Microsoft releases two feature updates for the company's Windows 10 operating system per year. Users and administrators will also install feature updates regularly as feature updates are only supported for 18 months by the company. In other words: if you don't want to run an unsupported version of Windows 10, you do need to upgrade regularly.
Feature updates can be compared to classic Service Pack upgrades. A feature update upgrades Windows 10 to a new version that includes large and small changes to the system.
A core difference between cumulative updates that Microsoft releases at least once a month is that feature updates require multiple reboots to complete whereas cumulative updates only one reboot.
The installation of feature updates happens in four phases, each either offline or online. Online phases occur while the operating system is up and running. Users may use the system during online phases which makes them less disruptive to the experience.
Offline phases, on the other hand, run update processes when the operating system's frontend is not available to the user.
Joseph Conway, Senior Program Manager on the Windows Fundamentals team at Microsoft revealed recently that Microsoft engineers managed to reduce the time the operating system is in offline mode during feature updates significantly.
The offline phase of the Creators Update, released in April 2017, was about 82 minutes in total. Microsoft managed to reduce the offline time to 51 minutes in the Fall Creators Update, released in October 2017, and the upcoming Spring Creators Update will see further reductions to that. Recent Insider Build feature updates have an average offline time of just 30 minutes.
How is that achieved? Microsoft published a table that lists online and offline phases of the old and new feature update model.
|OLD Feature Update model||NEW Feature Update model|
The company moved some operations that were run in offline mode in previous feature updates to the online mode.
The new operating system was placed into a temporary working directory in offline mode during previous feature updates; the same operation happens in online mode now instead.
The preparation for migrating user content to the new version of Windows 10 moved from offline to online as well.
Offline time reductions during feature updates is a welcome improvement especially since users and admins may feel that there are too many updates for the operating system when compared to previous versions of the Windows operating system.
Now You: What's your experience with Windows Updates?
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