Windows will soon start downloading less for its updates

Last November, Microsoft announced an initiative to adjust the way that Windows devices of all kinds receive updates. Broadly speaking, the purpose of the initiative is to reduce the download size of updates, make them require less local processing, and give users more control over the time of installation. After a few rounds of testing with its Windows Insiders, Microsoft announced that its PC users can soon expect the download size of major Windows updates to decrease by about 35%.

This drop in size will be made possible by what Microsoft calls differential download packages. These packages don't include the files that will remain unchanged in the new build. Instead, these packages contain only new files and "binary deltas" designed to adjust existing files on users' systems. Files that are unchanged in the new build will simply be copied over from the current OS. The differential packages can be considerably smaller than what Microsoft calls canonical download packages, which contain a full, self-contained set of files.

Source: Microsoft

The above graphs from Microsoft shows how using differential packages reduced the size of updates for many of its Windows Insiders. While some users still had to download 2.56GB or more for this particular build, many were able to get away with a 900MB download. Regular Windows users shouldn't get too excited about those exact numbers, though. Microsoft indicated that since Windows Insiders get so many updates, their differential download packages can be smaller than the updates that retail Windows users can expect.

Microsoft plans to roll out this feature with the upcoming Windows 10 Creators Update. Since that update will contain the tech for differential download packages, users shouldn't expect the Creators Update itself to be smaller than previous major updates. However, users should benefit from the tech in subsequent updates.

Comments closed
    • LoneWolf15
    • 3 years ago

    Speaking from the corporate level, trying to manage a 1511 to 1607 update is a nightmare. You’re literally talking about a gig (or more) download, per computer, and (depending on system) a possibility of 1-2 hours of downtime.

    This is lousy but can be planned if you’re the sysadmin of one company. If you manage small-medium business for a living, it’s a logistics nightmare based on their Internet bandwidth and (even if you plan it) the possibility of their users freaking out or one out of every X systems keeling over when something goes wrong.

    Now realize that Microsoft is planning at least one update like this every year, and possibly two. Often for features that benefit them, and do little to benefit the end-user’s productivity, and since their QA has become poorer over time, six months of bugs before that release becomes tenable. Yeah, I’m a happy camper.

    • GrimDanfango
    • 3 years ago

    It seems like a perfectly sensible feature on the surface.

    What’s the betting that they use it as yet *another* excuse to have your computer phone out with a ton of telemetry regarding the contents of your hard drive?… y’know, ‘cos the differential updates need to know what files to leave out or something.

    • Shouefref
    • 3 years ago

    I’m really baffeld that they didn’t do this earlier.

    • Kougar
    • 3 years ago

    A Windows “feature” designed to save Microsoft serious infrastructure and bandwidth costs, great.

    I still remember Microsoft promising fewer reboots being required for Windows 8. Not only did that not happen but users no longer have direct control over the update process or even direct control over driver updates.

      • Shouefref
      • 3 years ago

      I visited a doctor yesterday who all of a sudden noticed he had replaced his W7 by W10, while he didn’t want it to happen. I told him about MS’ trick to change the function of the x in the upper right corner of the update pop-up window, and he said he actually never touched anything. The update just happened.

        • Kougar
        • 3 years ago

        Yep, it was publicized when Microsoft ‘accidentally’ enabled the upgrade through the regular windows update process. Anyone clicking through the first couple dialogs without reading them got upgraded.

    • mkk
    • 3 years ago

    Or how about making the image based reinstall fully optional. My mums somewhat aged laptop got the anniversary update rather late, meaning two weeks ago. After two failed attempts during which the routine downloaded 9 GB of data over the metered 4G, I disabled updates permanently.

    In case the system runs more than another year I guess I can simply do a fresh install of the latest build, then disable Windows Update again…

    At home where bandwidth is of no concern, I received a 200-something MB of Intel graphics driver update. The internal GPU was disabled in BIOS…

      • tai
      • 3 years ago

      I can’t agree more.

      MS, if you’re listening, please re-invent windows 7 updates!!

      ooops, my reply was directed towards ozzuneoj.

