Microsoft details improvements to Windows 10 feature update install times

Windows Update Insider
Windows Update Insider (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft has today detailed improvements it has made to the Windows 10 update model that has reduced the time it takes to install a Windows 10 feature update by an incredible 63 percent since the Creators Update launch this time last year. Before, the downtime between rebooting to install an update and being able to use your PC again was, on average, an 82 minute endeavour. Now, it's an average of just 30 minutes.

In a blog post on the Windows Insider site, Microsoft details how it has changed up the update model by keeping a lot more of the install process "online" instead of "offline." The "online" phase refers to the part of the install process where the PC is still usable. In the past, only a small portion of the install process was done during the online phase, with most of the work happening in the offline part where the user could not use their PC.

There are four phases in a feature update installation. Each phase is done in either an "online" or "offline" manner. Online phases occur while the device is being used and the operating system is running. This phase is not disruptive to the user as tasks happen in the background. Offline phases, on the other hand, cause disruption to the user because the device cannot be used since the operating system is not running. For the Creators Update released in April of 2017, the average offline time for a user was approximately 82 minutes.

Now, Microsoft has moved several steps in the install process over to the online phase, which means users won't be interrupted for long periods of time, as the update is now installing a lot more of itself during PC use. As such, the offline phase time has been reduced significantly, so that users can get back up and running on their PC sooner. This is a huge deal in the update process for Microsoft and for users who hate installing updates.

To achieve this, we moved portions of the work done during the offline phases and placed it in the online phase. Because of these changes, the average offline time for the Fall Creator's Update released last October has dropped to 51 minutes, a 38% improvement! But we didn't stop there. We've done additional work in the upcoming Windows release to move portions of migration operations to the online phase as well. This has resulted in an overall reduction of offline time when installing builds in the Insiders Program to an average of 30 minutes. That's a reduction of 63% from the Creators Update!

This means that although the offline portion of the install process is faster, the online part is actually a little slower. This isn't a huge deal, however, as most users aren't waiting around for an update to install in the background when they're using their PC. The only time a user should really know an update is ready to install is when the PC is ready to reboot, in which case Microsoft needs to minimize the time between that reboot and the PC coming back online. That's why Microsoft is focused on speeding up the offline phase of the update.

The Windows 10 Spring Creators Update is launching this April, and users will be able to experience first hand the new and improved Windows 10 install speeds. What are your thoughts on the improved Windows Update? Let us know in the comments!

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter and Threads