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Windows users face update bloat, and tough choices

Gregg Keizer | Oct. 20, 2016
New cumulative updates for Windows 7 will swell to 500MB a month, Microsoft acknowledges

Windows 10's cumulative updates have ballooned in size, and a similar bloat will also affect the Windows 7 updates that Microsoft revamped this month.

According to data published last month by LANDesk and refreshed by Computerworld with October's numbers, Windows 10 cumulative updates for the three versions of the new OS have surged in size.

Updates for Windows 10 version 1507 -- the debut that launched in July 2015 -- have grown 153% (for the 32-bit edition) and 181% (64-bit), from 184MB and 368MB to 466MB and 1,034MB (or over a gigabyte), respectively, in just over a year.

Those for version 1511 -- Windows 10's first "feature update," issued in November 2015 -- exploded in comparison: The first 64-bit 1511 update was 49MB, but the cumulative update released earlier this month was a whopping 989MB, for a growth rate of 1,918% in under 12 months.

The newest Windows 10, version 1607 -- released in early August -- has also expanded, with the 64-bit edition climbing 591% from 113MB in August to 781MB this month.

"Cumulative updates start out big and become enormous over time," Stephen Brown, director of product management at LANDesk, a maker of enterprise endpoint management software, wrote in a post to a company blog on Sept. 21.

Updates increase in size because they are cumulative; October's 989MB update for 1511 included not only new fixes, but also those in every prior update. September's, in turn, included new fixes as well as those in August's and July's and June's and....

And so on and so on.

Windows 10's updates have ballooned for good reason, said Rex McMillan, a LANDesk principal product manager, in an interview today. "With Windows 10, the cumulative updates include both security updates and feature updates," noted McMillan. "Under Microsoft's 'We build it as we go' [model], the percentage of files that have to change is really high. They're touching a high percentage of the code."

The more changes, the larger the update, in other words.

The only thing that keeps Windows 10's cumulative updates from swelling to unmanageable enormity is that at each edition's release, the size "resets" to some degree. In November 2015, for example, the original Windows 10, version 1507, received a 515MB cumulative update. But those who had upgraded to version 1511 earlier that month were handed an update of just 49MB.

Version 1607's first update was 119MB, a fraction of 1511's 917MB or 1507's 776MB that same month.

Large updates may not be a pain point for all customers, but to those with low-bandwidth connections to the Internet, or people on metered connections, where every bit and byte are tallied by the provider or carrier, massive downloads can be a deal breaker.

 

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