With every new Windows release, Microsoft promises to reduce the number of times we'll have to restart our computers. Things have gradually gotten better - today, many program installations, driver updates, and Windows updates can be installed without restarting. Even so, Microsoft has again identified this process as an area where Windows could use improvement, as Microsoft's Farzana Rahman discusses on the Building Windows 8 blog today.

The improvements in Windows 8 aren't going to stop automatic restarts from happening; rather, Microsoft's goal is to make sure that the restarts that do happen are unobtrusive and predictable. First, all restarts will usually happen just once a month, after Patch Tuesday (with rare exceptions made for critical out-of-band security updates). Next, when your PC requires a restart, you'll have a three-day window in which to do so manually - a message on the log-in screen will let you know whether your system needs to be restarted. At the end of this three-day period, your computer will attempt to restart manually, but will not if a user is logged in and applications are running. In this case, users will get a warning that their system will restart in 15 minutes (similar to Windows' current behavior) but without the option to cancel the restart.

The default behaviors are meant to reduce the likelihood of data loss and user annoyance, while still making sure that computers are updated promptly. Enterprise administrators, as usual, can choose to leave these default behaviors in place, or can choose to enforce their own update schedule via Group Policy.

There's one last tidbit that may or may not interest you: at the end of the post, Rahman reiterates that Microsoft will not update third-party software through Windows Update, partly because Microsoft doesn't trust third parties not to break things - Microsoft doesn't want to "reduce trust in the system" by adding that additional layer of complexity. However, Metro apps, which will be screened by Microsoft upon their submission to Windows 8's app store, will all be updated through the store's unified updater. 

If you'd like to read more, you can get this information (and the customary pile of user data that led to these decisions) over at the Building Windows 8 blog.

Source: Building Windows 8 Blog

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  • Filiprino - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    Microsoft is years behind modern OSes like GNU/Linux or Mac OS. The only reboots needed should be when you upgarde your kernell, if at all. And of course without stupid waits watching a "Configuring your updates..." notice before continuing updating.
  • tommo123 - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    is there a way to disable what is essentially a crash? i mean to the user (me in this case) if my pc reboots during the night it makes no odds whether it's a crash or due to windows updates. it's the same thing IMO

    now there's a way to disable it (iirc the auto reboot is enabled by default on win7)

    if there's no option to pause it or anything either, then i'd have to disable windows update and only run it when i am about to reboot anyway. video encoding takes a long time and i'm not gonna interrupt a 2-3 day long encode and start again because MS wants to remove options and "appleify" things for me.
  • jabber - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    Can we speed up .NET updates? Some of them seem to take longer to install than a full re-install of Win7.
  • piroroadkill - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    They need to work on patch sizes, and patches being superceded.

    It fucking blows when you download a big patch..

    Check windows update again.. and there are more patches for the patches you just got. This should never, ever happen.

    You should never, ever have to check Windows Update several times in a row to get new updates. It should show all updates, which should have all the latest security patches rolled in.

    Make them differential, if needs be, like Xbox live patches - they're wonderful and quick.

    Microsoft still has a long way to go with Windows Update.
  • burntham77 - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    Restarts are barely an issue when you use an SSD for your OS. Well, not for me.
  • EddyKilowatt - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    Didn't the malware scammers recently crack the Update channel... or at least do some good social engineering with an authentic-looking pop-up Update box?

    The whole thing just seems so ripe for abuse. I've got all updates set to manual, notify only. I let the Microsoft ones through pretty quickly, but everything else gets kept on ice for several days while I listen for word on the street of any big problems...

    All that said, why is it taking so long for Windows to get modular enough that services can be restarted without rebooting the kernel?
  • B3an - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    How can certain critical system code be updated when it's already running and in memory? A restart is always needed for this.
  • jabber - Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - link

    I hate it when I build a new box or rebuild one and suddenly after doing other stuff waiting for 105 updates to install I realise that its been sat for 40 minutes half way though asking me if I want to install IE!!!!!!

    I selected the update just f**king install it.

    What dont you get about 'automatic'?
  • windows - Monday, November 21, 2011 - link

    Windows 8 machines will require a restart only when security updates requiring a restart are installed... When one or more updates does require a PC restart, <a href="http://windows7vswindows8.com/2011/windows-7-vs-wi... 8 </a> will alert users in a message on the log-in screen that persists for three days.

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