Microsoft has relaxed its stance on immediate feature updates for Windows 10 Home users following the roll-out of Windows 10 version 1809, which was stalled by months because of a bug that destroyed gigabytes of users’ personal files.
Windows 10 Home users for the past three years have had to accept the next version of Windows 10 when Microsoft decided their devices were ready for it.
Unlike Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise edition, whose users could defer non-security updates for up to 365 days, Windows 10 Home users had to take it when Microsoft said it was ready.
But the data destruction bug, which was as bad as ransomware for those affected by it, caused a rethink at Microsoft about the quality of its updates, especially around detecting “low-volume, high-severity” issues in its preview testing.
That’s because a small number of Windows Insider beta testers had flagged the data deletion issue before Microsoft released 1809 to the general public in early October, however Microsoft overlooked the reports on its Feedback Hub app because there simply weren’t many of them, even though they described a drastic bug.
The incident sparked calls for Windows 10 Home ‘guinea pigs’ to have greater control over new feature and non-security updates, especially since there was no way for them to avoid problems that surfaced in the first days of a new feature release.
That will change as of the next major release of Windows 10, version 1903 or the May 2019 Update. Microsoft will let Windows 10 Home users pause feature and monthly updates for up to 35 days, thanks to a tweak to the Windows Update setting, which allows users to pause updates for seven days.
The brevity of a week-long pause on Windows 10 updates baffled some Windows Insider beta preview users, but Microsoft has clarified it will allow five deferrals totaling 35 days, in seven day chunks.
“Based on user feedback we know that any update can come at an inconvenient time, such as when a PC is needed for a big presentation. So, we’re making it possible for all users to pause both feature and monthly updates for up to 35 days (seven days at a time, up to five times),” Microsoft explains.
After the 35-day maximum has passed, users will need to update their device before pausing again in the 7-day chunks, again up to 35 days.
The new ability to pause updates only applies when new feature releases arrive, such as Windows 10 1809 and 1903, and non-security monthly updates.
The Windows 10 May 2019 Update is available to beta testers in the Release Preview Ring for users in the Windows Insiders Program this week. By late May it will be available to commercial customers and Windows 10 users who opt to install it via the “check for updates” option in Windows Update settings. Users on a version of Windows 10 that’s near the end of support will also be given the update.
Microsoft says it now “thinking differently” about how it applies natural language processing and machine learning to spot high-severity issues.
“We are building the capability to detect all types of low-volume, high-severity issues, and have specifically advanced our capability in the area of data loss,” Microsoft said, which should result in engineers finding out about high-severity issues within hours rather than days.
The company also announced a new public dashboard to explain any issues related to each version of Windows 10 that is supported. The pages will resemble the current Windows 10 Update history page which contains information about blocks and issues affecting the latest version of Windows 10.
"Details for each Windows 10 version will be represented on one page that can easily be searched by keyword, including important announcements, new blog posts, service and support updates and other news.," Microsoft says.