Microsoft Pulling the Plug on Windows 10 'Delta Updates'

Microsoft will stop releasing Windows 10 "delta updates" after Feb. 12, 2019, the company announced last week, pushing organizations to use "express updates" each month instead.

A delta update is a type of monthly quality update for Windows 10 that just delivers changes to existing OS components, but it will only install if the previous month's quality update is present.

With express updates, only the Windows 10 software changes (or "differentials") will get delivered to an organization's computing environment from Microsoft's content delivery network. Unlike delta updates, with an express update, the content delivery network pushes down both missing and new quality update elements, regardless of the computing environment's monthly Windows 10 patch status.

Here's how Microsoft's announcement described the workings of express updates:

A device leveraging express updates will use network protocol to determine optimal differentials, then download only what is needed, which is typically around 150-200 MB in size each month. Ultimately, the more up to date a device is, the smaller the size of the differential download. Devices connected directly to Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), System Center Configuration Manager, or a third-party update manager that supports express updates will receive these smaller payloads.

Microsoft's announcement explained that delta updates tended to have larger file sizes (around 300MB to 500MB) than express updates because the delta updates have "the full component (not just the individual files)."

The use of express updates can potentially lower the bandwidth hits that organizations face each month with Windows 10 quality updates. Quality updates are "cumulative updates," which means they contain past OS updates along with new updates for existing Windows 10 components.

Microsoft estimates that its monthly cumulative updates for Windows 10 start out at around 100MB to 200MB in size but then expand to 1GB to 1.2GB in size in about six to eight months' time. Microsoft also has "full updates" for Windows 10, which are more than 1GB in size.

Microsoft sees express updates as being a better distribution mechanism for monthly quality updates. It's only continuing to distribute the delta updates until the Feb. 12 end date because it'll give "companies and third-party update management tools time to implement support for express updates," the announcement indicated.

In addition to delivering monthly quality updates, Microsoft has feature updates for Windows 10. They're different from the monthly quality updates because they bring new features to the OS instead of just updating existing OS components. Feature updates are new OS versions that typically arrive twice per year, in the spring and the fall.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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