Windows Update – why?

Caroline and I spoke briefly about this on The Bugcast 288.

Consider this scenario (times are approximate)

If I was to take an old crappy laptop and an Ubuntu 10.04 CD, I could get that up and running within an hour. If I was then to apply all outstanding updates for 10.04 – i.e. to bring it to 10.04.4 – it would take about another 30 minutes max. Then, a full update to Ubuntu 12.04 would take about another hour. So, to be fair, let’s say 3 hours.

Now consider this scenario

If I was to take a brand new laptop with Windows 8 already installed, it takes about 5 hours, and probably the same number of reboots, to apply all of the updates to bring that installation of Windows 8 completely up to date. Then, a full update to Windows 8.1 would take another 5 hours, with about 3 reboots. So, about 10 hours.

Ok, now consider this scenario

If I was to take an old (5 years old?) laptop with Windows Vista installed, run system recovery on it to push it back to the original OEM installation of Vista, it takes about 30 minutes. To then apply all of the updates to bring that new re-installation of Vista completely up to date, takes about 8 hours (over 3 days) and about 12 reboots. I then decide to upgrade to IE9 from IE7 – can’t do that as I’m not running SP2. Really? So when I ask Windows Update to “Update” my “Windows”, it doesn’t even install Service Packs? So I kick off the installation of SP2. *boom* Sorry, you can’t install Service Pack 2 without installing Service Pack 1. I thought these were suppose to be cumulative? *sigh* Anyway, two Service Packs later and I’m able to install IE9. That’s probably another 2 hours on top of the original 8. So, about 10 hours.

My complaint

My complaint is not with the Windows Update process itself, but more the way that Windows update packages are deployed. With APT, the application of a single update – let’s say a new kernel update – takes about 1 minute, plus a normal reboot. In Windows, the application of a single security update takes about 3 minutes, plus a reboot that does about 2 minutes of faffing on the way down, and another 2 minutes of faffing on the way back up. Why are Windows update packages such a big chore for Windows Update to apply? Why, when I can apply a full update of Plank, Wingpanel, Slingshot – all core components of Elementary OS Luna – and not have to reboot. And yet an application update of Adobe Reader – a non-core component of Windows – requires a reboot. I think there’s an inherent flaw in the way that Windows handles the system files and updates, and I’m really surprised that through 5+ generations of Windows, they still haven’t got this right.

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