Microsoft Makes Major Changes to Windows 10 Updating

In a stunning and unexpected change, Microsoft will no longer force feed updates on Windows 10 users. Instead, it will adopt a more measured approach that balances the needs of its customers with its desire to keep the userbase secure and up-to-date.

“We are excited to announce significant changes in the Windows update process, changes designed to improve the experience, put the user in more control, and improve the quality of Windows updates,” Microsoft corporate vice president Mike Fortin announced in a most unexpected about-face. “We have heard clear feedback that the Windows update process itself can be disruptive, particularly that Windows users would like more control over when updates happen.”

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As you may know, Microsoft has long pretended that it can successfully update Windows 10 as if it were an online service, a scheme it calls Windows as a Service, or WaaS. Unfortunately, WaaS was problematic from the outset: Microsoft has delivered two major feature updates—really Windows version upgrades—every year, and its monthly scheduled quality updates have exploded to include several updates in some months. Users are forced to reboot their PCs much more frequently than before.

But it’s worse than that: A user’s (or business’) ability to defer updates to a later date varies wildly depending on which Windows 10 product edition they’re using. Windows 10 Enterprise and Pro users can defer both quality and feature updates for long time periods, for example, but Windows 10 Home users cannot. Even worse, anyone foolish enough to check for updates—long considered prudent—was deemed a “seeker” by Microsoft, and was then force-fed any available updates, including big and disruptive features updates when available.

I will write separately about my years-long attempts to get Microsoft to change this behavior. For now, I’ll just say that these changes prove that Microsoft was listening. And that it is finally acting.

Here’s what’s changing.

Beginning with Windows 10 version 1903—the feature update for which Microsoft is now calling the May 2019 Update—the software giant will actually allow its customers to decide when updates are installed.

“We will provide a notification that an update is available and recommended based on our data, but it will be largely up to the user to initiate when the update occurs,” Mr. Fortin explains. “All customers will now have the ability to explicitly choose if they want to update their device when they check for updates or to pause updates for up to 35 days.”

This confirms a suspicion I had back in March, that Microsoft would finally let Windows 10 Home users defer updates just like the adults using Windows 10 Pro. Now, all individuals using Windows 10 will be treated equally, as is correct.

For feature updates, you’ll see text in Windows Update explaining the update and a link will let you download and install it. All users can now defer both kinds of updates for up to 35 days, 7 days at a time.

Microsoft is also working to ensure the quality of this feature update, which is important given the disastrous two feature updates that Microsoft and its users experienced in 2018.

“We will increase the amount of time that the May 2019 Update spends in the Release Preview phase,” Fortin continues, while not pointing out that the previous feature update actually skipped the Release Preview phase, contributing to its reliability issues.

And yes, the May 2019 Update is now complete; this is what we used to called RTM. It will be made available to Windows Insiders next week in the Release Preview Ring. Microsoft plans to begin the public availability of this update in late May for commercial customers, those who choose to install it via Windows Update, and for those customers whose devices are nearing the end of support on a given release.”

That last bit is kind of interesting because it represents an exception to the new updating scheme. In other words, PCs nearing end-of-support will be updating using the original, forced WaaS approach.

“When Windows 10 devices are at, or will soon reach, end of service, Windows update will continue to automatically initiate a feature update,” Fortin explains. “Keeping machines supported and receiving monthly updates is critical to device security and ecosystem health.”

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Conversation 32 comments

  • ikjadoon

    04 April, 2019 - 12:38 pm

    <p>To clarify, what's changing with the "Check for updates" button? You mention Microsoft's current behavior is inane (thank you for being honest; the most tech-illiterate users were trained for literally decades to "check for updates" and now those same users are forced on the bleeding edge? …this is worse than a poorly-run startup), but what has Microsoft changed now?</p><p><br></p><p>I can't find a source link atm.</p><p><br></p><p>Otherwise, 35 days doesn't sound <em>that long</em> in Windows' time (I'm currently set for 365 days on Win10 Pro), but better than zero. I won't undo that until enough of my core applications require the latest Windows release.</p>

  • Yaggs

    04 April, 2019 - 12:38 pm

    <p>It sounds like they are just allowing you to defer the updates for a longer period of time and they are going to slow down their aggressive release cadence. Good for the end user for sure. I think we only need one update each year instead of two… but I also think we *should* be forcing users to stay up to date in over some reasonable time frame.</p>

  • gregsedwards

    Premium Member
    04 April, 2019 - 12:47 pm

    <p>This is a win-win. It's not like Microsoft are allowing Windows users to significantly defer or outright skip updates. They're basically throwing home users a bone by saying "we're not going to force you to take an update for a month." Which, in all fairness, is how it should have done things from day one.</p>

