back to article Microsoft puts Windows Updates on a diet with 'differential downloads'

Microsoft will begin public trials of a new update system it says will dramatically reduce the size of Windows updates. The Unified Update Platform (UUP) will be available to Windows Insider users with the Windows 10 14959 build, and will eventually be offered to all supported versions of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, …

  1. John Tserkezis

    "The Redmond giant says that, by delivering only the changes needed for that specific system and OS build, it can reduce the size of most updates by roughly 35 per cent over the old approach of kicking out full-fat updates."

    Unlike the 3 Gig abortion they call Windows 10 that you need to get where you are now.

    We haven't forgotten yet.

    1. TheVogon Silver badge

      Better late than never.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        While I hate the existing Clunky Windows Update...

        While I hate the existing Clunky Windows Update, one thing I have to admit to diehard Microsofties (If I ignore a whole year of Windows 7 borked 'searching for updates' for 12+ hours at a time) it does generally work - eventually (if you know the work arounds).

        What is worrying here, is if Microsoft completely screw that up too.

        It's bad enough having Win10 Nagware updates that have to be manually avoided for 12 months, popping their heads back up as revisions continuously, and trying a new tact, of coming back as archived 'blobs' as part of a back catalog within the monthly Cumulative updates.

        For me, Windows 7 SP1 Update stops once they include those previous Telemetry Updates as part of a monthly cumulative update. Hasn't happened yet, but its due any month now, I'm guessing January 10th 2017.

        Why would anyone who works with UK/non US Intellectual Property, let this stuff on their PCs? Microsoft, being a US company, it's just as big a threat as regular malware in terms of stealing IP.

        Windows 10 seems to deliberately mark USB Drives as corrupted (the same drive inserted back into Win7 doesn't flag), so that it can scan the drive with Windows Defender and upload 'unknown' files to MS.

  2. Lee D Silver badge

    Final-bloody-ly.

    The number of Windows and related updates that just pull, say, the WHOLE of the .NET Framework again, for a few small changes is ridiculous.

    This is the kind of problem we should have solved back in the dial-up days, not just now.

    1. mark 177

      Everybody but Microsoft *did* solve it in the dial-up days. In fact, I think this is exactly how the word "patch" was derived - only the bit that needed fixing got changed.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now it's sends the list of what's installed to MS?

    Prior to the MS's spyware shenanigans, Windows Update would only pull down the list of available updates and figure things out itself.

    This was generally because people don't like sending MS an exact list of everything installed on their PC.

    Looks like MS are really going all in on "fuck privacy".

    Not really a suprise, given corporate-think these days...

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Now it's sends the list of what's installed to MS?

      PC, "Hi, what's new?"

      MS, "Welcome, when were you here last?"

      PC, "Yesterday, 14:42 UTC."

      MS, "Nothing new since then. Assuming no reinstalls or such."

      PC, "Nope, none noted. Thanks."

      MS, "Okay. You're welcome."

      Elapsed time, About 1.2 seconds.

      I guess algorithm design isn't Microsoft's strong suit.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whoopee feckin do, Microsoft discovers deltas for the masses at last. About time, it's been de facto in parts of the Linux world for a long time.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Actually it was also how every version of Windows prior to 10 did it as well. At least, that's the most obvious interpretation.

      I suppose it is possible that MS first trawl your system for exactly what you have installed, its servers then compute a minimal patch file (as supported by Windows installer for nigh-on 20 years) and then builds you a custom unified download. Possible, but insanely complex, compute-intensive (on the server side) and bug-prone (since the whole scheme is broken by just one unaccounted for patch in the whole history of Windows).

      But it is vastly more plausible to assume that they've recognised what a dumb idea it was to ship each month's updates in a single package, have reverted to the old system of issuing separate patches for each installed component, but have not reverted to the old system of letting you tick or not tick each one prior to acceptance.

    2. Hans 1 Silver badge
      Boffin

      > About time, it's been de facto in parts of the Linux world for a long time.

      No, the package manager in Linux looks at all installed packages, it then looks at updates for all packages, as well as the various dependencies.

      It then gets the latest and the greatest, no intermediate update BS, provided all dependencies can be met. It will hold back packages for which the dependencies cannot be met ... when you installed a package from somewhere else, for example, say, a debian package on ubuntu or mint, for example.

      Of course, NFS, for example, comes in multiple packages, say nfs-common and nfs-client. If nfs common has an update and not nfs-client, it will obviously only get nfs-common.

