Did Microsoft Just Backtrack On Forced Updates For Windows 10?

Faced with a mounting uproar over forcing software and driver updates to Windows 10 devices, Microsoft appears to have reversed course with the introduction of a tool that allows beta Windows 10 users to block updates to the OS. Microsoft partners say that type of control is critical in the final Windows 10 release, or Microsoft could wreak havoc on businesses whose systems are incompatible with a Windows Update.

’Microsoft means well, but pushing out a bad update can cost tens of thousands of dollars in time and money if we have to roll back systems and fix problems caused by an untested software update,’ said Joe Balsarotti, president of Software To Go, a St. Peters, Mo.-based Microsoft partner.

Now Microsoft appears to be reconsidering its update strategy with Windows 10, based on a new tool that surfaced this month that allows you to block specific updates. This Windows support document describes how Windows 10 beta users can download a software tool called ’Show or Hide Updates’ for the Windows 10 Insider Preview OS. While the software is designed specifically for beta testers, according to forum posts, the blocking tool also works with the latest near-complete build of Windows 10. That suggests to some that the tool will work with versions of Windows 10 after it becomes officially available Wednesday.

[Related: Windows 10 Continuum To Spark App Development For OS]

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Microsoft caused an outcry with the way it said it will deliver Windows 10 security, software and driver updates to PCs. It said Windows 10 Home users can’t block updates and new features from being delivered. Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise have limited control over updates under a program called Windows Update for Business.

Windows Update for Business is a free tool for Windows Pro and Enterprise customers. Under the program, software updates will be delivered via distribution rings, ’where the IT Pro can specify which devices go first in an update wave, and which ones will come later (to ensure any quality kinks are worked out),’ according to Microsoft’s description. But still unclear is to what extent businesses will be able to block software, security and driver updates from their network.

Microsoft has been less than clear on how exactly companies can or cannot block updates. In this support update posted by Microsoft, it reads: ’Some Windows 10 editions let you defer upgrades to your PC. When you defer upgrades, new Windows features won’t be downloaded or installed for several months. Deferring upgrades doesn’t affect security updates.’

Microsoft did not return multiple requests for comment for this story.

’We have not heard anything official from Microsoft, but it’s our belief we will have control over what updates are delivered to Windows 10 customers in the future,’ said Joseph Awe, president of TechBldrs, an Exton, Pa.-based Microsoft partner.

Awe is referring to an existing tool available to businesses that operate their own domain servers. The tool Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) enables IT administrators to deploy and manage the distribution of updates that are released through Microsoft Update to computers in their network. It’s unclear as to whether WSUS will work seamlessly with Windows 10 machines.

Windows Update for Business is an improvement on WSUS, argues Microsoft. Microsoft’s Terry Myerson, executive vice president for Windows and Devices Group, explains: ’Windows Update for Business will reduce management costs, provide controls over update deployment, offer quicker access to security updates, and provide access to the latest innovation from Microsoft on an ongoing basis.’

For partners, it’s a cut-and-dried decision. ’If it comes down to Windows 10 or the ability to control what Windows Update delivers to a PC, businesses are going to pass on Windows 10,’ Awe said.

Still, Awe and Balsarotti said the much ballyhooed debate over updates will be a nonstarter for many partners that use third-party patch management services such as Kaseya and LabTech that offer remote monitoring and management for Microsoft MSP partners.

’Nothing we have seen or heard suggests there are going to be any hiccups with our Patch Management product with the rollout of Windows 10,’ said Miguel Lopez, senior technical director at Kaseya.