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 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

  • I know they said the average was 82 minutes, but I've never experienced downtimes of anywhere near that long when installing the feature updates. Maybe it is because I have new machines that are fairly powerful, but I recall downtimes of 30 minutes or so for both Creator and Fall Creator. Neither was long enough to be something I paid keen attention to, and I certainly would have if it took over an hour. 
  • What hardware are you using? My Surfaces were always pretty fast. My MacBook Pro (higher spec'd in CPU, RAM and SSD speed) was always deathly slow (at least three times as slow).
  • Took my laptop close to 90 minutes to update to the latest RS5 build, which is about the norm. That’s the time after WU is ready to reboot.
  • I think anyone using an older Hard Disk Drive will see updates lasting 82 minutes long. SSDs and NVMe drives will be way faster
  • I'm also wondering how much is this 'average downtime decrease' influenced by people moving to SSDs. My laptop never takes that long. Not even my crappy tablet. It must be tied to HDD's being slow.
  • To me the update is actually getting worse. The online portion takes very long time and causing computer very slow response. My laptop spec is very high but I'm still facing lagging problem.
  • As in high you mean Intel Pentium 4 with 512MB RAM and 10GB hard disk drive?
  • Are you replying without thinking from brain?
  • Ooh burn
  • 30-50 minutes with an SSD, 4-5 hours with a laptop HDD (I've seen both)
  • does this update will come for active windows development for faast ring ???
  • or i need to go to some another bulid
  • plzz reply
  • fall to RS4
  • Those who are running on SSD, don't need to be afraid. On SSD it always was fast. On HDD it was pain in the ass always. I noticed now, that offline part is faster than before. It could be max 30 minutes. But online part is horrible, it takes 2+ hours if I left PC at idle. Also depends what you have installed. Development things from Visual Studio takes 15+GB with gazilion small files. This will kill HDD.
  • SSD performance drops off tremendously when the drive gets over 80% or so full. They need the empty space for garbage collection.
  • I recently updated my computer to fast ring build and it was really short. When I saw my lock screen I thought to myself is that it? Huh that was quick. 😀 I think they are doing a good job of improving the process. And my system is not new. Sure I have an SSD but rest is just old. 3rd Gen i7 3612qm 8GB ddr3 and an AMD Radeon 7600M series graphic card in a HP laptop. Imagine! And it worked perfectly.
  • This article kind of cracks me up because it contradicts itself it says the install time has been reduced by 63% but at the same time it says that it shifted most of the install to the online install which takes longer. So it would actually now take longer to install an upgrade overall but the machine's downtime would be shorter since the offline install times have been reduced. I know the end user impact is the most important statistic but its just funny how the statements are worded.
  • Because that was their point. You can still use your laptop while 'online', but 'offline' renders it useless. So they made the correct assumption that it's better to have it take a while longer but without disrupting the users rather than shorter but disrupting for longer.
  • Yes, I also noticed this difference even on patch updates.
  • Good. Now if they can just fix the part where it always fails to update the first time.
  • Weird I don't get that issue
  • Cool
  • Ssd is the key ;)
  • Sad is the key to happiness
  • My issue with Windows Update, and I file a feedback monthly about it, is that even if I check the "Show more notifications" it still reboots without showing me notifications just because it arrives outside the use hours which can't be more than 18 hours. I can use my PC at random and sometimes leave it to do downloads overnight and these reboots break my downloads... And I'm on 10 Pro which allow more control than Home.
  • But will people upgrading from RS3 to RS4 really experience this improvement? I thought you had to be on an insider build, in order to experience this, as it is changes in the update process (in the build-specific code) that allows this? Or was that ONLY the case for Windows Update Delivery Optimization? (which I think was when they shortened the build-download to only contain what you needed instead of the full download.)