      The big problem in Windows is the monolithic design choice. It keeps biting them again and again, monolithic does not scale. They have a dependency hell they cannot grasp, nobody knows exactly what iumbase.dll, for example, depends on, or what depends on it. So they cannot really have small packages with dependency hierarchy.

      The other problem they have is that the whole OS is ui-centric.

      Proof: Windows Server Nano, shitloads of ui-centric DLL's in system32, that apparently are used by the backend.

      Good development is a ui on top of a backend, like Linux/UNIX, with ui and backend clearly separated. MS cannot do that, because nobody knows what else uses the subsystem they work on ... I think they do not even have clear groups handling the small packages ...

      1. Vic

        No, the package manager in Linux looks at all installed packages, it then looks at updates for all packages, as well as the various dependencies.

        It's more than that.

        A drpm, for example, allows the package manager to create the current update rpm from a previously-downloaded (or created) rpm and a binary patch[1]. That means that a very small change to a very large package involves negligible downloading.

        I imagine that Microsoft has implemented the same idea. Which is nice.

        Vic.

        [1] Everything's signed, of course, so the resulting package will be correct, even if someone's been dibbling with the local filesystem.

  5. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Wow...

    It's almost as if we're living in The Future, circa 1986.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Wow...

      1886 may be more accurate

  6. joed

    "will only pull the changes you need"

    So no more new crAPPS in the start menu and other not user requested "features". Not

    And the "telemetry" is sucked in to balance the link and peering at the exchange. Right.

  7. Dwarf Silver badge

    Ummm

    I'm sure that we were told previously that Windows 10 devices share updates on a P2P basis to reduce the load on downloading from the mothership (read to reduce MS's costs).

    So.. How will that work with differential updates then ?

    I can only see two outcomes here

    1. Not at all - Complete revamp and its now all back to MS and they are cloning another Linux approach (about time too)

    2. They have implemented a full P2P type service and the deltas are coming from the peers

    I wonder which one it is ?

    Agree with other comments about privacy. Wonder what gets sent out the door or what a 3rd party can find out about your PC's update needs..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ummm

      > 1. Not at all - Complete revamp and its now all back to MS and they are cloning another Linux approach (about time too)

      Do any Linux distributions do it that way? Hmmm, apart from paid Red Hat / SuSE.

      Everything else (CentOS, Debian, *buntu, etc) retrieves the latest package list from a mirror site, compares that to the local install, then pulls down only the outdated bits.

      Not really a "send all the install info to central server" approach.

      Shouldn't take too many bad quarters for MS to begin using that for "licensing validation" purposes. Even if they say otherwise for now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ummm

        >Do any Linux distributions do it that way? Hmmm, apart from paid Red Hat / SuSE.

        LMFTFY:

        openSUSE also uses deltas which is free, SLED/SLES is paid.

      2. find users who cut cat tail

        Re: Ummm

        > Do any Linux distributions do it that way? Hmmm, apart from paid Red Hat / SuSE. Everything else (CentOS, Debian, *buntu, etc) retrieves the latest package list from a mirror site, compares that to the local install, then pulls down only the outdated bits.

        This is wrong in so many points that I do not know where to start. From how delta packages actually work? Or in which distros they work? Or...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Ummm

          >This is wrong in so many points that I do not know where to start. From how delta packages actually work? Or in which distros they work? Or...

          Either you're not understanding the post, or you've not debugged the Python yum code enough to know how it works.

  8. gerdesj
    Pint

    Clever stuff

    A differential download package contains only the changes that have been made since the last time you updated your device, rather than a full build

    Fuck me, they'm clever buggers, those Microsofties. They've invented patches. Thank God for that, I felt odd using them all these years, what with them not existing.

    Sorry, forgot to offer them demi god types a shandy. Fixed ----->

  9. Herby Silver badge

    So how does this work for a reasonable systems administrator??

    Who is maintaining a bunch (100?) of W10 PCs?

    Ideally he would like to have only one update path to a local store so he doesn't tie up bandwidth for all 100 downloads to "the latest". Keeping updates "internal" to an organization makes the proofing of said updates (do they work? do they break things?) easier to do and publish the results for internal use.

    All of this "E.T. Phone Home" stuff looks nice for individuals, but when you need to scale it up, things can get a little bit clogged up.

