Microsoft conscripts upload bandwidth in Windows 10's latest Insider update

Delivery Optimization has been active in Windows 10 since November 2015, but until now previews have been exempt

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Microsoft today updated the Windows 10 beta, switching on a controversial technology that commandeers users' upload bandwidth to shift some responsibility for updating from the company's own servers.

Build 14915 was released earlier Wednesday to participants in the Windows Insider "Fast" track.

The notable change highlighted by Dona Sarkar, the software engineer who acts as the public face of Insider, was the enabling of Windows 10's "Delivery Optimization" technology.

Delivery Optimization, formally dubbed "Windows Update Delivery Optimization" (WUDO) by Microsoft, was part of Windows 10 from the get-go. But it was only switched on as of the November 2015 upgrade, which was pegged as 1511. Insider builds of Windows 10, however, were exempt until now.

"Starting today, Windows Insiders that have Delivery Optimization enabled will be able to download new Insider Preview builds, OS updates, and app updates from other PCs on their local network as well as from other PCs on the Internet," wrote Sarkar in a post to a company blog.

WUDO resembles BitTorrent in its basics, and like that file-sharing technology, uses a peer-to-peer delivery system to spread the load to PCs worldwide rather than relying on a centralized-servers model. WUDO is not a substitute for Microsoft's standard delivery service, Windows Update, but is in addition to it.

If WUDO is enabled, Microsoft can point others to locally-cached copies of updates and apps on users' Windows 10 devices that are connected to the Internet. When that happens, a user's Windows 10 PC acts as a substitute server for others, and any customer whose device is tapped for WUDO delivery has given Microsoft access to their upload bandwidth.

That appropriation of bandwidth has led to criticism, most of it focused on the fact that WUDO was enabled by default. To opt out, users must modify Windows 10's preferences.

From "Settings," users can click the "Update & security" icon, then the "Advanced options" link under "Windows Update." In the ensuing window, click on "Choose how updates are delivered," then in the next panel, turn off WUDO by moving the slider to Off. To leave WUDO on, but restrict sending locally cached updates and apps only to devices on the same local network, select "PCs on my local network."

Not surprisingly, Sarkar touted WUDO's benefits instead of dwelling on the bandwidth conscription. "We have seen a 30% [to] 50% reduction in Internet bandwidth usage required to keep multiple PCs on the same local network up-to-date," she said. Nor did she highlight the fact that, while Windows 10 Insider builds have had the switch-off options since before Windows 10 July 2015 introduction, those settings were Potemkin village-esque.

Microsoft also posted a short FAQ on WUDO on its website.

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Microsoft has turned on Windows Update Delivery Optimization (WUDO) in the latest Insider build, but the service can be disabled to prevent appropriation of upload resources.

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