Win10 Fall Creators Update’s rapid, rocky rollout

A week after version 1709 hit the waves, reports of success — and some screams of pain — accompany the latest, greatest, bestest version of Windows

windows 10 surface laptop
Dan Masaoka/IDG

A week ago today, Microsoft rolled out the “RTM” build of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (FCU), version 1709, build 16299.15 – which should’ve been immediately upgraded to 16299.19. At least anecdotally, the initial push brought in far more Win10 machines than any previous rollout. I’ve seen few reports of problems from those who had FCU thrust upon them, but there are plenty of problems among those who installed the upgrade manually.

Yesterday, Windows servicing and delivery director John Cable talked about the phased rollout approach on the Windows Blog. Cable said:

"By starting with machines which we believe will have the best update experience, we are able to get focused feedback on application compatibility and how Windows works with the rich ecosystem of available peripherals like Bluetooth devices or cameras. Additionally, we closely monitor feedback from fans and early adopters, through programs like Windows Insiders and Windows Insider for Business, in addition to feedback from our OEM device partners, and customers like you! This helps us determine when to accelerate the release to additional devices."

… which sounds to me like every other Win10 rollout. We also have a marketing graph (screenshot below) without x- or y- axis labels that certainly looks convincing but somehow doesn’t communicate anything.

fcu adoption rate Microsoft

If you haven’t yet devoured the information about all of the (New! Improved!) features in Win10 FCU, Preston Gralla’s Review: Windows 10 Fall Creators Update from A to Zzzzzzzz takes you through the highlights. To be sure, there are improvements in security, notably Windows Defender Exploit Guard, which replaces the long-in-the-tooth EMET tool (details posted yesterday on the Windows Security blog), and Controlled Folder Access, an anti-ransomware tool that adds an extra authorization level for folders you specify (more details were posted yesterday). And after a couple of years’ hiatus, Microsoft brought back OneDrive placeholders (“files on-demand”), improving on the Windows 8 feature.

After that, the feature list seems to me to stumble off a cliff, bouncing like a Fluent Design glow bubble. But you may find a gem or two in the list.

I’ve been keeping a running list of known problems with FCU, and it’s pretty lengthy. Of course there’s the usual failures to install, rollback, freezes, which many people manage to knock loose using Windows 10 install issues -- and what to do about them.

Highlights:

  • Weird audio driver problems: Restart your PC and a seemingly random audio device will become the default.
  • Lots of reports of re-assigned default apps, and deleted built-in apps that make a remarkable re-appearance.
  • Reports of messed up monitor colors that are fixed by turning off the Night Light app.
  • Citrix XenDesktop agent VDA 7.15 doesn’t install. (Thx ch100)
  • If your older versions of .NET aren’t working, you have to manually enable them (Thx, Noel Carboni)
  • Old Intel network drivers have problems on reboot or awaking from sleep. You should update all of them. (Thx NetDef)
  • The sign-in screen may show the Administrator account. Fixing it requires a manual registry change. (Thx MrBrian)
  • An older game engine triggers crashes when running full screen. (Thx NetDef)
  • And there’s a handful of identified hardware problems: HP print drivers, Beats Audio, Razer laptops.

Several high profile bugs have been fixed: the “Something bad happened” bug in Windows Store was fixed, accompanied by a new Store icon and rebranding to "Microsoft Store." There’s a lengthy manual workaround for the bug that removes references to built-in programs and jumbles tiles on the Start menu.

My old advice stands: Wait. There’s nothing in 1709 that you absolutely have to have right now. In the past, Microsoft had businesses wait four months or so before installing a new version of Win10. In the new world of Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) and Semi-Annual Channel (Nailed) releases, business are supposed to figure it out for themselves. But the old four-month wait seems to be just as valid now as it was three months ago, when Microsoft suddenly withdrew the "Current Branch for Business" designation.

I continue to recommend that you actively block the 1709 upgrade.

When you're ready to throw yourself at Microsoft’s mercy, you can take off the safety belt, remove the block and let Microsoft upgrade your machine on its time schedule.

But don’t install 1709 manually before Microsoft figures that you’re ready for it. There’s a reason Microsoft controls the horizontal.

Hit a bug that’s bugging you? Post it on the AskWoody Lounge.

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