Starting with Windows 10, Microsoft is treating the decades-old operating system as a service. The idea is to provide constant updates with not only bug fixes but also new features, instead of building a new version of Windows.
There is no Windows 11 – not yet at least; if the plan is successful, Windows 10 might, in fact, be the last version of Windows. Here on out, it would simply be updated with new features.
Microsoft’s roadmap suggests that there would be at least two such feature updates for Windows 10 every year. This, of course, raises a slight problem: the download size of these updates can become quite big.
The frequent nature of these updates, as well as their size, could pose a problem not only to Microsoft’s customers but also Microsoft, who will have to pay the bill for delivering these updates as well.
The Unified Update Platform
As a solution, Microsoft designed the Unified Updated Platform or UUP in short. The Windows Insider team took a break in the early half of December to introduce UUP with Build 14986 for the Fast Ring Insiders.
The UUP allows for “differential downloads.” In simpler terms, updates delivered via UUP would only download the bits of data that has changed with the update. This sounds quite obvious, but it’s a very hard technical challenge. Microsoft has managed to make it work.
Insider vs. Retail
Microsoft today announced that it will release all future Insider builds on PC via the UUP. Now, since the Insiders on Fast Ring receive these build updates so often, Microsoft estimates that some of these updates could be, in fact, less than 1 GB.
However, the retail consumers – the folks who use Windows 10 as their daily driver and do not participate in the Insider program – do not get as drastic benefits.
The average Windows 10 user will still see smaller build updates, but they would certainly be larger than 1 GB. That’s progress.
In addition to that, the current version of Windows 10 with the Anniversary Update does not come with UUP, meaning that the upcoming Creators Update will be the same 3-4 GB download as we have all come to expect.
The UUP – for the retail consumers – will only show its benefits for future updates after the Creators Update.
Even if the benefits are not as significant for retail customers, the Insiders will still see considerably smaller updates. But, there’s a catch.
Microsoft notes that some Windows Insiders may not get a differential download package even if Microsoft ships one. That’s because a differential download package requires a baseline build.
Microsoft will most likely use the last-released version of Windows 10 as the baseline for a new update, but if an Insider is not on that same build, then they will not receive a differential download package.
Instead, they would have to download a canonical download package, which will be the same size as updates were before UUP.
Still, these problems do not overshadow the most important bit: Insiders on the Fast Ring might upgrade to the latest Insider build in less than 1 GB. That’s something.