    Oh, well wait and see, and let the BOFHs of the world get a new boss along the way.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: So how does this work for a reasonable systems administrator??

      WSUS.

      1. Ragarath

        Re: So how does this work for a reasonable systems administrator??

        Yea I would have thought WSUS would still pull the whole update but would be updated with the mechanism to push only what is needed or at least the OS will pull only what is needed.

    2. Hans 1 Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: So how does this work for a reasonable systems administrator??

      >All of this "E.T. Phone Home" stuff looks nice for individuals, but when you need to scale it up, things can get a little bit clogged up.

      Scaling is not something MS has ever heard about, they are Microsoft for a reason™.

  10. Ian Ringrose

    Remember they have already told us that we can no longer cherry pick updates..

    Remember they have already told us that we can no longer cherry pick updates therefore the system will only have to know the last month you updated the OS on, as everyone will have the same set of updates installed.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no ones mentioned OSX yet...

    Apple too give huge downloads for any update.

    And while Windows 10 is now gathering all kinds of information about you. The apple store, from where all your software must come, knows what you have installed but still just gives you the multi-GB file.

    If you are using W10 then you already lost your privacy, so at least this looks like a good thing to come out of MS.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: no ones mentioned OSX yet...

      apple only knows what you have installed that is in the App Store. anything else? I doubt it (but will no doubt be proved wrong)

      The apple updates can be downloaded manually and applied at your convenience. A bit different to the situation with Windows 10 (AFAIK). There is usually a link to the full update posted within hours of Apple releasing one.

      As for Linux, I've seen some less computer literate people shudder when they see the verbose output from say

      yum update

      One said to me 'Is my computer that broken?'

      Obviously they don't understand (or even want to) packages and dependencies

      So where is the happy medium? Difficult to say.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: no ones mentioned OSX yet...

        "As for Linux, I've seen some less computer literate people shudder when they see the verbose output from say

        yum update"

        iPad or Andoid tablet, perhaps, would be better for them?

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: no ones mentioned OSX yet...

        If you are frightened by the output of 'yum update', then the only safe course of action is to delegate the decision-making to the people who maintain your distro, so I'd say "Yes, your computer is broken, or at least mis-configured. Give it to someone who knows how to enable automatic updates.".

  12. Winkypop Silver badge
    Meh

    So, granularity in patches, OK

    Does this mean more instructive descriptions of said granulation?

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: So, granularity in patches, OK

      This patch segment changes the gwx close button so it accepts the win10 upgrade.

      This patch segment ignores your previously hidden update.

      This patch segment adds another t registry key you need to set if you don't want gwx to update.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows 10 media ceation tool - "Something happened?'

    You have to ask how much bandwidth has Microsoft paid for and wasted, over the years, because of Clunky Windows Update.

    Microsoft has so much recent history at being bad at this. The Win10 media creation tool. Let's hope the group that wrote the Win10 media creation tool were never involved in the differential update, Windows Update release.

    When Windows 10 was first released, rather than give users (on Windows*) a straightforward ISO to download through the browser, MS forced the use of a special tool instead - the Windows 10 media creation tool 'heap of shit utility' software to create an ISO/USB Install of Windows 10.

    *oddly Linux/Mac users were offered simply, the US version (but not UK version) ISO directly, instead of using the tool, via the tool's webpage, Linux Mint has a tool built-in to write such ISOs to USB.

    Whoever wrote the Win10 media creation tool hadn't a clue about rationing/reusing the amount of download bandwidth used/amount of disk space used.

    This tool seemed to have been a last minute add-on for Windows 10, but crucially, formed the front and centre, of the whole experience of installing Windows 10. It was a complete unmitigated disaster. It was plainly, never tested.

    Microsoft never thought/designed this software with SSDs in mind, i.e. limited disk space PCs.

    The largest file - 32/64Bit (Both Image) was around 6GB

    The tool failed to check disk space.

    Tbe tool failed to ask where to store the files, stored everthing on the C: Drive.

    If the download link broke, there was no resume feature.

    It expanded the compressed download format of 6GB, into another file of 6GB, again, no choice to save to a different location other than the C: drive.

    So for this tool to work, the machine needed around 20GB of space free, more than most Windows 7 Users running SSDs, and crucially with no warning before software was run.

    The media creation tool would just fail, mostly after downloading the first 6GB, (at 99% or part of) as it was expanding the file into the second 6GB ISO file with the meme/cryptic message 'Something Happened'.

