Microsoft to changes how it pushes Windows 10 updates starting with the May 2019 update

Kareem Anderson

In an effort to be more transparent, Microsoft is yanking the reigns on its automated Update process.

The Windows Update system has been a topic of contention between users and Windows engineers for some time. One faction wants to mitigate the complaints of a poor user experience by preempting changes and improvements to the operating system while the other faction simply just needs the OS to operate ‘as is.’

Rather than continue to fight an uphill battle, the Windows team has announced today that as they looks to improve the Windows 10 update experience, they will be doing so by giving users more control.

Beginning with the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, users will be more in control of initiating the feature OS update.  We will provide 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.  When Windows 10 devices are at, or will soon reach, end of service, Windows update will continue to automatically initiate a feature update; keeping machines supported and receiving monthly updates is critical to device security and ecosystem health.  We are adding new features that will empower users with control and transparency around when updates are installed. In fact, 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.

With May 10, 2019 marking the date Microsoft’s Windows team will be giving users more control over their updates, let’s go over the new tools at users disposal.

  • Download and install now option provides users a separate control to initiate the installation of a feature update on eligible devices with no known key blocking compatibility issues. Users can still “Check for updates” to get monthly quality and security updates. Windows will automatically initiate a new feature update if the version of Windows 10 is nearing end of support. We may notify you when a feature update is available and ready for your machine. All Windows 10 devices with a supported version will continue to automatically receive the monthly updates. This new “download and install” option will also be available for our most popular versions of Windows 10, versions 1803 and 1809, by late May.

Windows 10 Update

  • Extended ability to pause updates for both feature and monthly updates. This extension ability is for all editions of Windows 10, including Home. Based on user feedback we know that any update can come at an inconvenient time, such as when a PC is needed for a big presentation. So, we’re making it possible for all users to pause both feature and monthly updates for up to 35 days (seven days at a time, up to five times). Once the 35-day pause period is reached, users will need to update their device before pausing again.
  • Intelligent active hours to avoid disruptive update restarts. The active hours feature, introduced in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, relies on a manually configured time range to avoid automatically installing updates and rebooting. Many users leave the active hours setting at its 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. default. To further enhance active hours, users will now have the option to let Windows Update intelligently adjust active hours based on their device-specific usage patterns.
  • Improved update orchestration to improve system responsiveness. This feature will improve system performance by intelligently coordinating Windows updates and Microsoft Store updates, so they occur when users are away from their devices to minimize disruptions.

While this new stance towards Windows 10 Updates do not offer users a permanent VETO button on the entire update process, it does offer several ways for users to prevent updates from disrupting their most busiest workflows.

Other Windows Update considerations include prioritizing and expanding the role of the Release preview Ring for Insider builds.

During this period, we are significantly expanding interaction with our ecosystem partners, including original equipment makers (OEMs) and independent software vendors (ISVs), which should help improve initial quality across a variety of devices, hardware and software configurations.

Not only will OEM’s be widening their testing scope but will also be encouraged to do so on their personal devices to help Microsoft accrue more real-world multi-configured data points.

The Windows team has also put into place a new low-volume, high severity issue monitoring system built upon processing natural langauge processing and Machine Learning models to quickly and efficiently diagnose user feedback.

Windows 10 Severity Issue

New label criteria have also been rolled to aid in the Windows teams use of ML modeling to better differentiate devices. The broader scope of this implementation is to, “predict the individual label criteria (e.g., rollback, operating system crash, application issues, etc.) related to the update experience as well as the full collection of criteria to improve our ability to accurately predict and troubleshoot issues.”

Lastly, users will now gain access to public dashboard of Windows 10 Update information that will be adjusted in near “real-time”. The Windows release health dashboard will be publicly available at the end of April and in preparation of the upcoming Windows 10 May 2019 Update.

Windows dashboard

Present in the dashboard will be information about each Windows 10 version, announcements, blog posts, service and support update details and other news, according to Microsoft.

While the Windows as a Service (WaaS) experiment has been a rocky endeavor for some, the growing pains appear to be pushing the Windows team in a direction that better supports is most casual and rabid user base.