read on!

What is a hotfix?

Time for a definition: A hotfix in software testing is a rapid release of a software patch typically applied to a live system without requiring a restart. 

Hotfixes typically address critical bugs or security vulnerabilities that need immediate attention. By quickly fixing critical bugs and security vulnerabilities, hotfixes can help prevent downtime, data loss, and other serious problems.

However, it is essential to note that hotfixes should be used sparingly. Hotfixes can be complex and challenging to apply, and they may even introduce new bugs or compatibility issues. Therefore, software testers need to test hotfixes before they are deployed to production systems carefully.

Who uses hotfixes, and what do they use them for?

It’s us(IT professionals), right? 

Who else uses hotfixes, People who are:

  • Software developers
  • System administrators
  • End users

Software developers: Developers do hotfixes to quickly address critical bugs or security vulnerabilities in their software applications.

System administrators: System administrators use hotfixes to apply patches to operating systems and other system software.

IT professionals: They use hotfixes to apply patches to software applications and other IT infrastructure components.

End users: End users may also use hotfixes to apply patches to software applications that they are using.

Note: Hotfixes are often called QFE updates, which are quick-fix engineering updates. That just means that they need to be done quickly.

Hotfix example

Let’s say a software developer wants to fix a bug in a banking app that keeps crashing when people try to log in. Or, a system admin wants to fix a security issue in an operating system that could let bad guys break in. 

Hotfixes are essential to make sure software is good, works well, and isn’t hackable. But, we should only use them when needed because hotfixes can create new bugs or other problems.

Banks and other financial institutions use hotfixes to quickly fix security issues in their trading systems and other financial software. This helps to keep hackers from stealing money from customers.

Hospitals and health organizations patch security holes in their electronic health record systems and other medical devices using hotfixes. This safeguards patient data from unauthorized access.

An IT guy might push out a hotfix to patch up a bug in a software app that’s stopping folks from saving their work.

A regular user might install a hotfix on their PC to fix a bug in the operating system that’s causing their computer to freeze randomly.

How does a hotfix work?

Do you want to learn more about how it all works? 

A hotfix applies a small, targeted patch to a live software application. The patch is typically designed to fix a specific bug or security vulnerability. Hotfixes can be applied to various software products, including operating systems, applications, and firmware.

To apply a Hotfix, there are two ways:

  1. First, users must download and install a patch package. The patch package will contain the instructions for applying the hotfix to the software application. 
  2. Second, in some cases, hotfixes may be applied automatically by the software application.

Once the hotfix is applied, the software application will be updated to include the fix for the bug or security vulnerability. The software application should then function normally without any further problems.

Hey, know that Hotfixes can skip the regular software development process. That means Hotfixes might be tested less than a regular software release. Hotfixes are usually needed urgently, so there is less time to go through the whole development and testing thing.

That’s why it’s super important to use hotfixes only when you need them. Make sure to test them properly before you deploy them to production systems.

Read these tips for using it safely and effectively:

  • Make sure that you have a clear understanding of the bug or security vulnerability that the hotfix is addressing.
  • Develop a comprehensive test plan that covers all aspects of the hotfix.
  • Perform thorough regression testing to ensure the hotfix does not introduce new bugs or compatibility issues.
  • Work closely with the development team to ensure that any issues found during testing are addressed promptly.

Benefits of a Hotfix

Let me share with you some of the most important benefits of Hotfix in detail:

  • Quickly address critical bugs and security vulnerabilities:

Bugs and security issues can be a real danger for users and organizations. To minimize the risks and problems for users, Hotfixes can be used. For example, if a critical security vulnerability is found in a software application, a hotfix can be released to patch it up before hackers can use it to harm users.

  • Improve system stability and performance:

System crashes and instability are real pain- they can mess up everything you’re working on, and you might even lose your data. Hotfixes can help; we know they’re like patches that fix the bugs causing the problems. So, if some software you’re running keeps crashing when you start it up, a hotfix might come out that’ll fix the bug and make the program more stable.

  • Reduce downtime and disruption to users:

Downtime can be a nightmare for businesses. The good news is that you can apply hotfixes to live systems without restarting them. This means that users won’t have to suffer through any downtime, and neither will their work. For example, if there’s a bug that’s keeping users from accessing a critical software application, you can release a hotfix to fix it without making users restart their computers.

  • Provide a cost-effective way to fix critical problems:

Hotfixes are quick and easy software updates. They are much simpler and smaller than regular software releases so they can be made and released faster and more cheaply. For example, suppose a bug is discovered in a software application. In that case, a hotfix can be quickly put together and released to fix the bug without having to build and release a whole new version of the entire application.