    • DrGecos

      Premium Member
      07 April, 2019 - 12:28 pm

      <blockquote>Your right, it gives home users flexibility to defer during travel or critical time frames. It is a win-win because I also recognize the need for as 'up to date' as possible.</blockquote><blockquote><a href="#418228"><em>In reply to gregsedwards:</em></a></blockquote><p><br></p>

  • Dan1986ist

    Premium Member
    04 April, 2019 - 12:49 pm

    <p>May 2019 Update to Windows 10 Version 1903 sounds like planning a release around the timeframe of Build.</p>

  • skane2600

    04 April, 2019 - 12:55 pm

    <p>Still an unnecessarily complicated solution to a self-inflicted problem. The Windows 10 update strategy has always been based on the idea that "We know what's best for you". </p>

    • jgraebner

      Premium Member
      04 April, 2019 - 1:45 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#418231">In reply to skane2600:</a></em></blockquote><p>I get what you are saying here, but isn't it kind of true that Microsoft is in a better position than the end user to understand the urgency of an update? A big part of the problem they are trying to solve is that there is a lot of paranoia around updates, which results in a lot more computers being vulnerable to security issues and other serious bugs than there should be.</p><p><br></p><p>I think their biggest mistake was shifting to forced updates before making a much more aggressive effort to improve their own QA process and ensure the stability of releases.</p>

      • skane2600

        04 April, 2019 - 3:11 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#418291">In reply to jgraebner:</a></em></blockquote><p>There doesn't appear to be an "urgency of an update" analysis by Microsoft at play here, but rather a desire to provide additional features. They could do as they've done in the past – make the users aware of a security issue and prompt them to update. But the final decision should be the user's.</p>

        • fbman

          05 April, 2019 - 1:11 am

          <blockquote><em><a href="#418331">In reply to skane2600:</a></em></blockquote><p>But the mom and pop type users dont really understand or care about the importance of an update.</p><p><br></p><p>I use my sister in law as an example. she is a typcial non technical user. If her windows did not automatically update, she would never update. She does not understand why she needs to update. When I tell her the risks, she justs says I have nothing that a hacker would want on my PC. The scary part.. she is a tax accountant.</p>

          • skane2600

            05 April, 2019 - 1:29 am

            <blockquote><em><a href="#418427">In reply to fbman:</a></em></blockquote><p>"But the mom and pop type users dont really understand or care about the importance of an update."</p><p><br></p><p>It's not a matter of "understanding". It is simply not important to them, period. In the unlikely event that they encounter a serious hack, they'll have to deal with the consequences, but not updating won't guarantee they will be hacked and updating won't guarantee that they won't.</p>

      • ahassall

        05 April, 2019 - 2:25 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#418291">In reply to jgraebner:</a></em></blockquote><p>As a Windows 10 pro user who is still running 1803 on two computers and having just gotten a small update to 1803 on one, I guess that 1809 and the associated updates are not that urgent. After initial problems with 1809 and Microsoft's willingness to update anyone who checked for updates, I will run 1809 until they see fit to push it out to me or it runs out of support. Someday my 2018 Thinkpad X1 Yoga will qualify for 1809.</p><p><br></p><p>I do understand the need for Microsoft to push updates out to some. My father doesn't want his computer to change. My parents aren't running Windows 10, so they can delay any update as long as they want to.</p>

  • waethorn

    04 April, 2019 - 12:58 pm

    <p>"We are excited…."</p><p><br></p><p>So, they've changed some bobble-heads?</p>

    • blackcomb

      06 April, 2019 - 5:35 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#418233">In reply to Waethorn:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>I'm breathless to check the rearranged deck chairs on the Titanic. Windows as a Service failed. They just can't accept the truth.</p>

  • the_sl0th

    04 April, 2019 - 1:02 pm

    <p>I had to check the date this was posted wasn't April 1 :-)</p>

    • Steven Ball

      04 April, 2019 - 3:00 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#418247">In reply to the_sl0th:</a></em></blockquote><p>Good to know I wasn't the only one!</p>

  • jumpingjackflash5

    04 April, 2019 - 1:16 pm

    <p>If it happens, that would be great.</p>

  • Chris Payne

    04 April, 2019 - 1:18 pm

    <p>Is it just me or does this not sound like a backtrack of WaaS at all? Everyone now has 35 days to upgrade, which is just a slight change. I also didn’t hear anything about Ms giving up on the 2-a-year updates. </p>

    • madthinus

      Premium Member
      05 April, 2019 - 11:44 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#418276">In reply to unkinected:</a></em></blockquote><p>They will not push the feature update on you, so the 35 days really only apply to normal patches now. The 35 days will only apply to feature updates close to the expiry of support. So in a way it is an improvement for both versions. </p>

