Windows 10 Update Study: too complex and not enough control

Martin Brinkmann
Feb 27, 2019
Updated • Feb 27, 2019
Windows, Windows 10

How are updates perceived by users of Windows 10 Home? A new study, "In Control with no Control: Perceptions and Reality of Windows 10 Home Edition Update Features" by a group of researchers from University College London suggests that updates are complex and that many users don't know about certain features that could improve the updating behavior.

Microsoft changed the update model with the release of Windows 10. The company switched to a system of cumulative updates for all supported editions of Windows 10. Microsoft switched to a cumulative update model for previous versions of Windows in 2016.

Updates are released on the second Tuesday of each month and sometimes out of schedule. Microsoft releases two feature updates for Windows 10 that upgrade the operating system to a new version.

Windows 10 Home users have less control over the updating than Pro, Enterprise, or Education users. Up until recently, it was not possible to pause updates or delay feature updates on Windows 10 Home devices officially; this meant that updates were installed as soon as they were picked up by Windows Update and that the devices had to be restarted to complete the updating process.

The only option that Home users have when it comes to controlling updates is to set Active Hours, a feature designed to prevent automatic restarts of the system during the period.


windows 10 home update flowchart
Complex Updates

The researchers asked the participants of the study a number of questions. Among them whether the updating behavior of Windows 10 was easier and caused less interruptions than in previous versions of Windows.

53% said that updating was easier and 43% agreed that updating caused less interruptions. Only 8% stated that updating was more complicated and 21% said that updating caused more interruptions.

About half of the study's participants reported that they experienced unexpected restarts because of updates; 42% said that updates took longer than expected and 70% stated that they became more concerned the longer an update took to complete.

The researchers discovered that the Active Hours feature was set inappropriately for a large number of survey participants and that most users were unaware of the existence of the feature.

Only 28% of survey participants knew about feature and its default setting -- 8AM to 5PM-- was unsuitable for 97% of all users. The default Active Hours period is appropriate for businesses and may need to be adjusted even there.

Home users, on the other hand, at least those who participated in the study, used their computers on weekday evenings in the majority of cases; outside Active Hours.

Another key finding of the research is that many survey participants could not make distinctions between cumulative security updates and feature updates.

The researchers recommend to improve the Active Hours feature, either by providing users with direct information about it and its controls, or by using automation to pick appropriate Active Hours based on usage automatically.

Closing Words

A low number of participants, 97, participated in the study. It might be necessary to run a study with more users to verify the findings.

Now You: What is your take on Windows and updating? (via ZDNet)

Windows 10 Update Study: too complex and not enough control
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Windows 10 Update Study: too complex and not enough control
A new study suggests that Windows 10 updates are complex and that Windows does not provide users with enough control over updates.
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  1. Yicoman said on January 16, 2020 at 8:12 pm

    We are working on it

  2. Markus K said on March 1, 2019 at 10:39 am

    The bottom right side of the diagram is not correct. After seven days the OS reboots with logged in user and no action taken.
    I am sure there are more faults in the diagram as the matter is way to complex and documentation is flawed on Microsoft side.

  3. mike90000 said on February 28, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    “42% said that updates took longer than expected.”
    This would be 100% of us having DSL service. That whopping sample size probably was required to have cable internet service. Pity my poor brother who can only get <1Mbit service. His 'fix' is to select 'metered' and only change it when visiting a location with better service.

    Windows Update still needs to offer an option for smaller size transactions, say < 100 MBytes at a time. Expecting these monster updates to go well is reckless!

    1. AnorKnee Merce said on March 1, 2019 at 12:32 pm

      Yes, M$/Nadella think everybody is rich like them or like their VIP Enterprise cash-cows. In effect, M$/Nadella are discriminating against the poor and rural folks who could only afford ADSL Internet plans or are stuck with Data-capped Cellular/Satellite Internet plans.

  4. 420 said on February 28, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    I dunno, I’m pretty happy with 2016 ltsb, I use WPD and WUMT. I have full control of what is updated and have verified with wireshark no communication unless I ask for it with M$. Glary and autoruns finishes it off with paring it down to 39 processes.

  5. zzz said on February 28, 2019 at 2:17 am

    I’m fairly sure, since about 2016, Microsoft has had a strategy of “how much can we irritate our customers until they passionately hate our products?”