    • BillyBuerger
    • 3 years ago

    Whereas this is a good idea, it’s not my most pressing issue with Windows Update. Even if the download was smaller, the fact that it eats up my entire bandwidth while downloading is the most annoying thing. Good luck doing anything like streaming or working while windows updates. That itself also wouldn’t be a huge deal if I could actually control when I update and not just some stupid “active hours” thing but let me tell windows that I want to do it at this specific time when I know that nothing else is going on that will be affected. You can band-aid this all you want but you’re still forcing an update system on people without giving them any control over it.

    On a PC I have setup as a game server, I have to completely disable the update service or else the game server may reboot when it wants.

      • Shouefref
      • 3 years ago

      And then MS wonders why people buy rubbish like Google Chrome notebooks.
      It’s quite simple: because Windows turned into rubbish itself. Only because MS always panics when a competitor seems to have a little advantage. MS is always throwing away what it already has. It’s such a bunch of whimpies.

    • DPete27
    • 3 years ago

    I thought I heard recently that they’re also implementing less/no auto restarts during updates?

    • ozzuneoj
    • 3 years ago

    Here’s an idea, disable automatic driver updates by default. Periodically ask users if they want to update drivers to add new features and improve performance. If they say no, leave them alone. If the graphics driver crashes, ask the user if they want to update it.

    This alone would have a massive effect on update sizes, installation times and problems. A user would know that their system stopped working “after I said okay to a driver update” rather than just having a dead system after a reboot.

      • TwistedKestrel
      • 3 years ago

      How driver updates actually work at the moment is mysterious to me. I think I’ve seen driver updates on Windows 10 twice so far since launch across all of my machines

    • TwistedKestrel
    • 3 years ago

    Hey, every software developer on the planet that embeds some kind of auto-update functionality in their software:

    USE DIFFERENTIAL UPDATES

    Here’s a good place to start… [url<]https://dev.chromium.org/developers/design-documents/software-updates-courgette[/url<]

    • HERETIC
    • 3 years ago

    Some more info on Creators update-
    [url<]http://www.myce.com/news/microsoft-reveals-new-privacy-update-settings-windows-10-creators-update-81555/[/url<] And another bit of info [url<]http://www.myce.com/news/windows-7-gains-market-share-expense-windows-10-81548/[/url<] Depends which side of the fence your on whether that's good or bad. EDIT Another-not too good one- [url<]http://www.myce.com/news/windows-10-update-breaks-system-restore-81562/[/url<]

    • Neutronbeam
    • 3 years ago

    “I have a bad feeling aoout this.”

      • just brew it!
      • 3 years ago

      Yeah, until they get the kinks ironed out, it will be another way for Windows Update to fail in “interesting” ways.

        • meerkt
        • 3 years ago

        Months ago, WU on my Win8.1 stopped being able to update. All my attempts to fix it or figure out the cause failed. One day I’ll have to dig into Autopatcher again, no sooner than I research what “telemetry features” were forced into Win8 by now and how to disable them.

    • tipoo
    • 3 years ago

    My reaction is basically…Windows hasn’t been using differential updates this whole time o_O ?

    I thought Windows supported “delta” updates for a long time, I’m not following how differential updates are different, or if they are different. macOS and some Linux distros did it for a while I know. Or was that just for patches, and this is now for major builds?

    [url<]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta_update#Uses[/url<]

      • nico1982
      • 3 years ago

      [quote<]My reaction is basically...Windows hasn't been using differential updates this whole time o_O ?[/quote<] Same here O.o

      • just brew it!
      • 3 years ago

      [quote<]My reaction is basically...Windows hasn't been using differential updates this whole time o_O ?[/quote<] You and me both. It certainly explains a lot.

      • LostCat
      • 3 years ago

      For major OS updates it’s been practically been a full on OS redownload/reinstall every time.

      I don’t know if the cumulative patches had similar issues or not, but they seemed to get pretty large when it’d been a while since the last major OS update.

      I still don’t know if this will change anything wrt Store app updates or not.

      • barich
      • 3 years ago

      Updates have been differential for ages. This is really talking about new builds, which have until now been complete OS installs.

        • TwistedKestrel
        • 3 years ago

        That makes a lot more sense… though the downloading of a whole image still seemed odd to me with every build update.

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