  • RobertJasiek

    04 April, 2019 - 1:58 pm

    <p>Windows Pro gives peace to one's mind: (de)activate the Windows Update service as necessary.</p>

  • BlackForestHam

    04 April, 2019 - 3:04 pm

    <p>Peter Bright does a better job of explaining things from his roost over at Ars, as usual. </p>

  • Ldleasher

    04 April, 2019 - 3:13 pm

    <p>How about more than a baby step towards making a change?&nbsp; "I'd like to defer feature updates until…forever (ok end of lifecycle support but you know what I mean)…unless you put something in that I would be interested in using."&nbsp; I am OK with kind of force feeding the security updates, but forcing new features always seemed like a bad idea.&nbsp; I have been in IT for about 25 years and I am a big Microsoft nerd but even I don't really care about the majority of feature updates.&nbsp; I want the machine stable and secure, then you can talk to me about what shinny new bauble you have to show me.&nbsp; If it looks useful then I will update, if not, leave me the hell alone.&nbsp; How would you like to get a new car and then have the dealership show up at your house in 6 months and throw on some spinning rims and put in leopard skin seat covers…"Hey dad, some guy in suit was messing with your car earlier today.&nbsp; He painting it kind of a light green and it smells funny inside now…almost like it was new again.&nbsp; I don't think mom is going to care for those leopard skin seat covers…isn't she a member of PETA?&nbsp; He seemed really proud of himself when he left."</p>

    • warren

      04 April, 2019 - 4:02 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#418333">In reply to Ldleasher:</a></em></blockquote><p><br></p><p>There are major new security features in these feature updates, too. It's not just "baubles".</p><p><br></p><p>For example, with 1809 you get: Controlled Folder Access, additional protections against misbehaving kernel drivers, configuring Edge to run in a separate VM from the rest of the OS, Windows Firewall support for WSL, support for Windows Hello to connect to a remote machine via RDP…. bunch of other stuff, too.</p><p><br></p><p><br></p>

      • zeratul456

        04 April, 2019 - 5:17 pm

        <blockquote><em><a href="#418354">In reply to warren:</a></em></blockquote><p>If only all these great security features were included in Windows 10 Home instead of half of them being exclusive to Windows 10 Pro, used by a disappearing minority of all users ;)</p>

        • skane2600

          04 April, 2019 - 5:50 pm

          <blockquote><em><a href="#418362">In reply to zeratul456:</a></em></blockquote><p>Yes, to be make a credible claim that critical security updates were involved, they would have to apply to all versions. </p>

      • Ldleasher

        05 April, 2019 - 7:55 am

        <blockquote>I am all for new security updates and maybe the above would be of value for me and I would want to get them.&nbsp; Not being given the choice is the issue.&nbsp; I understand the difficulties Microsoft has in trying to keep everyone secure with a nearly unlimited number of&nbsp;configurations to try and take into account.&nbsp; That sucks, I get it.&nbsp; However, I think they swung the pendulum a little too far and in trying to enforce the updates.&nbsp; Keep the security updates coming, but reloading the entire machine to a somewhat jarring effect for most is a bit much and they could stand to back off a tad on that.</blockquote><p><br></p>

  • justme

    Premium Member
    05 April, 2019 - 7:11 am

    <p>I am still going to eventually be required to accept feature updates I dont want. I still will not have the ability to pick and choose which updates I want. This is just a delay, nothing more. And who exactly determines "…When Windows 10 devices are at, or will soon reach, end of service…?" </p><p><br></p><p>Sorry, my inner cynic has decided to play today.</p>

  • crp0908

    05 April, 2019 - 12:24 pm

    <p>Those of you that keep <span style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); background-color: transparent;">wishing for only one update a year need to also qualify that with "at least 30 months of support." Because only one update per year with only 18 months of support would be an even bigger nightmare than what we are dealing with now.</span></p>

    • skane2600

      06 April, 2019 - 2:38 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#418535">In reply to crp0908:</a></em></blockquote><p>Do we have to qualify our statements denying every dumb policy a company might adopt? Forget 30 months, it should be 5 years.</p>

  • codymesh

    06 April, 2019 - 4:53 am

    <p>So basically, if i'm reading this right, it looks like they're doing what Apple generally does with iOS. That's great! </p><p>But because Windows users tend to not be as excited about new versions, this will slow down adoption of newer versions of Windows, without a doubt. We are going to see people upgrade their OSes only once every two years (the full support lifecycle). For people like my brother, he isn't going to install an update if he doesn't need to.</p>

  • DrGecos

    Premium Member
    07 April, 2019 - 12:24 pm

    <p>This is a very welcome announcement. This has long been my number one concern with consumer W10. Thanks MSFT for finally listening.</p><p><br></p>

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