Windows 10 updates are about to get smaller and less painful

Starting with the "next major version of Windows 10 and Windows Server", Microsoft will change how it handle monthly quality updates.

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Microsoft is changing how it updates Windows 10 and Windows Server machines to reduce download sizes and simplify the patching process.

Starting with the "next major version of Windows 10 and Windows Server", Microsoft will change how it handle monthly quality updates, the name given to the bundle of general and security fixes issued for Windows on the second Tuesday of each month, otherwise known as Patch Tuesday.

While Microsoft currently issues three versions of these quality updates -- known as Full or Latest Cumulative Update (LCU), Delta and Express -- in future Microsoft will only issue a single type of quality update.

This new update will be smaller in size than a typical quality update today, can be downloaded once and redistributed to other PCs internally, and will be easier to manage.

Like existing Express updates, which are typically around 100-200MB, the size of the new update will be limited by only downloading the files needed, based on how recently the machine has been patched.

For those managing a fleet of machines, download sizes will be further reduced, as the update won't need to be downloaded to every machine on the network but can instead be loaded on to a single machine and redistributed internally.

"Since this new quality update package will be redistributable, organizations that utilize express updates via WSUS, System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), or a third-party management solution that supports express updates will experience enormous savings in network bandwidth and cache size on their distribution points or update servers," said Microsoft program manager Maliha Qureshi in a blog post.

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Image: Microsoft
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Image: Microsoft


In tests, Microsoft says this new update has been found to use 40% less memory than Express updates, due to "no behind-the-scenes computing of the optimal differentials required".

The new update will also not require the previous month's update to be installed on a device before it can be applied, as is the case with the current Delta updates. Microsoft has already announced that it will cease offering Delta updates for Windows 10 from February 12th 2019.

The way the new updates will be packaged depends on the software used to manage Windows updates. Those using Windows Update (WU) or Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) will have the files distributed to them in a .cab file, while the updates will be also available as downloadable Update Standalone Installer (.msu) files from the Microsoft Update Catalog.

The new updates will be available to devices managed by Microsoft Intune, and third-party mobile device management (MDM) software, as well as on-premises management systems that get updates from WSUS or the Microsoft Update Catalog.

Though Microsoft is not explicit about when the change will take place, the reference to the next major release of Windows 10 and Window Server suggests it will happen with the release of the Redstone 5 build of Windows, expected around October this year.

However, Microsoft has committed to continue making the Full and Express updates available to machines running older supported versions of Windows 10 Enterprise.

Microsoft's approach to updating Windows 10 has been criticized recently. Earlier this month, Windows sysadmins wrote an open letter to Microsoft executives, calling on them to overhaul Windows 10 updates, saying buggy patches are forcing firms to choose between stability and security.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Microsoft is planning to make its monthly updates to Windows 10 and Windows Server smaller and simpler to manage.
  • The new updates will arrive with the next major release of Windows 10 and Windows Server.

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