Hotfixes are helpful for software folks and IT people. They help tackle essential bugs and security issues, make systems more stable and faster, and minimize downtime and issues for users.

Here are some examples of how hotfixes have been used to address urgent issues:

  • In 2017, Microsoft released a hotfix to fix a security vulnerability in the Windows operating system that attackers could have exploited to gain unauthorized access to systems.
  • In 2020, Google released a hotfix to fix a bug in the Chrome web browser that was causing it to crash on startup.
  • In 2021, Apple released a hotfix to fix a bug in the macOS operating system that was preventing users from logging in to their accounts.

Sometimes, the software has critical issues that need fixing ASAP. That’s where hotfixes come in. They’re a tool that help improve how secure, reliable, and user-friendly software is. 

So yeah, Hotfixes are pretty important!

Hotfix challenges

  • New bugs: Hotfixes can introduce new bugs, leading to a vicious cycle of Hotfixes.
  • Compatibility issues: Hotfixes may not be compatible with older software versions or other software applications running on the system.
  • Testing: Hotfixes are often released quickly, which may need more time for thorough testing. This can lead to Hotfixes that introduce new problems or that only fix the original problem partially.
  • Documentation: Hotfixes are often deployed quickly, which may need more time for documentation. This can make it challenging to understand what the Hotfix is fixing and how to apply it correctly.
  • Communication: It can be challenging to communicate with users about Hotfixes, especially if they are being released quickly and frequently. This can lead to users needing clarification and may also lead to users not applying important Hotfixes.

Using Hotfixes can be great, but you must be careful and not go crazy with them. You need to think about if it’s worth the risk before you start using them.

Keys to avoiding Hotfixes

Here are some key factors to avoid Hotfixes:

  • Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD): CI/CD is a set of practices that automates the software development and delivery process. This can help you to catch bugs early and release hotfixes quickly when necessary. For your test automation needs, use a tool that can support your needs.

  • Good code quality: Write clean, well-organized code that is easy to understand and maintain. This will make it less likely that you’ll introduce bugs into your software.
  • Regular monitoring: Monitor your software in production to identify and fix any problems. This will help you to catch and fix bugs before they cause significant problems for your users.
  • Good communication: Communicate with your users about any known bugs or issues. This will help to manage their expectations and let them know when to expect hotfixes.

How is Hotfix Tested and Released?

Hotfixes are tested and released in a way similar to regular software releases but with a few key differences.


  • Hotfixes are tested more quickly and with less rigor than regular software releases. This is because the need for a hotfix is usually urgent, and there needs to be more time to go through the entire testing cycle.
  • Hotfixes are typically tested on a smaller subset of devices and operating systems than regular software releases. Hotfixes are only released to address critical issues affecting a few users.

This is where test automation can prove very useful. If you have regression tests automated, the major testing cycle could be completed via automated tests.


  • Hotfixes are typically released more quickly than regular software releases. This is because the need for a Hotfix is usually urgent, and users need to be able to access the fix as soon as possible.
  • Hotfixes are typically released through a different channel than regular software releases. For example, hotfixes may be released through a dedicated hotfix portal or a support ticket system.

4 testing tips for hotfixes

Here are four testing tips for hotfixes:

  1. Understand the hotfix: Before you start testing a hotfix, it is essential to understand what it is fixing and how it is supposed to work. This will help you to design effective test cases and to identify any potential problems with the hotfix.
  2. Test the hotfix thoroughly: Hotfixes should be tested as thoroughly as regular software releases. This means testing the hotfix on a variety of devices and operating systems and testing all of the features of the software that are affected by the hotfix.
  3. Use different testing techniques: When testing hotfixes, it is important to use some testing techniques, such as functional testing, regression testing, and performance testing. This will help you to identify a broader range of potential problems.
  4. Communicate with the development team: It is important to communicate with the development team throughout the hotfix testing process. This will help to ensure that any problems that are found are fixed promptly.

What’s a patch?

Back in the day, when computers were just getting started, patches were actually patches. You see, they used punched cards and paper tapes to tell the computer what to do. Each card or tape had a bunch of holes and spaces that represented the software. 

So, when the software needed to be changed, they would send out updates on smaller pieces of paper or cards, and people had to cut out the wrong code and replace it with the new stuff. 

But today, things are a lot different. Patches for modern computers are digital, and they update the software by changing the code using a program that anyone can use. Patches are like temporary fixes until the next big update comes out. They fix all kinds of bugs, security issues, and stability problems. Sometimes, they even add new features. 

Patches usually come out regularly, and they can be included in the next big update along with other fixes and features.

What’s a Coldfix?

