Research shows Windows Updates can take six hours to complete

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated that some devices needed up to eight hours of internet connection to update; the story has been revised based on updated information from Microsoft.

Windows devices that aren’t connected to the internet for up to six hours at a time are “very unlikely” to update properly and completely, a recent Microsoft survey found.

Microsoft program manager David Guyer wrote in a recent blog post that devices need a minimum of two hours of continuous connection and six hours of total connection to install “quality updates and of functionalities”.

“This allows for successful download and background installs capable of rebooting or resuming once a device is active and connected,” Guyer wrote.

Nearly a week after the blog was first posted, Guyer answered some pointed questions in a comment thread, explaining that the majority of updates — start to finish — can take less than an hour.

“The six ‘total online hours’ (not eight) I quoted in this article are based on studies that include infrequently used devices, often online for a few minutes over several hours, have intermittent connectivity, and work often running out of battery power,” Guyer wrote. “Some parts of the update process may restart where they left off, such as downloads. Others have to restart from the beginning if the device shuts down. These two elements are therefore taken into account in the criteria.

The problem with long updates, according to Microsoft, is more prevalent on devices running Windows 10; these systems require significantly larger updates than Windows 11. Microsoft has reduced the size of updates for Windows 11 by 40% using compression technology, “reducing the time and bandwidth requirements for updates.” up-to-date,” a Microsoft software engineer and program manager wrote in an October 2021 blog post.

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How devices with insufficient update connectivity show up in the Windows Quick Update report in Intune.

Microsoft, Guyer wrote, has invested in a major effort to figure out why some Windows devices are still not completely up to date.

About half of Windows 10 devices that are no longer running a serviced version don’t spend enough time online for updates to download and install. That number drops to 25% of Windows 10 devices that are on a serviced build but have security updates that are more than 60 days out of date, according to Microsoft.

One problem is that end users shut down their systems at the end of their workday, eliminating the possibility of overnight updates. “Impress on [users] the importance of keeping their devices connected so their devices can stay protected and they can stay productive,” Guyer said.

Investigating the issue, Microsoft discovered “insufficient update connectivity”, or the time and bandwidth required to fully update the hardware during the six hours of connection time. low update connectivity can create new issues that go away once there is enough connectivity,” Guyer wrote.

The bottom line, however, is that Windows updates are large, and even breaking updates into smaller segments and spacing them out so they don’t all happen at once still requires the machine to be on for a long time. ; then, once the update is fully downloaded, the PC still needs to run the software in the background to have minimal impact on the performance of the machine.

The update problem for Microsoft has been a problem for years; this is not something new with Windows 10.

“Microsoft will struggle to outgrow this scenario, but they try to do that with every new operating system and improve, but they still have a ways to go,” said Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold. Associates. .

The fundamental problem is that the way Microsoft has structured Windows and the update process essentially requires a very large part of the operating system to be updated every time there is a new version, according to Gold.

“Other operating systems, especially some of the mobile systems…have figured out how to take a component-based approach to update only the necessary portions of code,” Gold wrote in an email response to computer world. “Microsoft is also trying to move in this direction, and Windows 11 does better in this area. existing platform is used in new versions of the operating system.

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A failure report filtered to the insufficient update connectivity alert, which shows devices with insufficient update connectivity.

If Microsoft tried to give operating system updates the priority they need to complete quickly, it would essentially take control of a machine’s CPU, resulting in sluggish performance for all applications on the system.

To fix the problem, Microsoft opted for partial downloads, doing one, waiting a bit, then downloading more, Gold said.

“Basically they slow down so they don’t affect performance too much…, so they don’t totally throw the user working on the machine,” Gold said.

Other operating systems have similar issues, but to a much lesser extent. For example, Apple’s macOS is built on a much more segmented Linux kernel than Windows. Thus, system updates are usually not as significant unless a user upgrades to a completely new version of macOS.

“But that doesn’t mean the update process on Mac is a snap either,” Gold said. “It still takes compute resources to download and perform upgrades. It’s just a bit easier on the system and the user than Windows.

Another issue affecting updates, Microsoft says, is power management. Some power settings and related policies hibernate or hibernate a device too quickly, which can prevent updates from occurring outside of active hours.

Microsoft provides recommendations on how to ensure updates are made, including power settings that help devices stay up to date with security updates. IT administrators who use GPOs to manage policies can use the Windows Security Baselines settings, available as part of the Security Compliance Toolkit, to configure power settings.

Organizations may also consider filtering out devices that lack minimum update connectivity. The reasoning is that these devices aren’t “sound for update”, and changing policies or targeting them with more updates won’t help until they reach the minimum connectivity metric. update required to pass.

Administrators can check which devices have insufficient update connectivity using Microsoft Intune. Once there, navigate to Devices > Monitor and select either the Feature update failures Where Windows Accelerated Update failures report.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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