  6. Wayfarer said on February 28, 2019 at 1:21 am

    Nature’s way of keeping people with no social or motor skills away from dangerous machinery…

  7. MR2 said on February 28, 2019 at 1:09 am

    Wiindows 10 Home or Pro (IDK if it works with the remaining versions) and If/when connected through Wi-Fi, just turn on the “Set as metered connection” to pause/stop Windows from dowloading and installing updates.

  8. Gavin Williams said on February 28, 2019 at 12:40 am

    I’m a computer programmer, and built my own systems for ever. The new update system in Windows 10 is hands down superior to any previous system. It’s very simple, just enable automatic updates and forget about it. Every now and then I can go into updates and force a refresh if I want the latest major update that is being staggered. If you are thinking about it more than that, then you are an exceptional user. 99% of users should just enable automatic updates and forget about it. It will work fine. If you just stop worrying about it and demanding X% control over updates, it’s a lot easier to get on with your work or play.

    1. John Fenderson said on March 1, 2019 at 7:57 pm

      @Gavin Williams: “I’m a computer programmer, and built my own systems for ever”

      Me too!

      “The new update system in Windows 10 is hands down superior to any previous system.”

      I very much disagree. I think the opposite — it’s perhaps the worst update system that Microsoft has produced yet.

      “If you just stop worrying about it and demanding X% control over updates, it’s a lot easier to get on with your work or play.”

      I worry about it and demand control as a direct result of the fact that if I let Windows do its own thing, it will mess me up more often than not.

    2. Sophie said on February 28, 2019 at 10:59 am

      Nothing against Wales, but are you from there by any chance? Gavin Williams sound very Welsh!!! :) Please take no offense by this observation!

    3. Sophie said on February 28, 2019 at 10:57 am


      Gavin, I logged in specially to reply to your (IMO) preposterous comment. You clearly have absolutely no idea what mayhem MS$ update changes have played out over the years since the release of Windows 10.

      Yes….I agree that many like to be as untroubled as possible, and know relatively little, and prefer their PC just to take care of itself.

      But your whole argument falls apart like a cheap suit, once you factor in how incredibly broken MS$ update system actually is.

      1. Anonymous said on March 1, 2019 at 4:51 am

        I agree with Gavin. Mostly problems occured from the updates were because users don’t want to restart/shutdown the pc. I know people who just standby/hibernate their pc

      2. John Fenderson said on March 1, 2019 at 8:00 pm

        @Anonymous: “Mostly problems occured from the updates were because users don’t want to restart/shutdown the pc.”

        I don’t think that this is actually true, but I’ll pretend it is for the sake of this comment. If system instability results because users haven’t rebooted their machine, that’s a deep flaw in the update system.

  9. stefann said on February 27, 2019 at 11:36 pm

    Windows 10 ? You mean Windows 1.0 alpha build 0.00000001 i assume.

  10. Don said on February 27, 2019 at 10:48 pm

    A backup must precede installing an update. I have no automatic backup; therefore I must have no automatic update.

    I would much rather Windows simply bug me to reboot more often the longer the update has been available. The automatic reboot is too risky in my book!

  11. 5 said on February 27, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    What a way to waste time. Paper pushers at its best.

  12. Jeff said on February 27, 2019 at 7:23 pm

    Windows 10 Updates – still an epic unbearable disaster more than 3 years after Windows 10 debuted. Just abandon the ‘as a service’ model already Microsoft. It’s doing everyone far more harm. Return to the product+small manageable individual monthly updates with occasional cumulative updates (a.k.a back then as service packs).

  13. Mario said on February 27, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    I tried installing 1809 with windows update but it froze on restarts and the desktop locked up after it was installed.Had to turn back to 1803.

  14. Tige Gibson said on February 27, 2019 at 4:49 pm

    How hard could it possibly be for a Windows PC to figure out when it’s own user’s active hours are and schedule updates at an optimum time?

    Both my home and office PC’s run 24/7 and are not supposed to restart without my express permission. Both are Pro out of necessity for this one reason alone and yet it still spontaneously restarts without my permission causing interruptions.

    1. ilev said on February 27, 2019 at 6:48 pm

      My Windows 10 Pro doesn’t download updates without my approval and doesn’t restart after updates without my approval.
      My Windows 10 Pro update is configured to notify me (and not download) about updates. It is configured to Semi-Annual Channel, 120 days wait for feature updates and 14 days wait for quality security updates.

      Windows 10 Home users can configure their systems to ‘Metered’ and so decide about downloading and restarting times.

