Update, computer, checklist and phone icons over a person typing on a computer.
Image: Song_about_summer/Adobe Stock

The original reason for the name — delivering updates to Windows PCs and Windows Phone from the same service — might be long gone, but having a single update model for PCs, servers, IoT devices, HoloLens and Surface Hub that can handle quality updates, feature updates, optional features, language packs, Windows Insider Builds and new releases like Windows 11 doesn’t just give Microsoft one place to publish all those updates. The Unified Update Platform is also the way Windows updates are getting smaller and needing fewer client resources to download and install: Devices can check for updates, download, install and apply the relevant packages in one step rather than multiple stages.

Windows Update and Windows Update for Business already use UUP, but plenty of organizations manage devices and OS updates themselves to get more control. Microsoft is working to integrate UUP with Windows Server Update Services and Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager to help those organizations maintain that control.

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“The UUP on prem project is designed to bring the same great updating system and capabilities to WSUS and Configuration Manager connected PCs that devices directly connected to the Windows Update service have benefited from,” a Microsoft spokesperson tells TechRepublic. “Specifically, this project addresses significant pain and workarounds that enterprises have had to make to deploy feature updates and manage optional Windows features or language packs in their environment.”

Current update workarounds are time-intensive

Currently, the base media for a feature update and the Latest Cumulative Updates that make up quality updates are delivered by WSUS and Configuration Manager, but any updated drivers and compatibility or bug fixes for Windows Setup and the Windows Recovery Environment come via Dynamic Update, where you fetch content from a Microsoft URL while applying the feature update. Meanwhile language packs and optional features on demand can come from Dynamic Update or the Volume Licensing Service Center, but they’re not included in the standard OS package on VLSC, so they have to be downloaded separately.

If every PC downloads those separately from Microsoft, that uses more bandwidth — and that adds an extra reboot to every update — but storing those packages on your own infrastructure or building a new image or task sequence for each release is a lot of work for IT admins.

Integration with UUP means fewer workarounds and less work for IT

Integration with UUP means organizations don’t need to create custom images or complex task sequences to handle the specific mix of those optional features and language pages they need on devices, and users can even get them offline from your infrastructure rather than having to download them over the internet.

Whether you’re updating PCs from Windows 10 to Windows 11 22H2 or getting monthly quality updates for 22H2, UUP makes the process faster. Microsoft told us it does that by enabling:

  • Simplified content management via servicing, instead of media-based task sequences
  • Upgrading the OS to the latest security compliance level with one reboot
  • Optional features on demand and language packs that are already installed on a PC are retained during upgrades to Windows 11.
  • If you need other custom actions as part of an update, you can still build task sequences.
  • Quality updates will be smaller downloads, and if there’s a problem, Windows Update will try to automatically repair any corruption.

UUP also enables express downloads for feature updates, which are optimized to have Windows retrieve the smallest possible download.

“This is achieved by generating differentials for every updated file based on selected historical base revisions of the same file,” Microsoft explains.

The content you need to generate these differential payloads for each client is significant, and that’s not currently supported for devices that are connected to WSUS and Configuration Manager because of how much more content organizations would have to keep on their servers.

Integrating with UUP will mean storing some extra content on your WSUS and Configuration Manager servers for automatic corruption repair, optional features on demand and language packs for each Windows release. If you only deploy quality updates, Microsoft estimates that will come to about 10GB.

“This additional content will be automatically downloaded to the servers as part of the first quality update for that Windows release and will then be shared with all subsequent quality updates,” Microsoft said.

If you deploy feature updates as well as quality updates, they’ll use that same downloaded content.

Microsoft told us customers are happy with downloading and storing the extra content as a tradeoff to get the benefits of using UUP, “especially as some customers were downloading and managing this content separately anyway”.

Microsoft: Get ready for UUP integration

The private preview of UUP on premises “has been going well” Microsoft tells us, and the public preview will be announced “soon.” Microsoft has previously said this will be available in Q4 2022 (Figure A).

Figure A

The timeline for UUP.
Image: Microsoft. The timeline for UUP on premises, which Microsoft says is progressing well.

Once the integration with WSUS and Configuration Manager is available, organizations that use the Software Updates model for feature updates will automatically get UUP updates by picking them on the Products tab of the Software Update Point dialog for your site in Configuration Manager.

“No additional work will be required to deploy UUP feature and quality updates on supported WSUS and Configuration Manager environments,” Microsoft told us.

That means any supported version of WSUS. For Configuration Manager, you need at least version 2111 with express installation and delta download enabled in the Client Agent settings, but version 2203 is recommended.

IT admins can reduce redundancy with UUP

You will be able to remove any feature update steps you have to do today.

“For example, customers can remove Setup custom actions to migrate features on demand, since the UUP-based feature update will now do this automatically,” Microsoft said.

If you use a task sequence and OS media for feature updates, you’ll need to switch to using the Software Updates approach to get the advantages of UUP. You can still use task sequences, but you won’t have to build a custom OS image.

You may also need to modify the way you clean up old update content to save space on your WSUS and Config Manager servers, especially if you manage PCs using a variety of different versions of Windows, whether that’s for older PCs or as part of Windows Insider-style test and deployment rings.

“These new UUP features require clients to be able to access content for the version of Windows they are running on the WSUS / Configuration Manager environment, so to use these new capabilities customers should ensure Windows quality updates are not removed from their servers until that update is no longer installed on their client devices,” Microsoft said.

If you’re looking for a way to keep an eye on update deployments while you wait for UUP integration with WSUS, the preview of using Azure Workbooks to check update compliance will be turning into the live service of Windows Updates for Business reports in the first half of November.

This works for devices running Windows Pro, Enterprise or EDU SKUs that are enrolled in Azure AD, and you can sign up now through the Microsoft 365 admin center or wait until the service is live and sign up in the Azure Monitor portal. There are no extra charges for using the service unless you choose to retain data for longer than the default.

Set up and maintain compliance faster via PowerShell with the TechRepublic Premium Windows administrator’s PowerShell script kit.

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