Friday, April 15, 2011

Windows Update still owns my machine

Ok, I mentioned that I rarely boot Windows these days. Pretty much, it's just to watch a webinar that requires some silly Windows-only software like Silverlight. But when I do boot into Windows, I always take the opportunity to install updates.

I attended 2 webinars yesterday. During the first meeting, I got that little pop-up that there were updates available for Windows. So I started Windows Update, and let it do its thing while I finished my meeting.

That was a huge mistake. But I didn't realize this until much later.

You see, Microsoft has this concept called "Patch Tuesday" where they dump a whole bunch of patches together and release them on the second Tuesday of each month. Apparently, this was a really big "Patch Tuesday".

The first meeting ended about 10 minutes early, and Windows Update said it was finished - I figured "hey, I'll reboot and let those changes take effect." I rebooted Windows, and got the message that Windows was finally going to install those patches. As I watched the progress indicator slowly count its way up I got that sinking feeling. This was going to take forever.

About 10 minutes roll by, and Windows had worked its way to about 30% complete. Then, it rebooted.

But Windows wasn't done installing updates. Again, I watched the progress indicator slowly count up from 30%.

Keep in mind that my second meeting was starting about now. But I couldn't join, because I foolishly assumed Windows "only" needed to reboot for changes to take effect.

Another 10 minutes went by, and and Windows had reached about 75% complete. Then it rebooted again.

I thought, "How many times does Windows need to reboot just to install some patches?" But fortunately, that was the last reboot, and the progress indicator eventually reached 100%, and I could finally login to Windows.

So 15 minutes late, I joined my second online meeting. For those keeping track at home, that's 25 minutes and 2 reboots (3 if you count the first reboot that started this) for Windows to install updates.

Again, I'm reminded how Windows Update owns my machine. This was true in Windows Vista, and it's still true in Windows 7. Microsoft needs to fix this bug! And I do consider it a "bug" because other operating systems don't require this kind of nonsense to install patches.

On Linux, most patches don't require you to reboot your computer. Sure, some patches may not take effect until you logout, and login again. A kernel update won't take effect until you reboot. But most patches just get installed, and you don't notice anything.

And in Linux, when you reboot or shutdown, you actually reboot or shutdown. None of this "let me install a few updates before you really get to shut down your system." Reboot means "reboot", and shutdown means "shutdown".

I guess I got spoiled for how cleanly Linux systems apply updates. Microsoft sure could take a lesson from that.


  1. The problem with Microsoft "taking a lesson" from Linux updates is that as far as I know, the way Microsoft Windows is built makes it impossible for updates to occur any other way. It's not just annoying; the whole thing is fundamentally broken. For Microsoft Windows to properly use a Linux-like update system would mean it would need to be Linux (which, as far as I know, was the subject of a recent April fool's hoax online).
    By the way, I really like the updated look. It definitely looks a lot cleaner and more modern than what it was like before.
    a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

  2. Windows Update is one of the primary reasons I refuse to use Windows when ever possible. It actually makes me angry when it refuses to simply power down. I don't need that from my operating system. Life is frustrating enough as it is.

  3. Thanks, PV for the comments on the new design. As a side effect of the updated template, try using ?m=1 at the end of any of the URLs to get a mobile-enabled page.

  4. It continues to amaze me that Windows still requires updates to be installed this way.

    I understand PV's comment about the Windows architecture, that Windows Update has to operate this way (reboot to install patches) in order to work. I assume it's because the in-use libraries are locked and can't be updated. That's a relic of how Windows was designed, in the 1980s.

    But isn't it odd that Windows still requires this, in 2011?

  5. It's like getting your teeth cleaned but to do that they have to stop and restart your heart a few times.

  6. I don't know that I've had to reboot Linux for any patch, other than a kernel update, and rebooting Linux doesn't take very long anyway. UNlike Windows.

  7. Without wanting to be Mr PooPoo, are Windows updates so important they can't be started just before bedtime? And secondly if you started a large Linux update just before you had to go to a webinar you'd be stuck having to wait for downloads to complete or interrupt it. It seems to me the bigger problem is a matter of timing.

  8. I use Windoze to play Star Wars games. I used to also use it to watch online sports, but most of the Chinese and Russian hackers have released solutions that work on Linux systems now. Oh, updates you say ? Well, I run them manually every month or so, when I want, not when the OS does.

  9. "Thanks, PV for the comments on the new design. As a side effect of the updated template, try using ?m=1 at the end of any of the URLs to get a mobile-enabled page."

    Hmmph. Blogspot is the Windows of blogging. (Comments still don't accept blockquotes?) Why don't you move everything to WordPress? It's more true to the opensource spirit, and a contributor has created a plugin to automatically detect if the reader is using a mobile device and adjust accordingly. No need to add a tag at the end of the URL.

    As a Linux user, I do like the way that updates are handled much better than the way that Windows are handled. A little icon tells me that packages have been updated and when I am ready I can run the update. No reboot needed until I am ready and willing to do it on my own.

  10. This points to a larger problem with Windows. Once updates are ready to be installed (the Win Update process is finished) THE NEXT TIME YOU REBOOT you'll have an experience like the author describes. And in some office environments, you don't pick WHEN Win Update runs.

    So this can happen at a random time, can't it? Even during the middle of the day, like shutting down so you can bring the laptop to a meeting. Or closing down at the end of the day.

    I know I'd hate it to learn that I had to wait 25 minutes for my laptop to finish, before I could power it down and stick it in my bag and GO HOME.

  11. @JH: You say it's odd that in 2011, Microsoft Windows still requires this, but because of the fundamental architecture upon which version after version has been built, it'll still unfortunately be true in 2031 (if Microsoft Windows is still around then).
    @Mike Haubrich: Yeah, as the proprietor of a Blogger blog myself, I'm a bit disappointed that Blogger still doesn't allow blockquote comments or threaded comments. Thankfully, plugins help with that; I've seen a few big Blogger blogs use Disqus for commenting. Other than that, though, I've found Blogger to be easier by far — I tried setting up a WordPress site (for a totally different reason), and despite following all the instructions, it didn't work right; yes, the site was put up, but I could never change the themes or layouts without it reverting to the defaults for some reason. Also, I found it more convenient to start with Blogger because I already had a Google account at that time.
    a Linux Mint user since 2009 May 1

  12. To the first Anonymous: Yes, it's true that for a large Linux update I'd have to wait for it to download and install. And right now, the Fedora Project is prepping the new Fedora 15 - so they are back-porting a bunch of fixes and updates into Fedora 14, lots of updates.

    But with the Linux update, I can keep using my system while updates get downloaded and installed. If I'm in the middle of a webinar, no problem. And when the updates are done, they are done. None of this "let me install those updates before you really get to shut down your system." Reboot means "reboot", and shutdown means "shutdown".

    Yeah, it was probably stupid to reboot Windows (after updates) between webinars. I'll own that mistake. But honestly - I didn't think the reboot would take 25 minutes. I thought maybe 5 minutes, plenty of time to boot and get back to the next web meeting.

  13. Reminds me that Windows need to flag updates that "require a reboot to finish installing. But due to how Windows handles libraries, they can't guarantee which won't be in locked during update. Retarded by design.


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