  15. BaldEagle said on February 27, 2019 at 4:04 pm

    I find Microsoft’s updates totally baffling. They have forgotten whose computer this is. As always I expected to be able to update when I choose to and to select which updates I install. IT IS MY COMPUTER Microsoft.

    After several annoying updates while I was trying to do something urgent on my PC and had to wait for the updates to load / install / reboot I gave up. Yes I know you can set update hours but this is a HOME PC and I choose to work on it whenever I feel like not just 8-5, so what hours would I choose to let it do updates? It is either in use or switched off.

    If all the slow updates were not bad enough (and it often slowed down or froze for ages) I was then faced with several crashes and things going wrong after (or during) an update. Not only had I paid for my PC, I was now expected to sort the aftermath of these updates all by myself taking considerable time and effort or pay an expert.

    Not to mention all the data that Microsoft seemed to be capturing on my PC and sending back home – without my consent or indeed being informed of what that data was. No one asked me to agree to this when I purchased my PCs.

    I did some research online and stopped as much “telemetry” as possible and then turned OFF all updates COMPLETELLY. I have now not updated my laptop for at least 6 month. OK I may leave myself open to some bogeyman taking over my PC but I found Microsoft even more intrusive.

    I will update my Windows 10 – WHEN and IF I want to!


    How about leaving updates well alone and offering us long suffering consumers the option to update to a STABLE version once a year – at most. By all means have an option to “update now” if I choose but please stop all this foolish constant updates and errors.

    Boy, I feel better now!

    1. Anonymous said on February 28, 2019 at 6:18 am

      You may own the computer but Microsoft owns the software. Users only get the option to lease Windows (or use something else). Microsoft (probably reasonably) have the right to give themselves data feedback on the operations of the part they own.

      Microsoft does seem to try hard to keep Windows working safely and free from malware but good intentions are scant help when you have a deadline to meet and Windows goes belly-up due to a ‘poisonous’ update.

      1. John Fenderson said on February 28, 2019 at 6:27 pm

        @Anonymous: “You may own the computer but Microsoft owns the software.”

        Why is this an important point?

        “Microsoft (probably reasonably) have the right to give themselves data feedback on the operations of the part they own.”

        I strongly disagree. They have the right to ask the users for permission to do this, but collecting data on users or their machines is not some kind of inherent right that comes out of them owning the operating system.

      2. DaveyK said on February 28, 2019 at 8:26 am

        Hiding behind the “MS owns the software” excuse is a poor way of justifying shit usability decisions.

        As for the telemetary, it is there because MS doesn’t do their own QA any more. After Insiders have caught the main bugs, Home users are the final round of testers. In short, force the update out, then track everyone to see which bits break. In short, it is there to help MS save money on testing by using home users to do it for them. And it stinks as an approach.

      3. AnorKnee Merce said on February 28, 2019 at 8:04 am

        @ Anonymous

        Like a high-rise condo-owner having rented his/her condo apartment to tenants, the condo-owner has no legal right to barge into the house at any time to do stuffs and/or take stuffs or disrupt the tenants’ lifestyle or peace of mind. Similarly for M$ having leased Windows to users.

        Windows security updates are like the condo’s security guards and security cameras/CCTVs. The security guards cannot enter the tenants’ condo-apartment uninvited and the security cameras cannot spy or gather data feedback from inside the apartment.

        Tenants and lessees paying rents/leases/license-fees have legal rights wrt the use of the rented and leased property or software. Didn’t M$ pay about US$10,000 in court damages to a disgruntled Californian Win 7 user who was sneakily upgraded to Win 10 by M$.?

        What you are advocating in favor of M$ is against common law wrt lease agreements and maybe also against common decency. People and companies lease land, homes, shops, offices, factories, cars, intellectual properties, patent rights, copyright licenses, taxi licenses, sole distributorship, sole agencies, etc.

      4. Rush said on February 28, 2019 at 5:06 pm

        @ AnorKnee Merce

        Excellent analogy.

  16. Valrobex said on February 27, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    A sample size of 97?!! What a joke! Do the researchers (for lack of a better term) at University College London have nothing better to do? I guess they had some grant money to access so they cobbled together this useless “study.”

