History of Windows Updates
Microsoft Windows has been a staple in the PC industry for over 30 years. Who can forget the oldies but goodies (not including server or mobile versions):
• Windows 1.0 – 2.0 (1985-1992)
• Windows 3.0 – 3.1 (1990-1994)
• Windows 95 (1995)
• Windows 98 (1998)
• Windows ME (2000)
• Windows NT 3.1 – 4.0 (1993-1996)
• Windows 2000 (2000)
• Windows XP (2001)
• Windows CE (2006)
• Windows 7 (2009)
• Windows Phone (2010)
• Windows 8 (2012)
• Windows 10 (2015)
Of the more than 2 billion PCs which exist in the world, Microsoft dominates the operating systems running on them (according to NetMarketShare):
• Windows 10 – 43.86%
• Windows 7 – 36.47%
• Windows 8.1 – 4.18%
• Windows XP – 2.37%
• Windows 8 – 0.79%
• Windows Vista – 0.17%
Microsoft introduced Windows Update with Windows 98. It would check for patches to Windows and its components, as well as other Microsoft products such as Office, Visual Studio and SQL Server.
Windows Updates had two problems.
1. Less experienced users did not know about it as it had to be installed separately.
2. Corporate users had to update every machine in the company but also had to uninstall patches as they often broke existing functionality.
Microsoft introduced Patch Tuesday in October 2003 to reduce the cost of distributing patches. Tuesday was chosen because of the time available before the weekend to correct issues that arise with the patches. This left Monday to take care of any unanticipated issues from the preceding weekend.
At Ignite 2015, Microsoft announced a change to distributing security patches. Home PCs, tablets, and phones would get the security releases as soon as they were ready. While enterprise customers stayed on the Patch Tuesday monthly cycle – retooled as Windows Update for Business.
Modern Lifecycle Policy
Windows 10 saw another change to update distribution. Microsoft released a new version of Windows 10 twice a year. A “Modern Lifecycle Policy” was created which stated Home and Pro versions of Windows 10 will be provided with security and feature updates for up to 18 months after release, enterprise for 24 months.
According to Microsoft, “a device needs to install the latest version (feature update) before current version reaches end of service to help keep your device secure and have it remain supported by Microsoft”.
Through it all, there remained a constant. The potential for an update to cause unintended results, even breaking the machine they intended to fix.
Last year alone, Windows 10 had at least two serious issues that emerged once the final builds were released. Microsoft had to delay the April 2018 Update because of unexpected “Blue Screen of Death” issues. The October 2018 Update was pulled days after users discovered the upgrade deleted files.
On April 4, 2019, Microsoft released a new policy to give users greater control of the installing updates in Windows 10.
Improving the Windows 10 Update Experience
“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. This keeps machines supported and receiving monthly updates which are critical to device security and ecosystem health.
New features 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.”
Some of the features they are utilizing to provide this control are:
• Download and install now option – Gives the users the ability to enjoy feature updates as soon as Microsoft makes them available.
• Extended ability to pause updates – Allows a user to pause both feature and monthly updates for up to 35 days (seven days at a time, up to five times). Once reached, users will need to update their device before pausing again.
• Intelligent active hours – Avoid disruptive update restarts. 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 – Improve system responsiveness by intelligently coordinating Windows updates and Microsoft Store updates, so they occur when users are away from their devices to minimize disruptions.
Microsoft is expanding its focus on quality by expanding release preview. This allows for more feedback and insights on capabilities and expanding interaction with the ecosystem partners including OEMs and ISVs.
Microsoft thanks their many millions of users for providing feedback. This allowed for early detection of low-volume, high-severity issues. A new public dashboard was created for increased issue transparency. It provides clear and regular communications with their customers on status and when there are issues.
Commercial customers will see the updates ready in late May, beginning with the servicing period for version 1903 of Windows 10. If you are part of the Windows Insider Program, you probably already have the release.
For more information on what is included with the May 2019, one of the better guides can be found here.