Microsoft: Commercial Windows 10 customers will see update sizes drop significantly with x64-only update option

Jack Wilkinson

We’ve all seen it. A new update for a piece of software gets released, you’re excited to get all the latest features and see some issues fixed, only to find out it’s going to take a while to download and, eventually, install. Knowing that some of the updates include bits that you don’t even need, but still take time for you to download, can be frustrating. Microsoft thinks it’s found a solution, at least for its commercial customers on Windows 10.

In a normal scenario, Microsoft releases a Windows 10 update as a single bundle that includes both x86 and x64 versions. This makes it simple for the update to be applied to all machines, catering to their specific requirements whereby x86 may be needed. However, many machines don’t need the x86 version, making this part of the update useless. A standard update is around 4.8GB, with the x86 portion taking up around 2.2GB of that.

From now, Microsoft will distribute an x64-only version to enterprise customers (via ZDNet). This brings a significant saving on the total download size, coming in at roughly 2.6GB, compared to the previous 4.8GB. Not only that, but it also reduces the total download size and the overall bandwidth usage, particularly where a customer has systems in multiple regions. Enterprise customers updating to Windows 10 versions 1703, 1709, and 1803, will be able to download the x64-only option, with 1809 coming along shortly when it releases.

To have access to the x64-only option, the customer must be using Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) or have a system connected to System Centre Configuration Manager. The updates are released as Electronic Software Distribution files through WSUS.

There is a downside to this new approach. The updates will only contain the original Release-to-Manufacturer (RTM) version of Windows 10. Cumulative updates that became available after RTM, Features on Demand and language packs are not included, so system administrators will need to install these separately afterward in order for their software to be completely up to date.

Joel Frauenheim from Microsoft said:

Customers who still need x86 feature updates will need to use the combined files originally published, which will continue to be available and do not have the ‘x64’ distinction.

Configuration Manager or other enterprise management solutions can pull the x86 files from that feature update download to deploy as they did before.

While a welcome change for saving bandwidth and improving download times, it can add an additional step to bring a system completely up to date. What do you think to Microsoft’s change in handling updates for Windows 10 x64 enterprise machines?