    I use to teach statistics and research design at the college level and would have flunked any of my students, undergrad or graduate who issued a “study” like the one just reported on. I wouldn’t be surprised if the sample participants were other college instructors and/or students rather than business users and the public at large, not to mention multi-national users. Another thought is that this “study” more than likely was funded by M$ in order to provide academic cover for M$’s lousy Win 10. As always, you were being generous, Martin, by suggesting that a follow up study with a larger sample size might be in order.

    On a more “serious” note: the (ahem) researchers should contact Tom Hawack for a proper rundown of the wonders of Win 10. Now that would be a real eye opener… : +)

  17. AnorKnee Merce said on February 27, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    No sane person should be running Win 10 Home, or for that matter even Win 10 Pro & Ent. Which sane person likes to be forced auto-updated and rebooted by M$ every 2-weeks or every month or every 6-months or every year.? It’s like being repeatedly raped by M$.

    Win 10 Home users are just unpaid beta-testers for M$’s updates, so that M$/Nadella can provide VIP service to the Pro & Enterprise users = M$/Nadella make more profit$/bonuse$, eg saved costs by getting rid of the Windows Test Devision.

    I am running Win 10 Ent LTSB/LTSC 2016 unactivated and unupdated in a spare virtual machine, in preparation for Win 7 EOL in Jan 2020. Sometimes, you can’t do without Windows since it has a market-monopoly.

    1. Anonymous said on March 1, 2019 at 4:42 am

      Average Joe can’t get LTSB, unless he’s pirating..
      No sane person use pirated Windows, unactivated and unupdated in a spare virtual machine

      1. AnorKnee Merce said on March 1, 2019 at 12:42 pm

        Well, you can say that M$’s forced auto-updates and Telemetry & Data collection in Win 10 has “forced” me to resort to running Win 10 Ent LTSB unactivated and/or unupdated, instead of needing to buy a new OEM Win 10 Home computer after Jan 2020.

        Fyi, the host machine is my properly OEM licensed and activated Win 7 laptop – unupdated since Oct 2016 when M$ imposed monthly Patch Rollups. Soon after, M$ issued processor-blocking updates in the Rollups to stop Win 7/8.1 from running on Intel Kabylake processors.

    2. DaveyK said on February 28, 2019 at 8:20 am

      It may be worth checking out Update Manager for Windows (WUMgr). It does return update control to W10 and gives you a proper interface to accept, hude or postpone updates.

      W10 is an absolute mess, I agree, and I still use W7 on my main machines. But with sufficient 3rd party tools, it is possible to wrestle control back over updating, privacy and most the other flawed areas of W10.

      1. AnorKnee Merce said on February 28, 2019 at 9:31 am

        @ DaveyK

        Win 10 EULA requires the users to stay up-to-date in order to remain supported by M$, eg they need to stay upgraded twice per year or once per year. Otherwise, their Win 10 become EOL after about 18 months. The EULA gives M$ the legal right to even brick non-updated/upgraded Win 10 computers since M$ is the owner of Win 10 or to plant a “self-destruct time bomb” on such computers.

        Remember how M$ played a cat-n-mouse game against Win 7/8.1 computer users wrt GWX KB3035583 and Telemetry KB2952664 in 2016.

        Ent LTSB/LTSC also does not have various preinstalled or integrated programs/apps and features, eg Cortana, Edge, One Drive, Candy Crush, Gaming Mode, etc.

  18. Jerry said on February 27, 2019 at 3:25 pm

    This is amusing because it should be 100% opposite of what it is. I.e. it should be simple, and the end user should have complete control.

  19. AnorKnee Merce said on February 27, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    QUOTE from the study paper: ……. ” The survey was open to residents of the United Kingdom aged over 18, who had completed at least 5 prior studies on Prolific and who had an approval rating in excess of 90%.” …
    The above study may be biased in favor of M$ because the 93 participants are paid “professional” or “coached” survey takers who have prior engagement with studies by Prolific Academic PLC = a survey/research company.

    It’s also possible that M$ had contracted Prolific Academic to pay University College London to do the survey/study, eg why the need to compare the update behaviour between old and new versions of Win 10 just to show that updates have “improved” in quality.? …….
    QUOTE from a study by Beyond The Turk: … “After searching for and testing several available crowdsourcing websites, we identified and focused on two platforms, similar to Mechanical Turk in design and purpose: CrowdFlower (CF) and Prolific Academic (ProA).
    CF ( was founded in 2007 and is run by executives and a board of directors. This platform is geared towards companies, and boasts a large customer base (including eBay, Microsoft, Cisco, and so on).” …

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