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Reducing Win10 Upgrade Offline Time

Last week, the Windows Insider blog featured a notable bit of information. Under the somewhat bland heading of “feature update improvements” Joseph Conway (Sr. Program Manager, Windows Fundamentals (Deployment)) dropped some fascinating information. Talking about feature update installation, he reported that a new and improved model comes built-in when 1803 goes public in the near future. In fact, reducing Win10 upgrade offline time remains a major design goal for that release.

What’s Up with Reducing Win10 Upgrade Offline Time?

FYI, offline time means that a PC is unavailable/unusable. Simply put, reducing offline time during an upgrade means more time for the user do something while the upgrade is underway. The blog post includes a peachy table that shows old vs. new feature update models, so I reproduce it here:

Items on upper right in dark black moved from offline into online processing explain a huge time difference.
[Click on image to see full-sized view; Source: Windows Insider Blog 3/16]

Offline Time Savings?

The numbers are pretty interesting. Under the old model offline time averaged 82 minutes for a Windows feature upgrade. The post explains that this number is based on telemetry during the millions of upgrades to version 1709 (aka the Fall Creators Update) late last year. For the upcoming 1803 release, which uses the new model, average offline time has dropped to 30 minutes. As the blog post proclaims: “That’s a reduction of 63% from the Creator’s Update!” I notice that the blog post fails to address whether or not the overall install time has changed, either for the worse or the better. Having been through dozens of such Insider installs for the forthcoming 1803 release, my personal impression is “Not much.” I don’t mean to diminish this accomplishment, but I must observe that for corporate/enterprise users, they probably won’t be using their PCs while they’re upgrading anyway.

The Real Value of These Process Models

To me, the real value of these process models comes from the details about what goes on during the feature upgrade installation process. By extension, in fact, this provides a pretty good model for Windows installation in general. Thus, either list of steps is a good one. I reproduce the NEW list verbatim, in numered form because it’s what Windows users face looking foward. For this list, I don’t much care which parts are online and which parts offline, either.

  1. PC checks for available feature updates (manually or automatically)
  2. Feature update payload is downloaded
  3. User content is prepared for migration
  4. New operating system is placed into a temporary working directory
  5. PC waits for a required reboot to begin update installation
  6. PC reboots to begin update installation process
  7. Drivers and other required operating system files are migrated
  8. User content is migrated
  9. PC reboots and completes the update
  10. OOBE begins

This new model gives us a nice timeline against which to plot errors. It also means when errors occur, one can make a good guess about the issue involved based on the current active phase. I’ll make ongoing, detailed observations over the next few months. Then, I’ll build and populate that map as best I can. Stay tuned: I’ll write this up when I have enough data to make it worth sharing.

Virtual Desktop