Building Windows 8 Blog Details Windows Update Revamp
One of the reasons why I favor Mac OS X over Windows is the Microsoft Windows Update. I don’t think I’ve ever turned on my PC without being greeted with the message, “Windows has downloaded new updates,” forcing me to delay what I needed to do to install the updates, then reboot. Again. Well, Microsoft has heard the collective sighs and it’s working to make Windows 8 a lot more friendly when it comes to endless updates and patch Tuesdays. Here’s how it works …
The Building Windows 8 Team members asked themselves, “What is the best way to quickly update the PC while not being intrusive to the user?” The response? “This is a hard question, and there is no one simple answer.” That’s an odd answer. Wait, I have one: Make Windows 8 like OS X and require reboots only for super-critical security and OS updates.
Turns out, that’s more or less what Microsoft has done. The Windows 8 team has implemented changes to Windows Update that consolidates all necessary restart updates inside one month, which are then subsequently linked to Microsoft’s monthly patch Tuesday releases. From the blog:
… your PC will only restart when security updates are installed and require a restart. With this improvement, it does not matter when updates that require restarts are released in a month, since these restarts will wait till the security release.
One caveat: In the case of a “worm-like vulnerability,” Microsoft will push out the update and override this feature.
Windows Update also will alert users in advanced of an automatic restart, giving the user three days’ notice, and has eliminated annoying pop-ups that require the user’s attention. Rather, Windows 8 log-in screens will display a polite message that the reboot is coming. Better yet, if the user has applications running and has hit the third day, Windows 8 will not automatically restart but will wait for the user’s return and subsequent saving of application data.
In the SMB and enterprise, where power users and IT compliance policies often collide, IT admins still have the ability to completely prevent automatic reboots altogether. (But as a former IT help desk tech, I urge IT admins everywhere not to do this. Manually performing Windows Updates for end users is not a good use of time.)
Still, I have a bone to pick with Microsoft: Rebooting every 30 days is still far from ‘productive.’ My MacBook Air has an uptime of 29 days, and at the time of this publishing, will be 30 days. The overall record I’ve hit of consecutive days without booting is 56, and that wasn’t a reboot out of necessity. I don’t know how Microsoft has built Windows 8, but with all the efforts to make Windows less of a memory hog and more of a streamlined OS, somewhere along the line, Microsoft may have wanted to do some tweaking to the kernel to allow most security updates to install without rebooting.
The Windows Update experience may never be an unobtrusive thing, but Microsoft is making strides in the right direction. Ensuring Windows Updates are as painless as possible will be key to ensuring Windows 8 tablets feel less like a PC and more like a reliable mobile device.
Finally, I have two concerns that hopefully Microsoft will address in the future: the size of updates and the speed of installation. At no point do Windows 7 updates feel speedy to download or install. Unfortunately, that’s something we’ll have to check out when Windows 8 officially ships.