Windows 8’s New Updating Solution And Possible Alternatives

Microsoft recently revealed a post on their Building Windows 8 blog that the next-generation Windows OS will require fewer reboots for Windows patches and updates.

Admittedly, this sounds pretty awesome. The truth is that the ‘less reboots’ to keep secure is all about smoke and mirrors and they just are delivering the process a bit differently this time around, though I still think its a fairly good solution.

A perfect PC would never require a reboot and all patches would just silently install themselves in the background without getting in the way of your work.

Unfortunately, we live in the real world and the reason for the restarts is that during an update there might be important system files in use that can’t be updated while the machine is running in its current state.

So Windows 8 will at least do the next best thing and reduce the need of reboots by limiting patching to once a month. The new system will simply gather up all the updates and then on the second Tuesday of each month it will restart and install all the patches and security fixes.

This means that by waiting until the second Tuesday of each month all your updates are ready, they just aren’t installed. This smoke and mirrors approach means that all patching will happen en mass meaning that you might have patches that you downloaded two weeks ago for a security fix that is just getting updated now.

Luckily all the major security patches will still require immediate reboots, but it still has to make you wonder if waiting around for a patch is really any better.

So in short, Microsoft makes good on its “less reboots” promise, though they phrase it in a way that it sounds like patching is still going on in the background you just don’t need to reboot as much.

I understand Microsoft’s reason for wanting fewer boots and have had a personal experience where I walked away from some work only to find my PC rebooting and I lost it all. It’s possible this is the best solution that they can offer with current hardware technology but I wish it wasn’t the case.

So what would I propose instead- proving that the technology could actually handle it? How about smart technology inside of Windows that is ‘always-on’ and when your PC is already off it turns on your machine, grabs the updates, installs them, shuts back down, and on restart your previous shut-off state is resumed so that nothing looks or seems different.

With this approach you wouldn’t even know you ever received updates unless you looked at your update log. This sounds cool but who knows if it is actually reasonably possible and I suppose this scenario also doesn’t take into consideration people who never shut down their PC unless they have to.

So if not the first scenario, why not smart software that detects that there has been no new activity in X amount of time. The PC could then make a save image that would include any and all open and in progress work.

The computer would restart, install the patches, and the load up the image that would ensure all your previous work was still there and unchanged. Again, perhaps this is just not possible.

Microsoft is really working hard to improve security, speed, and convenience in Windows 8 so I don’t want to sound like a complainer. I like Microsoft’s ‘less booting’ plan and fully support it.

I do have hope for future versions of Windows they will find better ways to get around booting though. What do you think of Microsoft’s new updating system?

Do either of my proposed scenarios seem like they would be interesting alternatives if they actually worked? If you have an alternative system that you’ve thought of yourself or any other comment, post them below!

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  • Adrian

    I remember reading a job posting from Microsoft where they were looking to hire someone to figure out how to install updates on a hiberated virtual machine.  That way, Windows could just hibernate, update the files in use, then resume the session.  I was hoping it would make it into Windows 8, but since I haven’t heard anymore about it, I guess it either isn’t technical possible (since the old code is currently being run), or it will make it into a later version of Windows.

  • walkergw

    I agree this is nothing but a rehash of the old with possibly a bit of new ( I hope). Many patches do not require reboot.  If the system is smart enough it should be able to at least install these patches and wait for the monthly maintnance for the ones that require a reboot. 

    Long term, this is an issue they need to fully resolve.  Perhaps through sand boxing or virtualization, they can install the updates but not move them into the live vm until the next reboot.  There must be a solution, and they need to answer it.  I also am a bit disappointed.  They have known about this issue for years and have not fully addressed it.  It tells me that it is not a major priority to Microsoft, and that is a big mistake in my book.

  • Konanyao

    This happens because Microsoft will not do with the Windows 8, what they should have done with Vista:
    Create a whole new O.S which would smartly handle backward compatibility with virtualization.
    Sincerely, i expected Windows 8 to make a much more advanced use of virtualization for both backward compatibility and for other things even if it implies higher hardware requirements for the x86 version.
    According to me higher hardware requirement is not necessarily an issue, though this increase in hardware requirements must be justified by a smart and appealing use of this extra power.
    x86 are extremely powerful nowadays and Windows 8 could have taken advantage of this extra power to offer unique features and outstanding improvements.
    For example,Windows 8 for ARM could have been developed as a standalone O.S which could have been virtualized for Windows 8 for x86.
    In the same way Windows 7 could have been trimmed and virtualized for Windows 8 in order to handle backward compatibility in a transparent way for the users.
    This way only this virtual services would be restarted when updated.
    The base O.S would never need to be restarted as it would be built to handle significant updates without rebooting.

    Or as you imply, the O.S could monitor whatever apps and services is running, make a snapshot of the system when a reboot is needed, reboot the system and then bring it back in exactly the same state it was prior to restart.
    It seems that Microsoft implies ,in the last post on the Win8 blog, that apps has to support some services or some feature for that to happen, but i don’t see why the system can not do it on its own. After all it is Microsoft which chose to support backward compatibility at the system level even Windows 8 when the best choice would be to do it through a virtualization layer. Thus Microsoft needs to find some smart solutions to fix significant issues of the O.S without breaking this backward compatibility and legacy O.S.