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One of my peers insist that one should say "install a patch". I believe on the contrary that "apply a patch" is more natural and one can only "install a program" when it comes to piece of software.

A quick search in google tells me that the words apply and patch are more often associated as the words install and patch. There is nonetheless a lot of result for it, and searching for "install a patch" is more succesful as searching for "apply a patch".

Knowing that a google search is not ideal to find an answer in this domain, I would like to know when using apply is favored, and when it is better to use install with the word patch.

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4  
I would apply a patch to a program I had installed –  mplungjan Feb 22 '11 at 10:19

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Apply a patch seems more natural, to me, as it reminds me of apply a patch referred to a piece of cloth applied to a weak point. I also normally use the word patch when referring to an operation made to source code.

Install a patch would mean to run an installation program that patches an application, or a file present on a computer.

Instead of using apply a patch, or install a patch, I would use patch as a verb.
As reported by the NOAD, to patch means, when used in computing contexts, "correct, enhance, or modify (a routine or program) by inserting a patch".

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Agree, though "to patch" could also refer to the creation of a patch... –  Stein G. Strindhaug Feb 22 '11 at 11:21
    
I think of applying a patch as a manual process (e.g. using a hex editor and manually changing values). Installing a patch is what most people do: download and run an installer. To confuse matters more: when I think of the old-fashioned patch metaphor, I think of sewing/ironing a patch! –  horatio Feb 22 '11 at 20:43
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@horatio: Would running a script be considered as running in installer in this case? –  Eldroß Feb 24 '11 at 9:32
    
@Eldros: If the script is something like patch, to which you need to provide the right arguments to obtain the right effect, then I would not call of installer. If it's a script that does all, and eventually ask optional parameters, then I would call it installer. The distinction is not so clear, though. –  kiamlaluno Feb 24 '11 at 10:11

I think “apply a patch” is much more in line with the pre-computer era usage of the word “patch”, and so might fit better with the image conveyed by the word (the analogy between a cloth patch and the software patch).

Both options are perfectly understandble, however, which is the most important issue!

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Install implies that something is individual or separate (a component or an entire program) ; apply refers to something that is added to enhance an existing component.

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"Apply a patch" is correct, in my view. This usage goes back to at least the mid-1960s on mainframe computers. I speak from personal experience!

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