Microsoft Promises More Flexibility, Transparency for Windows 10 Updates

Posted on March 1, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 36 Comments

Microsoft Promises More Flexibility, Transparency for Windows 10 Updates

Today, Microsoft revealed its plans to improve the Windows 10 update and upgrade experiences. And, as important, its goals for being more transparent about the changes it is making to your PCs.

These changes were of course driven by customer feedback. And they relate both to updates—the ongoing “Windows as a service” stuff—and upgrades, which is what happens when you move from one version of Windows 10 to the next version.

There are issues with both. And while I don’t like to pat myself on the back, I have been a big part of both conversations, and have in both cases, I think, raised awareness that things needed to change.

Last October, I noted that Windows as a Service simply wasn’t working, that treating a monolithic, legacy code base like a cloud service when it comes to updating may in fact be impossible.

“It doesn’t work,” I wrote at the time. “We’re all in a perpetual beta, where the speed of these updates and the explicit understanding that they will always be followed my more updates, means that quality control can lapse. If Microsoft screws up an update, no worries: They can and will just patch it again, because they can. And patch it and patch it and patch it. Which they have.”

Updating—and the lack of quality there—is something that Windows 10 users deal with on a monthly basis. But upgrading only happens once or twice a year. So that should be a better experience, right?

Well, as you may recall, the previous major Windows 10 upgrade, called the Anniversary Update, suffered from major reliability issues, necessitating a longer-than-expected, months-long rollout. Not to mention some scrambling on Microsoft’s part to find out what went wrong and to ensure that it never happens again.

The problems were so bad that I called on Microsoft to consider a formal Reliable Computing Initiative that would mimic past actions such as the Trustworthy Computing Initiative. But I also spoke privately with the Windows team at this time. And to be fair, the firm does at least have various processes in place to ensure that when things do go south, they can regroup and fix the problems. What was needed, I argued, was better transparency: Microsoft’s continued silence in the face of criticism was harming customers’ view of Windows 10, and of the company.

Well, I’m happy to say that it appears that Microsoft has taken this advice to heart. And that the firm is moving to make both updates and upgrades more reliable, more predictable, and easier on those who, to date, have felt that the way the system works now is simply too Draconian.

Some of these changes were apparent in previous Windows 10 Insider builds, but some of this new as well. So here’s a quick rundown of what Microsoft is promising.

Update install timing configuration. Today, Windows 10 doesn’t provide a way for customers to configure the timing of updates. With the Creators Update, you will now have several options for scheduling this timing. You can “hit a snooze button” and pick an install time so that your PC doesn’t just reboot to install an update, for example. And Microsoft is widening the Active Hours setting.

Fewer reboots. Updates will trigger fewer reboots, which reduce the likelihood that an update will be installed at an inopportune time.

“At a glance” update status. A new icon in the Windows Update page in Settings will help customers understand whether their PC is up-to-date with updates. Microsoft says this change is consistent with the UI in the new Windows Defender Security Center.

Better performance. Update downloads will have less impact on PC performance while they are in progress, Microsoft says.

More control over privacy during Setup. On new installs and with upgrades, Microsoft will make it easier for users to choose the privacy and diagnostic data collection settings that they prefer. Insiders have seen this screen on new installs, but the upgrade experience is new to build 15046 (see below) and is much more attractive than what you see on a clean install of the OS.

Better transparency through communication. Microsoft’s Director of Program Management John Cable will keep customers up-to-date on improvements to the Windows 10 update experience over the coming months via blog posts. “You can expect to hear more from me about our process for rolling out the Creators Update, how we partner with OEMs to ensure high-quality experiences, and how we utilize your real time feedback and data to ensure the best update experience for all our customers,” Mr. Cable notes.

I assume, given its experience with the Anniversary Update, that Microsoft will proceed slowly with the Creators Update rollout, which starts in early April. Hopefully, this time will be different. But whatever happens, I like the openness we’re seeing there: Microsoft isn’t just doing the right thing with regards to updates and upgrades, it is doing the right thing in the way it communicates these changes. This is both smart and very welcome.


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Comments (36)

36 responses to “Microsoft Promises More Flexibility, Transparency for Windows 10 Updates”

  1. madthinus

    Still no way to control the timing of when the bloody thing download. Clearly they have not learned anything from their African initiatives.

