Microsoft will start deploying its much anticipated fall 2015 Windows 10 update to computers around the world starting Nov. 10.
However, not every Windows 10 user is looking forward to the update. Many corporate and business users—particularly IT managers—are all concerned about the havoc that the update might wreak on the performance of their applications and computers.
Because of this concern, IT managers have been demanding changes from Microsoft. Those changes include the ability to delay updates until they can be tested and the ability to get detailed information as to what’s in the update and exactly how it will affect Windows. Currently, updates to Windows include only a very brief description of what’s being changed and why.
The concern has grown so strong that in October a consultant, Susan Bradley of Fresno, Calif., started a petition on change.org asking for that control and for better communication with Microsoft. Since the petition was begun in mid-October, it’s gathered more than 5,000 signatures.
Microsoft responded in a blog post by Executive Vice President Terry Myerson explaining the existing options for upgrades and also revealing that, starting next year, Windows 10 would be installed on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 through the normal update process. At that point, it would be flagged as a “Recommended Update,” which means that many, perhaps most, machines would then install the new operating system automatically.
In other words, you could sit down at your computer one morning and find yourself running Windows 10 unexpectedly. This prospect, as you might imagine, strikes fear into the hearts of IT managers. And it should.
Initially, Microsoft promised a version of Windows Update that would solve this problem. That version, Windows Update for Business was originally supposed to be released at the same time Windows 10 reached the market, but that hasn’t happened.
Rumors have circulated that Windows Update for Business will be released along with the fall 2015 update. Assuming that happens, it should allow administrators to choose which upgrades to apply and when to apply them. However, Microsoft has not confirmed that this will actually happen.
What Microsoft has confirmed is that security updates will not be delayed by Windows Update for Business. You can still delay updates while you test them by simply not allowing the automatic install, but there’s no guarantee that security updates will be delayed, even if they conflict with your applications.
The problem with pushed upgrades is that they don’t give a chance to test the upgrade to make sure it works. This problem is bad enough for individual users who could find their computers are unusable for a day or two while they wait on hold for tech support, but for larger customers with vast numbers of custom applications, not to mention legacy hardware, to contend with, it can spell disaster.
Microsoft Facing IT Manager Resistance to Automatic Windows 10 Updates
After the Microsoft response, Bradley issued an update to the petition and expressed hope that the promise of better communication would answer the questions. However, just in case it doesn’t, she also included instructions on how to edit the computer’s registry so that automatic updates won’t be installed.
To some extent, the root of this issue is that Microsoft has changed the way in which updates are applied. Windows Updates used to install a long list of small updates to fix specific problems, but now the process is less granular. In fact, now the process is much like the upgrade process for Apple’s iOS in which you simply install a new copy of the entire operating system for a major update.
That means that when you look at the Windows Update screen (which is now under the “Settings” tab), you may see a few security updates, but otherwise you’ll likely see simply a single large update for all of Windows.
While there are advantages to the new approach because it makes updates themselves more reliable, it also eliminates the ability to decline specific updates to Windows that may create problems for a specific system. This, in turn, means that testing is critical for business users who need to keep productivity up and who can’t afford long periods of downtime.
For current Windows 10 users, the update will happen transparently unless the computer has been set so that it doesn’t do this, which can be done using the registry setting provided by Bradley. In addition, updates may be handled somewhat differently at large enterprises with corporate accounts.
But so far what’s missing is a sure-fire way for business users to manage their Windows updates in a way that doesn’t break things, to phase in update delivery to ensure that the network is ready and to make sure users are trained to what the updates will do to their computers.
Even when the updates are targeted to existing Windows 10 computers, the differences to the user interface can be significant. The start menu is changing over time. The way that Cortana works is changing, and so are other features of Windows 10. While most of these changes won’t create a catastrophe if they arrive unexpectedly, there’s always the potential that they will.
What business users need right now is simply a way to update a few computers to the current version of Windows 10 long enough for testing, but to delay the updates to the other computers in the business for a month or two. That way, any operational problems will show up either in local testing or in the wider audience of Windows business users everywhere. Then comes the time for updates.
Unfortunately, Myerson’s blog entry, while hopeful, didn’t really promise a way to get time to test before implementation. That time is what business users need and Microsoft needs to find a way to provide it for them.