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.