Windows 8 updates missing one crucial improvement | ComputerworldUK

Windows 8 updates missing one crucial improvement | ComputerworldUK.  (No longer available online. Original text included below.)

Microsoft says Windows 8 will make Windows Updates less annoying. It’s a tenuous trade off, being more secure and reliable verses having to spend the time to reboot, or worse yet, finding you lost work during an automatic reboot. Microsoft builds systems to get the updates to us quicker, and users seem to find ways to delay their installation as long as possible. Will Windows 8 improve this scenario? 

The best way to prevent the problem is to prevent the need for a reboot at all. Microsoft says Windows 8 updates will require fewer restarts, and will limit those restarts to once a month, but reboots are still often necessary, namely when the file that needs updating is open at the time.

3 Things That Will Help

Microsoft says Windows 8 will boot faster, making those monthly Windows Update restarts less painful. Here are three things that will help.

SSD: Solid State Drives (SSDs) are generally twice as fast as Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) at transferring data. Many high-end laptops and ultraportable computers are now using SSDs, and as the prices drop, they will become more common in mid and low-end laptops and desktops as well, so it’s likely to be an option on many Windows 8 computers. 

UEFI: Most current PCs use BIOS as the system to initiate the start of your computer. BIOS has been around for 25 years, and can often take 10-15 seconds before launching Windows and telling it about your hardware. Universal Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) is the modern version of this, with even more features, and more importantly, in only a few seconds, largely due to the ability to be optimized for the hardware it runs on. Windows 8 works with UEFI and will use it for its “Secure Booting” feature.

Windows: Windows 8 makes some changes to improve startup/reboot time. Initializing the device drivers in parallel instead of one after the other is one improvement. Another is “Trigger Start Services” which only loads services if and when they are needed, instead of loading most of them at startup. It also delays reboots if unsaved data is detected.

What’s Needed

Most complaints about automatic updates refer to unexpected reboots that can lose unsaved data, which Microsoft is addressing with Windows 8. A better way to solve that problem is to have a computer wake itself up at night, install the update, and shutdown again. Since the computer wasn’t on in the first place, no unsaved data is at risk of being lost. 

For computers that don’t get shutdown often, the system could update and reboot itself after sitting idle for some time, and return to the same state it was in before it started, with all applications and user data intact. Users shouldn’t even know the update occurred. Apple’s Mac OS X Lion has a feature called “Resume” which restores the user state after a reboot. Though Windows 8 isn’t out yet, we haven’t seen a comparable feature announced yet. 

Do No Harm

Until a way is found to update system files that are open, reboots will be necessary. Making those reboots less painful is the next best step, and hardware and software optimization is helping, with boot times now approaching 30 seconds on some modern systems. In the end, computers need to take care of themselves without disrupting our work, protecting our work first before doing updates is a great way to start.