So, you know hotfixes? They’re quick fixes that don’t require restarting any systems or hardware. But here’s the opposite of that – Coldfixes. They’re the ones where you must log out of the software and reboot the entire system for the fixes to come into play. 

Online multiplayer games have to deal with these types of updates all the time. So, they usually let users know ahead of time that the service will be down for a while during the fix. They also estimate when the service will be back online since the outage can last from a few minutes to several hours, depending on the update.

What’s a Bugfix?

We all know what a bug is, right? It’s a tiny mistake in a program that makes it act weird. And when we want to get rid of it, we call it “debugging.” 

But don’t let the cute name trick you – finding and fixing bugs can be a real pain in the neck for developers and programmers. 

Many types of errors can happen, like typos, syntax, and logical errors. Sometimes, fixing the bug is easy, like when you just need to add a bracket or something. But other times, it can be a real challenge to figure out what’s causing the problem.

Here is a simple example of a Bugfix:

Bug: A car’s engine does not start.

Fix: The mechanic identifies the problem as a dead battery and replaces the battery.

The car engine now starts because the bug has been fixed.

Bugfixes and Hotfixes may sound similar, but they are different in timing and how they are done. Bugfixes happen during testing or production to address issues in a product’s usual release cycle. Hotfixes, on the other hand, are applied after the product has been released and is live.

Examples of Coldfixes and Bugfixes

Can you relate this simple analogy: 

Imagine you have a car with a flat tire. 

  1. A Coldfix would be to patch the tire, but you would need to take the car off the road and put it on the spare tire while the patch is curing. 
  2. A Bugfix would be to replace the tire, which you could do while the car is still on the road.

Here are some examples of Coldfixes and Bugfixes:

Coldfix examples:

  • If you’re trying to open a specific file in a software app, but it keeps crashing, don’t worry. The developers have made a fix that should solve the problem, but you’ll need to restart the app to get it working correctly. 
  • Is your favorite website taking forever to load? It could be because the web server is using too much CPU power. No biggie, though — the developers can create a quick fix to reduce CPU usage. Remember, you’ll need to restart the server to apply the fix.

Bugfix examples:

  • There’s a software app that shows the wrong info when you do a certain thing. But the dev created a fix for it that corrects the info. And guess what? You don’t even have to restart the app for the fix to work! 
  • On a website, there’s a typo on one of its pages. But the dev created a fix for it, so the typo is corrected now. And the best part? You don’t have to get the server restarted for the fix to take effect!

In general, coldfixes are used to fix bugs that require the system to be restarted, while bugfixes are used to fix bugs that do not need the system to be restarted.

Hotfix vs. Coldfix vs. Bugfix vs. patch

Here is a tabular column with Hotfix vs. Coldfix vs. Bugfix vs. Patch:

DefinitionA rapid release of a software patch typically applied to a live system without requiring a restart.A software patch is typically applied to a system that is offline or unused.A software patch that fixes a bug.A software update can include bug fixes, new features, and security updates.
ApplicationHotfixes are typically used to address critical bugs or security vulnerabilities that require immediate attention.Coldfixes are typically used to address bugs or security vulnerabilities that are not as critical and can be fixed during a scheduled downtime.Bugfixes can be applied to live systems or to offline systems.Patches can be applied to live systems or to offline systems.
TestingHotfixes are typically tested less rigorously than regular software releases, as they need to be released quickly.Coldfixes are typically tested more rigorously than hotfixes, as they can be tested on a system that is offline or not in use.Bugfixes can be tested less rigorously than regular software releases, but they should still be tested thoroughly to ensure they do not introduce new bugs.Patches can be tested less rigorously than regular software releases, but they should be tested thoroughly to ensure they do not introduce new bugs.
DeploymentHotfixes are typically deployed to live systems as soon as possible.Coldfixes are typically deployed to systems during a scheduled downtime.Bugfixes can be deployed to live systems or to offline systems.Patches can be deployed to live systems or to offline systems.


Hotfixes are helpful for software developers and IT pros, however, it is essential to note that hotfixes should be used with caution, as they have the potential to introduce new bugs or compatibility issues. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a Hotfix and a Standard release?

  • Hotfix: A rapid release of a software patch typically applied to a live system without requiring a restart. Hotfixes address critical bugs or security vulnerabilities that require immediate attention.
  • Standard release: A planned release of a software update that includes new features, bug fixes, and security patches. Standard releases are typically tested more thoroughly than hotfixes and are released on a schedule.

Why is it called a hotfix?

Because hotfixes are typically applied to a live system without requiring a restart, they are like applying a patch to a hot tire. This metaphor highlights the urgency of hotfixes and the need to apply them quickly to fix critical problems.

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