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Microsoft cloaks the details of Windows 10 updates

Gregg Keizer | July 21, 2015
Microsoft last week demonstrated how much of a black box a Windows 10 update may be to the millions of users expected to upgrade to the new operating system.

Insider, the beta test program Microsoft launched in October 2014 and will continue after the official launch next week, has been billed as the "branch" -- a Microsoft term for one of its four release, update and upgrade channels -- that receives changes first and for some, at a furious pace.

But customers are already nervous about the take-it-or-leave-it, minus the leaving, that Microsoft plans for updates to Windows 10 Home, and other SKUs (stock-keeping units) that adopt its "Current Branch" (CB).

"So what happens if an update causes an unknown issue on a system used for business?" asked David Ogg in a comment appended to a Computerworld news story last week about the automatic updates. "What does that person do? Are we forced to install this bad update? This has happened before."

Skepticism of freely-flowing updates won't be helped by Microsoft's tight lips about what's inside each.

But users shouldn't be surprised: Microsoft has been on a less-information kick for months now in a campaign that some experts have linked to layoffs that hit the company's security staff last year.

In January, Microsoft shut down the public advance notification service for impending security updates, limiting the alerts and information to major customers who pay for premium support. Before that, it had dumped a monthly webcast that went through the most recent updates in detail, and closed the Trustworthy Computing security group.

The dearth of information in Microsoft's update descriptions, particularly about what fit the firm's "non-security-related changes to enhance the functionality of Windows 10" phrasing, may be more than distressing to users who want details.

That's because Windows 10 includes the ability to uninstall updates, or at least those marked as security updates. The feature is tucked under "Advanced options" on the Windows Update panel. When that's clicked or touched, followed by "View your update history," which appears in the next screen, the option "Uninstall updates" manifests. Click or touch that and a Windows 7-esque window pops up showing the updates eligible for deleting. On a PC running build 10240 of Windows 10 Pro, the only listed were KB3074663 and KB3074665.

Without a clear idea of what other changes are in an individual update, users will be hard pressed to know whether uninstalling the update will cause glitches, either immediately or down the road, in the non-security arena.

And that's the crux of the problem with Windows 10. Previous editions of Windows have clearly demarked security from non-security updates, albeit with little more information than KB3074663 or KB3074665 provided. The difference is that the bulk of updates for Windows 8 and 8.1, and nearly all for Windows 7, have been, if not a vulnerability patch, then a bug fix of some kind. But rarely, if ever, new features and functionality.


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