Windows 10 users beg Microsoft for more info on updates

Patch expert kicks off petition on Microsoft's own feature request forum

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Windows 10 customers have petitioned Microsoft to provide more information about the new OS's updates using the company's own online feature request forum.

The late-August posting has collected almost 1,800 votes as of Monday. Although that was enough to make the petition among the hottest on the "Windows User Voice" site, it was a relatively small number compared to other longer-standing demands, including a request to add tabs to File Explorer that has accumulated over 35,000 votes.

"To many a sys admin, the current communication levels in the knowledge base articles that document the contents of the cumulative Windows 10 updates are not complete enough and we cannot determine if a released update has fixed a bug that we noted," wrote Susan Bradley, who kicked off the petition Aug. 25.

Bradley, a computer network and security consultant, is well known in Windows circles for her expertise on Microsoft's patching processes. She writes for the Windows Secrets newsletter and is active on the mailing list, which targets business IT administrators.

Bradley argued that without details of what an update contains, customers are forced to rely on the patch grapevine, which in turn delays deployment. "Having timely and actionable information from the vendor is key to getting patches installed quickly," she wrote. "Can we get coherent KB articles for Windows 10 updates and not rambling lists of files that were changed?"

KB, for "knowledge base," is the library of supporting documents that describes bug fixes and code changes for Microsoft's updates.

Bradley's User Voice request followed weeks of complaints about the information wasteland of Windows 10's update documentation. Both before and after the July 29 launch of the operating system, many of 10's updates contained only the terse boilerplate, "This update includes improvements to enhance the functionality of Windows 10."

Compared to the documentation for Windows 8.1, Windows 7 and Vista updates, 10's KB commentary has resembled a politician's "No comment." Last month, for example, Microsoft issued KB3078667 for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2, in which it described a bug's symptoms with the 38 words of, "This issue occurs if an application displays various status windows for a long time. DWM leaks memory that is associated with these status windows. Eventually, the application cannot update warning or error status messages in the status windows."

While that was no novel, it was Moby Dick compared to KB3081454, a September update for Windows 10, which used 12 words to say, "This update makes improvements to ease the upgrade experience to Windows 10."

Others have made different arguments than Bradley about why they need more information. They want more warning of changes, don't care for the whole less-not-more-information-and-control kick that Microsoft's on, and say they need specifics in case an update goes south and they have to roll back the modifications.

Most of those reasons fly in the face of reality for consumers running Windows 10 Home because they cannot defer most updates or even uninstall them once they're on the device.

But those running or managing other editions, including Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise, have options consumers don't, primarily patch management systems like WSUS (Windows Server Update Services), that provide more flexibility and can defer specific updates for months before Microsoft shuts off the security patch spigot.

Comments appended to Bradley's petition were overwhelmingly supportive, with many appealing to Microsoft's business sense.

"Adequate information is a requirement not simply for troubleshooting, but for convincing clientele that upgrading to [Windows] 10 is the best step," asserted someone identified only as "Dogtamer" on User Voice. "Sans proper documentation, it's a difficult proposition to convince many clients."

"The lack of patching information is probably the number one reason keeping us from moving to Windows 10," added Jonathan Link.

"Any conscientious admin should know what will be installed prior to initiating the change. Microsoft is on thin ice here," contended someone pegged simply as "opa."

"I can't believe that it's come to this, I really can't," said "rseller" on the thread. "We're actually put in the position of begging for information from knowledge base articles!"

Microsoft has hinted it may disclose more information about its Windows 10 updates. "We've heard that feedback from enterprise customers so we're actively working on how we provide them with information about what's changing and what new capabilities and new value they're getting," said Jim Alkove of the Windows group in a press-only briefing around the time Bradley posted the petition.

Alkove did not provide a timetable and limited the company's information largess to enterprise customers. It's unclear whether the latter meant that only those running Windows 10 Enterprise would get additional information, or whether the policy, if enacted, would include devices powered by Windows 10 Pro, which is available to consumers as well as businesses.

Microsoft is still cranking out detailed descriptions in its security "bulletins," the documents that accompany the monthly updates known as "Patch Tuesday." However, that is probably due more to the fact that the bulletins also apply to older editions, whose users are accustomed to more, not less, information, than any concession to Windows 10.

No Win 10 information for you

Windows 10's updates are documented in language so terse that users have taken to begging Microsoft for more information about what they're installing.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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