  14. jms222

    Back in XP ish times MS Updates used to cache locally if you employed an HTTP caching proxy (Squid say). So after the first machine the rest were incredibly quick..

    Now with secure connections not so.

    1. Adam 1 Silver badge

      I remember this when I was looking after about 30 win 9x boxes for a school keeping them breathing. A little esmith (now smeserver) would make the 64K connection tolerable.

      The downside of http is that MitM attacks are trivial and that's not exactly comforting when your applying security patches delivered over such an insecure channel.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Is that really how it works now? It certainly didn't used to work that way.

        The chat between your PC and the WU servers to decide what to download needs to be secure, but the downloaded packages themselves are digitally signed and so do not need to be pulled over an encrypted (or even authenticated) line. If WU is now using https to grab those packages (and thereby breaking any attempt to cache them in a squid proxy) then that is jaw-dropping idiocy.

  15. Hans 1 Silver badge
    Windows

    Differential updates ? Delta patches, surely. Gates claimed in 2003 that they were already issuing "delta patches".

    http://blog.seattlepi.com/microsoft/2008/06/24/full-text-an-epic-bill-gates-e-mail-rant/

    So, not only is Windows Update patching svchost.exe 45 times when I update a freshly installed Windows 7 SP1 (tbh, I have not counted, this is a wild guess), it gets the whole f'ing package 45 times ?

    No wonder Windows Update is such a mess...

    1. Hans 1 Silver badge
      Pint

      @downvoter(s)

      Truth hurts, right ? ROFL

      Grabs coat^H^H^H^Hbeer!

  16. skinj

    Don't really care how long an update takes to download as that's done in the background.What pisses me off is that I click "Update & Shut Down" so that me PC updates and then shuts shuts down, not so that when I next turn on it takes 30 minutes to install the updates I've already told to bloody thing to install.

    Has to be a way for the PC to reboot if needed, then shut down after all updates actually installed so when I power up next time it's ready to go straight away.

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WSUS?

      At the moment, there's a "Download express installation files" option on WSUS

      Downloads a bigger patch but only sends the changed bits to each client. I presume it's important for offices that are remote from the server as an alternative to "Do not store update files locally...."

  18. phuzz Silver badge

    Slightly off topic, but el Reg's picture editors seem to be running out of images that might in some way be tangentially related to 'patch'. Now we're reduced to someone getting a plaster put on.

    How about something like this next time?

  19. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    My approach to Windows updates

    What I did was...

    - Get slightly annoyed that the only new Windows PC I could buy came with Win10

    - Take new Windows 10 PC home

    - Disconnect home router from Internet

    - Set up PC

    - Connect to home wireless network

    - Designate home wifi as metered connection (Windows Updates won't work over a metered connection)

    - Reconnect home router to Internet

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: My approach to Windows updates

      you missed a step:

      - Get VERY frustrated with Win-10-nic, and install LINUX instead

      problem solved

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My approach to Windows updates

      I thought that you could tick it as 'metered connection' when you set up that wifi connection during the install/setup.

      1. VBF

        Re: My approach to Windows updates

        You can, as you say. But that doesn't help if the PC happens to be running W10 Home and is connected by Ethernet. The Group Policies aren't available in Home so you're forced to play with the Registry which is not something the average Home user would care to try!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My approach to Windows updates

      "- Designate home wifi as metered connection (Windows Updates won't work over a metered connection)"

      "- Reconnect home router to Internet"

      - Get infected by next drive by download because PC isn't patched...

  20. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    Ooooohhh.. Myyyy. Goooood!!!

    This is soooo the future, like!

    (And they are even too stupid to just implement it quietly, so they don't have to be embarrassed about why it took them so many decades. No, make a song and dance about how dumb you have been all this time. Does this mean that the algorithm that figures out what needs updating will also be overhauled so it doesn't run in quadratic time?)

  21. Ian Emery Silver badge
    Joke

    Havent M$ being doing this for a while??

    OS = Win 10... get Win10 files.

    OS = Win8.... get Win10 files.

    OS = Win7... get Win10 files.

    etc, etc.

    See?? Only one set of files to download.

    JOKE ALERT!!

    (Or is it??)