    • matsan

      In reply to madthinus:

      Exactly! Twice now we have exceeded the quota of our LTE at the country house due to three laptops and one Surface downloading updates in the background. Yes, there is a "Metered Connection" setting but I every time this has happened it has been set to "off".

      While I wouldn't scream "bug" just yet - I have a nagging feeling that the setting is confused by 2,4 and 5 GHz mixed-mode networks and possibly the "repair" function of the network interface. We haven't changed the SSID.

      • SvenJ

        In reply to matsan: I have had some similar surprises. I have purchased and used NetWorx by Softperfect to get a better handle on what is going on. It does network monitoring and has the ability to set thresholds, like 1GB within one hour, and react to that with a warning or even shutting down the ports. Not a shill for these guys, just find the app to be useful for this sort of thing. It has recently gone from free (for personal use) to a reasonable price, I think, and I purchased licenses. It works on PCs and to some extent on MACs. I wish I could find something not commercial/professional, that could monitor the network itself and look for downloads and tell me what device is requesting the data. I have lots of stuff that can download from the net that isn't a PC, Smart Hubs, Roku, Apple TV, Android things, etc. Bet we all do.

  2. Winner

    So they're becoming more transparent. Did this announcement get accompanied by more information on the month-delayed current update while at least two zero-day exploits are floating out on the internet?

  3. irfaanwahid

    I have been with Win10 since it launched, & somehow I always have this feeling that it's not a finished product, the satisfaction I had with previous Windows versions, Vista, 7 and even 8.

    There is a sense of buggy-ness in this product, not sure if I'm alone in this or others share these sentiments too?

    I did really want Windows team to release an update just focusing on the Quality/finishes of the product rather than new features. We all want new stuff, but a sense of high quality product is paramount.

    My Surface Pro4 occasionally does not shutdown by hitting the Shutdown icon. Win10 updates/Firmwares haven't solved my problem yet, and these are the small teething issues that I want MS to focus on, a satisfactory user experience.

    I somehow believe one of Apple's winning formula is to keep it simple, clean and high quality product.

    • CompUser

      In reply to irfaanwahid: The thing I can't figure out about Windows 10 is it's apparent inconsistency with hardware and drivers (at least on my computer). I'm using a dual boot desktop (Windows Anniversary Update and Windows Insider), and obviously the hardware is identical regardless of which partition the computer is booted to. Also, the drivers and device settings are identical between the two partitions. But, audio works on the Anniversary Update side but not on the insider side, and it's been this way since the first insider release after the Anniversary Update was released. Nothing I do seems to fix it. So yea, I agree that there needs to be more attention paid to polish instead of new features.

    • rameshthanikodi

      In reply to irfaanwahid:

      Your feelings aren't facts though. And Apple isn't perfect either. The past couple of iterations have caused iOS devices to randomly shut down and the initial release of any MacOS is always a buggy mess until a few months later....just like Windows 10's updates

  4. rameshthanikodi

    People aren't over this bullshit yet? Jesus.

  5. TinkerToyTech

    t getting a I have an issue in that I need to reinstall this machine, and one of the big things that's keeping me from re-installing is not getting an iso, it's the nearly 100 other little things that I need to do, part before and part afterhand. I had an overnight update give me a blackscreen that never does amything. One of the users on this machine, the insider account, my paid office account, and I had no recourse because there was no place that I could find to call.

  6. ParadoxGBB

    This doesn't really solve my primary complaint about the Insider update process --- if you decide to follow the slow ring, and you unwittingly eat a bad bug, there's really no indication from Microsoft when the next cadence you can expect to expect a slow ring vetted update. Insiders have to choose between rolling back, living with it for an unspecified length of time, or jumping to the fast ring where there's a more reliable cadence at the risk of eating another bug. Right now you get fairly good information about the latter (fast ring builds) but it would sure help if they had a reliable communication when slow build builds are coming.

  7. lordbaal1

    active hours have been there from day one.

  8. skane2600

    MS's "remedies" are tortured unessarily complicated implementations. The bottom line is that MS wants to be in control of their customer's PCs and since any true relief would undermine that goal, their "remedies" will inevitably be ineffective.

  9. StephenCWLL

    Appreciate the blog from them but don't really see what's changing here. Saying less reboots and better performance is something they've probably said for twenty years and there's no evidence any of that has improved. The changes most want like the ability to choose which updates to download are still not being addressed. They are listening to feedback but addressing it at snails pace.

