Fall Creators Update Feature Focus: Delivery Optimization

Posted on August 16, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 21 Comments

You may not be able to turn off continual software updating in Windows 10, but the Fall Creators Update makes it easier than ever to configure how and when these updates arrive, making them at least a bit less disruptive.

And Delivery Optimization is key among the improved software updating technologies in the Fall Creators Update. To be clear, this feature isn’t new to this version of Windows 10: Delivery Optimization was actually introduced way back in the November Update, from late 2015. But it has been enhanced significantly for the Fall Creators Update.

As a refresher, Delivery Optimization was originally introduced in Windows 10 in order to reduce download bandwidth and improve software update reliability in home and business networks. That is, instead of every PC on your network all mindlessly downloading the same updates, they could receive those updates from other PCs on that network too. Ideally, one PC would download an update from the Internet and the rest would get it locally from that one PC, saving bandwidth and any associated costs. In short, a hybrid cloud and peer-to-peer system.

Delivery Optimization is most often associated with Windows Update, and it is indeed used for both quality updates and feature updates. But it is perhaps less well-known that Microsoft also uses this technology to download apps and other content from the Windows Store too.

In the Creators Update, Microsoft improved Delivery Optimization in a somewhat controversial way by adding another means by which PCs could download updates: From other PCs on the Internet, a move that doesn’t so much save bandwidth (or bandwidth costs) but can alleviate performance issues and further improve reliability.

Under the covers, Delivery Optimization works much like the Branch Office technologies that Microsoft first developed for its server products back in the early 2000s: It breaks down downloads into smaller chunks and finds the optimal way to get those chunks, even if they come from different sources. But as a Windows 10 feature, it’s also modern and respects battery life, cellular connections, and disk usage. Microsoft says that this feature reduces Internet bandwidth usage by 30 to 50 percent, which is certainly impressive.

For the Fall Creators Update, Delivery Optimization is improving yet again. Now, the feature is receiving upload bandwidth configuration capabilities so that you can save bandwidth in the other direction. And a new activity monitor finally lets you see what Delivery Optimization has been doing on any given PC, a key customer request.

Of course, to find these features, you need to know where to look.

To access settings and features related to Delivery Optimization, open the Settings app (WINKEY + I) and navigate to Update + Security > Windows Update > “Advanced options” > “Delivery Optimization.” In previous versions of Windows 10, that last link was titled “Choose how updates are delivered.”

The ability to toggle Delivery Optimization on or off, and to determine where you receive updates from is not new to the Fall Creators Update. (Though Microsoft has changed the language here a bit.) But there are two new items here: “Advanced options” and “Activity monitor.”

In Advanced options, you can configure various options related to how Delivery Optimization works. For example, you can limit background bandwidth usage for updates, plus the upload bandwidth used to provide updates to other PCs. You can also set a monthly upload limit; when that limit is reached, this PC will no longer provide updates to other PCs.

Activity monitor is exactly what it sounds like: It provides a visual display of the update download and upload bandwidth used over the current month. And it separates out downloads from Microsoft, PCs on your local network, and PCs from the Internet. And, in the case of uploads, you can see your upload bandwidth to the local network and to other PCs out on the Internet.

Put simply, this is a nice bit of transparency. That said, I’d like to be able to view this data over time, too. Right now, all you can see is the data for the current month.

 

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