  22. bombastic bob Silver badge
    FAIL

    If they did it RIGHT the FIRST time...

    if they did it RIGHT the FIRST time, i.e. NOT with lazy-ass inexperienced "millenial" children and offshore sweatshops doing all of their coding, and NOT using their customers as BETA TESTERS all the time, then MAYBE the bandwidth requirement wouldn't be SO LARGE in the FIRST place, right?

    that, and the whole ".Not" runtime crap, and all of that "the METRO" and UWP crap to go with it. Just 'ew'.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it just me, or could an alternative headline have been

    "Microsoft discover Synaptic"

    ?

  24. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Microsoft actually has embedded pockets of StOOpId

    (Repost due to direct applicability. Edited.)

    Because I've got several laptops, some can be ignored for months.

    One Lenovo was last updated 23 May 2016 (about five months ago). Upon trying to update in late-October, it appeared to hang up. After all the usual faffing and trying to invoke corrective action, one advice posted online recommended to just let it run. So I did. It had CPU at an intermittent 25% for THREE DAYS. Then everything went back to normal, and subsequent Updates proceed at the expected speed.

    This weirdness also happened the same way for another netbook that had been off since April (six months). DAYS (!!) of solid CPU doing "something" (nobody knows what), then back to normal.

    Good thing I have more than one laptop. In both of the above cases I had to shift the suffering laptop to a remote corner of the house, letting it percolate day after day, with me checking up on it several times per day.

    Weird.

    I don't believe that Microsoft's best talent works in the Windows Update department. Honestly, anyone with half a brain could invent dozens of improvements in the update algorithms.

  25. JJKing Silver badge

    Windows 7 SP1 Clean Install

    Having treated my Win7 laptop with Maginot Line defences (an apt example since nasty Windows 10 Nazis just walked around it) and having not updated since November 2015, I thought a clean install would blow all the cob and interwebs out. (Shame I was too stupid to neglect an SSD install). The basic install was all finished in about 25 minutes or maybe less and then came the dreaded Update button depression.

    The first run lasted about 7 hours while I was studying erstwhile site such as this one in an attempt to gain valuable intellectual knowledge to lodge into the cavernous pit between my shell likes. Got tired of Dinsdale nailing said cavernous pit to floor and was hoping a full cavernous pit would halt progress of said nails. Anyways, I digress. After several Update attempts I built up the courage to leave my non Samsung supplied li-ion battery to run by itself, unattended like. THIRTY-ONE HOURS later, I was the proud parent of a 271 Update baby. In my exuberant excitement I failed to record the time taken to install the 271 bloody updates however I can say that once they had finished and the updated Updates and the updated, updated Updates and the updated, updated, updated Updates, etc etc, had finally finished, it totalled 364 Updates.

    A Windows 8.1 clean install I left running overnight and was rewarded with 301 Update totalling 1,977MB for the first Update round. I am ashamed to say that I haven't yet migrated to a Linux flavour but I am looking at things like WSUSOffline and Autopatcher because waiting so long to got old real quick and I don't like handing a newly installed device to the owner and telling them, "Oh yes, I have left the Updates for you to do." Not real flash when they are paying you for the install and who knows what the idiots are going to install, you know like Silverlight!?

    1. Carl D

      Re: Windows 8.1 Clean Install

      Funny how Windows 8.1 is now having the same "wait forever" check for updates like Windows 7 has been having since the appearance of Windows 10 last year.

      I did several clean installs of Windows 8.1 about 3 or 4 months ago and the initial check for updates took less than 5 minutes. I installed the updates in 'groups' - security updates first then a reboot, etc. and after each reboot the remaining updates appeared almost immediately.

      Now W8.1 is having the same problems as W7. Is there anyone left who still doesn't believe this whole W7/8.1 update fiasco isn't being caused deliberately by MS to try and get people to give up and move to Windows 10? They began with W7 because it had (and still has) the most users. They've probably started 'borking' W8.1 updates now to deter people from moving there instead of W10.

      1. Captain Badmouth
        Terminator

        Re: Windows 8.1 Clean Install

        Given the way they tried ( and, in many cases, succeeded )to foist winx on innocent windows users, there can be little doubt that they are doing their best to make updating 7 & 8 devices as problematic as possible.

        The company is evil.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Windows 8.1 Clean Install

        Manually install any updates that update the update processes?

        I think I read one of the recent updates had improved things.

  26. Neoc

    Patch updates?

    That's nice - now how about you work on not having to reboot my PC any time something changes? Someone please explain to me why an update to MS Office requires a reboot in this day and age?

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