  10. zahlman

    Small typo = )

    understanding that they will always be followed my more updates

  11. david.thunderbird

    Hrump, I believe when's I's see's it work... I'm really tired of waiting.

  12. RobertJasiek

    Transparency and some of the changes are improvements but

    • diagnostics OFF is missing (other than permitting Windows updates at all)
    • transparency of telemetry is missing
    • the default of all privacy violations should be OFF
    • apparently deactivating and temporarily manually activating Windows updates is unnecessarily complicated (via Windows services in Pro) or impossible (in Home)
  13. Bats

    Paul is patting himself on the back just because Microsoft set a goal? Lol... That's kind of funny and weird. That's like taking credit for something that has yet to happen and also not so difficult to do. #mind boggled

  14. Waethorn

    "I called on Microsoft to consider a formal Reliable Computing Initiative that would mimic past actions such as the Trustworthy Computing Initiative"

    Too bad the Trustworthy Computing Initiative is pretty much dead. Microsoft won't detail patches, and even on the off time when they do, they're late getting details out.

    I haven't seen much that prevents malware from getting installed on Windows and completely borking an install either. Defender isn't equipped to handle the real threats that users are attacked by: fake, rogue software, and ransomware that Malwarebytes detects, as well as tech support scams where remote people can run a simply program like Syskey and lock Windows with a low-level NT password. When a security program says "everything is A-Ok" and the computer has impossible-to-remove fake software installed, it's a failure. I'm sick of defending Defender. It's terrible. 3rd-party antivirus is worse - Defender is the Stockholm Syndrome of security software, while buying 3rd-party software is like paying to be an abused slave. And none of them really protect users from actual threats. And I see this happen EVERY DAY.

  15. Corey McCowan

    So with the new Privacy settings pop-up on upgrades does this fix the issues that the EU had with Microsoft's first implementation? Also Paul do you believe this new screen makes it easier for privacy conscious people to adjust the settings they want?

  16. Tony Barrett

    You can bet that MS are all talk on this one, but are unlikely the walk the walk. MS have been decidedly underhand to the point of actually deceiving people during the upgrade push fiasco. Are we meant to believe they're now 'holier than though' and will be completely upfront on what they're actually doing, what they're collecting and what they're changing? No, didn't think so.

    If MS want to regain *any* consumer trust, they should do two things.

    1. Provide an option to defer all updates/upgrades until the consumer is good and ready to apply them
    2. Provide a single option to turn OFF all telemetry collection, and I mean everything, and make every privacy setting opt-in rather than opt-out.
    • rameshthanikodi

      In reply to Tony Barrett:
      1. That is what they're doing. You can defer updates and set active hours.

      2. They aren't going to do that. The way they fix problems now is by collecting diagnostic data. Things like that are too important in their process to let go. Anyone with half a brain will know how to opt-out of those "privacy" settings. Meanwhile why not you see how many apps work when you try opt out of location on your Android phone since you're so concerned about privacy.

      • CompUser

        In reply to rameshthanikodi: 1. You can't defer updates indefinitely or turn them off. 2. A lot of people with half a brain (I would guess that's most people) aren't even aware that those privacy settings exist. People who are tech minded enough to visit sites like this probably know this stuff, but are a relatively small percentage of overall Windows users. People who buy a computer because the guy at Best Buy said it's the right one to buy, take it out of the box, and do nothing with it but run the mostly social applications/programs they use it for, probably don't know this stuff.

        • Demileto

          In reply to CompUser:

          2) That's because only a really small amount of people are that privacy obsessive. In a world where both Facebook and Google's OSes and apps have more than a billion users worldwide each it's an absolute joke that Microsoft is the one being lambasted for robbing you of your privacy.

          And then there's this:

          "Nasty Surprise #2: New Tracking Telemetry Is On Your Device

          The plus side to the 30% Bug is Apple has promised to look into it and said it would release a software update this week which would track the battery consumption on iPhones to help the company get to the bottom of the problem.

          That’s all well and good but - surprise - it turns out the tracking software is baked into iOS 10.2 and no mention of this was made in the release notes. Apple exclusively confirmed the integration of the telemetry tool with iOS 10.2 to me today and that it is installed on every compatible device, regardless of whether they are affected by the bug."


          So you see, Apple is equally guilty of shoehorning telemetry into iOS, even secretly, but you don't see a call to arms from the privacy SJWs against them because in their eyes Apple are the good guys and Microsoft, the evil ones.

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