Fingers Crossed as Creators Update Crosses the Finish Line

Posted on March 15, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 41 Comments

Fingers Crossed as Creators Update Crosses the Finish Line

As I noted yesterday, Windows 10 Insider Preview build 15055 is what Microsoft would have called a Release Candidate in years past. Given recent history, let’s hope they get this one right.

I’ve written about the issues with Windows 10 updating in general, and about the issues with last summer’s Anniversary Update in particular. To its credit, Microsoft is serious about making sure this never happens again. But the issue is simple: In this Windows as a Service (WaaS) world, where Windows 10 is updated monthly at the very least, and often more so, update reliability is key. And the situation is worse with gigantic upgrades like the Creators Update, which Microsoft says it will ship 1-2 times per year.

Well, the biggest Windows 10 upgrade yet is arriving next month: Since last fall, we’ve known that Windows 10 would be upgraded to version 1703 in early 2017, courtesy of what Microsoft calls the Creators Update. This update will be finalized this month—right on schedule—and will start heading out to customers over Windows Update in very early April. Again, right in keeping with the original schedule.

Maintaining a schedule is great, but I have concerns. I believe them to be well-founded.

For starters, Microsoft seems to have been pumping new features into Creators Update very late in the process. Many of those features will come via new app updates that have recently been taken out of the Fast ring builds, indicating that customers will have a massive set of app updates to install right after they complete the upgrade to the Creators Update.

But some of these features are right in the core operating system, and they still feel half-baked.Consider the mysterious case of Dynamic Lock, a late addition to the Creators Update which does what it does vaguely, badly, and with no configurable user experience at all. Despite much-needed configuration options—like the ability to tie the functionality to a specific device, or control how quickly it engages—Dynamic Lock is just something you turn on or off, with no real understanding of how it works. It’s crazy that Microsoft would ship such a thing in Windows.

Half-baked features are one thing. The bigger issue, of course, is update/upgrade reliability. When the Anniversary Update shipped last August, Microsoft expected to fully roll out the upgrade within a few months, and it started logically enough with known-good PCs and had plans to expand the audience receiving the update over time. That never happened because upgraders quickly succumbed to a series of problems that even Microsoft acknowledges should have been caught during testing. By the end of 2016, some PCs still were not receiving this upgrade.

Testing of Windows 10 upgrades, incidentally, occurs via the Windows Insider program, which is the largest-ever public beta test in history. That such a large audience—about 7 million people—and Microsoft’s vaunted telemetry-gathering infrastructure were not able to find such obvious issues as this upgrade breaking the most popular webcam on earth, should alarm everyone.

Making this situation even worse, of course, is that Windows 10 updates and upgrades are compulsory. Sure, you can defer updates for a little while, but those updates/upgrades are coming eventually. You can’t stop them.

Looking beyond the Creators Update, Microsoft promises to be more transparent about what it’s doing, and it is changing Windows 10 to allow users to delay updates and upgrades for longer periods of time, and to prevent unwanted PC reboots. But that won’t help anyone looking to install (or not install) the Creators Update: You won’t get these benefits until you do upgrade.

Good luck with that.

As always, I remain hopeful but realistic. I feel that Microsoft will prevent the types of issues that dogged the Anniversary Update, but that other new types of issues could present similar problems for customers. That Windows 10 is perhaps too complex for this WaaS scheme that Microsoft wants so badly.

So we’ll see what happens.

But for those of you not willing to play Russian Roulette with a working PC, I’ll be writing up a tip soon about delaying the Creators Update on your PCs. Given what happened with the Anniversary Update last year, it probably makes sense to take a wait-and-see approach this time around.

 

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