Microsoft Revamps Windows Update for Windows 8

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One of the most frustrating aspects of running Windows in a corporate environment--at least for end users--is the often disruptive Windows Update patching process. We all know that keeping your Windows client and server OSes constantly patched and updated is vital from a security standpoint, but like a trip to the dentist, performing Windows updates has never been a particularly enjoyable task. Staying after work an extra 10 or 15 minutes to wait for a series of Windows patches and updates to install on your laptop isn't an uncommon occurrence for many of us. As we all know, any task that we don't enjoy that also interrupts our schedules or inconveniences us is often the first thing to get bumped to the end of our list of priorities. That inconvenience can then quickly turn into a security vulnerability.

Microsoft is hoping to address issues with Windows Update with Windows 8, and released some new details of how Windows 8 will offer improvements in this area in their Building Windows 8 blog. Farzana Rahman, Microsoft's group program manager for the Windows Update group, authored the blog post about the new update philosophy being introduced in Windows 8.

Two of the biggest improvements are restart consolidation and improved update restart notifications. Here's more from Rahman on restart consolidation:

“[Windows Update] WU will consolidate all the restarts in a month, synchronizing with the monthly security release. This means that your PC will only restart when security updates are installed and require a restart. With this improvement, it does not matter when updates that require restarts are released in a month, since these restarts will wait till the security release. Since security updates are released in a single batch on the second Tuesday of every month, you are then getting essentially one restart a month. This simplification helps in three ways: it keeps the system secure in a timely manner, reduces restarts, and makes restarts more predictable."

And some additional details on improved restart notifications:

“Let’s assume that WU has already detected, downloaded, and installed security updates, and now requires a restart. Windows Update will notify you of an upcoming automatic restart through a message on the login screen that will persist for 3 days. Because the majority of update activity occurs in the first three days of the release of each update [see Figure1], we wanted to give you 3 days to allow you to restart at your own convenience. You would restart by selecting “Update and shutdown” or “Update and restart” on the login screen, or by going to Windows Update in the Control Panel. You will no longer see any pop-up notifications or dialogs about pending restarts. Instead, the message appears in a more visible and appropriate place (the log-in screen).”

Rahman also indicated that Windows 8 will provide more intelligent restarts if there's a potential for data loss, minimize interruptions to a user's use of their PC, and improved controls and options for business users. Read Rahman's Windows 8 update post for more details.

win8update_0
Screenshot showing part of the improved Windows Update process in Windows 8 (Image by Microsoft)

What are your thoughts on the new and improved Windows 8 patching process? Let me know what you think by adding a comment to this blog post or starting up a conversation on Twitter.

Discuss this Blog Entry 3

on Nov 18, 2011
What about security patches that don't take effect until after a computer is restarted? Like Rich, I'm also concerned about users who simply lock their workstation and go home. I actually NEVER log out of my computer at home. I lock it when I walk away.
on Nov 18, 2011
I hope these setting are configurable via group policy (as they are now) as I will want different setting at my company. I certainly have an issue with only showing notifications on the login screen. Both at work and home, I rarely log out of my pc. When I'm done using it, I simply lock it. Does the lock screen count as a login screen? At home I have a lock screen, but I'm an IT guy; many home users don't lock their home pc's, so they won't even see a lock screen.
on Nov 28, 2011
@rice0009 & @Rich: Let me check with Microsoft and see -- I'll post any details I get here in the comments section, and in the original post as well.

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