A new Windows 10 Insider Preview build, available now, gives some end users the ability to defer updates and avoid baked-in driver installations arriving at the same time. The new changes have been made in response to longstanding consumer grievances, but they don’t go nearly far enough to satisfy most users who are unhappy with the status quo. The new Insider Preview Build (15002) introduces a number of new features and changes, but we’ll hit these two first.
Build 15002 adds an option that allows users to pause updates on their computers for up to 35 days, accessed under the “Advanced” options page of Windows Update Settings. Separately, Windows will also allow users to decide if they want to include driver updates when they update Windows. Previously, driver downloads could be blocked from Device Manager, but this new setting appears to give users an additional way to prevent driver updates by blocking them as part of Windows Update. There is, however, a substantial catch: You have to be running Windows 10 Professional, Enterprise, or Education to take advantage of these settings.
On the one hand, we’re glad to see Microsoft taking some steps to give users more control over their hardware. But there’s no reason why these features shouldn’t be extended to Windows 10 Home Premium. Why is the ability to defer updates for 35 days to see if they have problems something only professional users might want to do? We’ve seen a number of flaws in updates shoved out to Windows 10 users over the past 18 months, from Anniversary Update issues with virtually all webcams to USB problems with Amazon’s Kindle that blue-screened PCs as soon as the latter was plugged in. Wanting to wait a bit over a month to install updates isn’t crazy given Microsoft’s track record of breaking things, and the company has already said certain types of updates, like Windows Defender security updates, will be pushed out regardless.
Similarly, in what universe are professionals the only people who might have issues with a driver file? At one point earlier this year, I was swapping out a GeForce GTX 980 Ti for a GTX 980. The most recent Nvidia drivers had already been installed, and swapping back to the older GTX 980 should have been seamless. At first, it seemed to be — but while I was watching, my Windows 10 testbed chose to remove the most recent Nvidia driver and substitute the GeForce driver Windows 10 had launched with. This constituted more than a year of rollback, and if I hadn’t been watching the monitor when it happened I wouldn’t have known anything was wrong. Not allowing Microsoft to manage driver installations is a smart move, not some erudite option people never need to use.
It’s not clear what game Microsoft is playing with these updates, but it’s a game the company’s customers won’t appreciate. As I’ve stated before, I support the idea of mandatory security and antivirus updates, but users should have the option to delay non-security updates, particularly given Microsoft’s track record the past 18 months. The only alternative at this point is for users to turn Windows Update off altogether. While I can’t recommend doing that, I also can’t blame people who are fed up with having software shoved into their PC without their consent.
Other new features
There are some other new features arriving in Build 15002 that end-users might be interested in. Microsoft Edge is getting a tab-preview mode (Microsoft seems to have cribbed this from the new Vivaldi browser, which offers it enabled by default, though I’m certain the idea has been around for longer). Tab preview lets you see a thumbnail image of each tab rather than just a title bar, as shown below:
Edge will also allow people to “set aside” tabs to consider them in a later session, like the Chromium extension OneTab, and Jump Lists are now supported and flash is blocked from running by default. Edge also now supports Microsoft’s new Payment Request API, which should be of great comfort to the 10 people forced to accept payments via Microsoft Edge. Microsoft is also introducing the ability to group Start Tiles into folders, via Tile Folders. There’s apparently no plan to bring an equivalent option to the “All Apps” list, even though forcing that list into alphabetical order makes it extremely inconvenient if you remember the name of an application, but not the name of the corporation that manufactures it.
Microsoft is adding a new feature that allows Windows to override an application’s display scaling, in the hopes that this will allow for a more consistent experience rather than the occasionally blurry interface you see when apps use bitmap stretching to scale UI elements at present.
The full details on these changes, as well as Microsoft’s complete change list, are all available at the above link. Overall, it’s a solid crop of improvements, even if few of them are standouts. But Microsoft really needs to deal with its broken update model and bifurcated customer market once and for all. Make non-security updates optional, and give all Windows 10 users access to these controls, not just those with special variants of the operating system.
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