Windows 10 Update Returns Power to the People

In the last couple of days Microsoft have announced a few changes to the way Windows 10 is updated.

First, let me just set the current state of affairs. Windows 10 feature updates (the major half yearly updates) just appear on your PC when Microsoft deems your device is ready to be updated. It then installs the update and you have no control over whether or not it is installed. In addition, when the October 2018 update rolled out, it had a number of serious issues that at worse stopped the PC from booting, and at best provided an unsatisfactory experience.

All this changes when the next update rolls out which is called the May Update, which so far has been called version 1903.

What Microsoft are doing is that they are delaying the rollout of this update to May in order to do more extensive testing – finally, someone has seen sence! When it does come out, it won’t be installed immediately. There will be a period where your device isn’t ready due to some incompatibility, but once it is there will be a notification. You will then be allowed to choose whether or not to install the update (see below).

Image Credit – Microsoft

Microsoft will then stall updating the system until the version you are running goes out of support, which could be 18 months for consumers, and longer for enterprises. After which the update will be forced onto your device, unless you have previously selected to install it manually.

They are also producing a dashboard showing the current rollout status and health of the release.

Image Credit – Microsoft

Windows 10 Home will also have the ability to delay cumulative updates after v1903 rolls out. So, this really is a big deal since home users are the most vulnerable users to buggy updates. There is also a new feature in Windows 10 coming in v1903 that will remove a cumulative update if it is causing issues.

OK, so this is really a big deal, since it reverses the policy around how Windows Update works on windows 10. Windows 10 Professional has always had a way to stop updates automatically installing through the Group Policy, but Home users have been left out unless they are adept at hacking the Windows registry which I don’t recommend for anyone to do unless they have technical skills.

I understand that this delayed update process will be deployed in a patch coming probably this or next month, so that this will be applied when v1903 rolls out.

Something else has happened that I find curious. Microsoft allow a group of public testers to see early release software for each major release. There are various rings, and one is called the skip ahead ring where these users get access to the next major release before the next one is published. The skip ahead testers are getting the 20H1 update, which is targeted for release in 2020 and not late 2019. Does this mean that Microsoft are now going to annual feature updates? Their developer conference is next month, so maybe we will hear more there.

You can read a more complete story on this over on GHacks. There are also a number of other writeups across the technical press.

You can also read the Microsoft blog post on this here.


Headline photo provided by Panos Sakalakis on Unsplash

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