Microsoft is tweaking the Windows 10 upgrade process to reduce downtime

Surface-Pro-3-windows-10 (Image credit: Dan Rubino / Windows Central)

As a part of myriad changes coming to Windows 10 in the Fall Creators Update, one that might not get as much attention is how Microsoft is tweaking the upgrade process for major updates. In a new post in the Windows 10 Feedback Hub (via OnMSFT), Microsoft offers an explanation of how it is tweaking the update process itself to reduce your PC's required downtime.

In broad strokes, the post explains, the update process for major build revisions is split into two phases: online and offline. The online phase is where you can still use your PC, while Windows Update prepares things. The offline phase, then, is the portion of the process where you can't use your PC and the full update screen is showing.

In order to reduce the time your PC is unusable during upgrades, Microsoft has moved some of the processes that would typically occur in the offline phase to the online phase. For example, here's a look at how the old process would operate:

Online phase:

  • PC checks for upgrades (manually or automatically)
  • Upgrade payload downloads
  • PC waits for the required reboot to begin install

Offline phase:

  • PC reboots to begin install process (manually or automatically)
  • User content (apps/settings/configurations) is backed up
  • New OS files are laid down (Windows Image [WIM] process)
  • Drivers and other required OS files are migrated
  • User content is restored
  • PC reboots and the update finalizes

Now, here's a look at how the new process in the Fall Creators Update is organized:

Online phase:

  • PC checks for updates (manually or automatically) Update downloads
  • User content (apps/settings/configurations) is backed up
  • New OS files are laid down (WIM process)
  • PC waits for the required reboot to begin install

Offline phase:

  • PC reboots to begin install process (manually or automatically)
  • Drivers and other required OS files are migrated
  • User content is restored
  • PC reboots and the update finalizes

If you're in the Windows Insider program, you've likely already noticed a change in the length of the update process. The net result is that the updates might appear to take longer because the online portion has been extended. The tradeoff is that you spend more time being able to use your PC and less time in the offline phase.

Microsoft says it is still looking for feedback from Windows Insiders on the updated process. If you have any input or suggestions, the full Feedback Hub post is worth giving a look.

Windows 10 Fall Creators Update: Everything we know so far

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl

  • Get lost Microsoft for what you did with windows 10 mobile
  • Just go away, stop using Windows, and we will not be missing you.
  • Shut up bastar.d who the hell are you
  • Could ask you the same
  • You dog stop writing start barking
  • He should definitely stop using Windows Mobile 10. Just like the rest of us.
  • highly unlikely that they will go ''get lost'', so maybe u should do it instead and ''get lost'' ;)
  • Shut up you fool
  • You've got serious problems for yourself. Relax.
  • I am waiting ha ha
  • Good :)
  • Thats uncalled for
  • I noticed this a few builds ago. It's much better!
  • Good.
    Thanks for the informative article.
  • Yes I've noticed this. The initial install while online takes ages, but after the reboot it's very very quick
  • The most noticable thing, in my experience is, apart from the much shorter update process once the first reboot has happened, is how, in Windows Update, the progress bar seemingly appears to be "stuck" at certain stages, than jumps forward multiple dozens of percentages to the next stage.
  • I keep getting quite a long delay after the reboot and logging in. I have a SSD (Samsung Evo 850), so it shouldn't take that long. However, after logging in I get "wait while we finalize settings", I guess this is the part were data is being restored? And why is data being restored? I don't recall this step with Windows 7 or any previous version.
  • they should go back to the old system where we have more choice and get rid of this forced update.  
  • Possibly you "WannaCry" or to "Patya".    
  • i have security software to protect me against them and if I did get them, I would just go back to a image.  
  • If you want to control your updates then get Windows Pro, it let's you delay updates. Enterprise, which is for businesses so it's not very relevant but I decided to bring it up anyways, allows you to stop updates completely. And all versions, including Home and S, are getting improvements to let consumers have more control over their system. I understand your frustration but Windows is just trying to make a system where people have choice but also get updates to give them new features and fixes, but balance is hard to find. Sadly all businesses won't do everything perfectly for the consumer as they have their own intentions and standards, but still take consideration of improvements thought of by consumers.
  • I have Windows pro, but it still do not go far enough, need to have more control. I have got software that will stop updates now and I can then allow them when I want them to happen, but I should not have to use thrid party software to do that.,  
  • ahh that explains how the last build install messed up my pc, I didn't know it had installed in the background and I merged 2 partitions together didn't think anything of it at the time. if i'd realised that the backing up occurs earier in the cycle i'd have not screwed it up lol
  • Typically not a good idea to mess with partitions when upgrades are pending. ;)
  • Doesn't it mean slower PC for longer as WU will take significant CPU and Disk usage?
  • Not as slow as when it's offline.
  • Totally agree with you!
  • Windows update is completely broken so recently it takes two or three hours to update New insider preview build and getting worse as New build come out.
  • Can we choose when the online phase starts?
  • So how does this correlate with the tangible language? i.e.
    - preparing or initiate downloading...
    - downloading...
    - preparing to install...
    - installing or migrating data...
    - finalizing install
  • I am waiting ha ha
  • what about the finalizing apps and settings after the first login? canno t be moved before the login?