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August 11, 2020

Windows 10 and UUP – What’s wrong?

Up through December 2016 and Build 11082, Windows 10 feature upgrades including new Insider builds were delivered in the form of so-called ESD (Electronic Software Distribution) updates. Upgrades were generally speaking quite fast, and worked as expected.

In November 2016, Microsoft introduced a new feature upgrade system called UUP (Universal Update Platform). The idea was, and still is, that whereas ESD update delivered a full image for a new build, UUP updates would be differential, users only needing to download those parts of a new Windows build that have actually changed since the last upgrade.

Here’s Bill Karagounis, director of program management, Windows Insider Program & OS fundamentals, on this topic on the Insider blog (November 3, 2016):

One of the biggest community and customer benefits of UUP is the reduction you’ll see in download size on PCs. We have converged technologies in our build and publishing systems to enable differential downloads for all devices built on the Mobile and PC OS. A differential download package contains only the changes that have been made since the last time you updated your device, rather than a full build.

OK, the idea is good, but for many Insiders and Windows users, the start of numerous upgrade issues correlate with this change. In my own case, one notable change I noticed immediately was that whereas build upgrades on different devices took less than an hour with ESD updates, the time required to upgrade went up to three hours or more with UUP updates. On an Asus i5 laptop, I often had to wait up to five or six hours to get it upgraded. The title image above shows an upgrade process just last night on a relatively new and fast i7 laptop. One hour after Windows Update found the new build and started processing it, it was still downloading. The total time for this update, from starting the update process in WU until I was back on my desktop in the new build: two hours and 10 minutes (2:10 or 130 minutes).

Here’s another issue, related to one particular reason upgrades take so long for some users. In some situations, Windows Update makes two or more tries before finally succeeding. “Getting things ready, Downloading, Installing” goes in cycles, sometimes up to half a dozen times. Here are some genuine comments from last night on Ten Forums in this vein:

That was a slow one. 1hr 55mins to the desktop. That’s it for tonight. I’ll leave it till morning to do anything else.

This has been a really long update for me. After about 5 or so times of watching Windows Update alternate between “downloading and installing” I was finally greeted with “Restart Now”. However my hope of a successful update was not to be as the update failed on the first attempt with an error code but thankfully the second attempt succeeded and I am now on the latest build.

Holy cow, this is longest update I ever experienced, 1hr 40min and still going, switching between ready, downloading, installing about 5 times now. Still no end in sight. Now it’s downloading again for 6th time but there were no errors reported.

What’s especially interesting about this is that it is not always the same users who report these issues. One build upgrade works well for the same users who then have issues with the next one, whereas the next upgrade fails for those who succeeded last time. This shows that this phenomenon is not a hardware issue per se, some specific hardware having issues with Windows 10 and UUP. Rather, it shows that there are some underlying issues with the UUP method itself.

I definitely miss the capable, fast ESD upgrade method. The biggest gotcha in the UUP method, from my point of view, is that it fails to fulfill its primary purpose — namely, smaller downloads and therefore faster upgrades. Insider team’s assertions aside, Windows 10 download size has remained between 3 and 4 GB. It’s not getting notably smaller using UUP, at the same time UUP creates a myriad of new issues. The earlier straightforward, relatively fast ESD upgrade has become slower and fails more often using UUP.

One bit of advice often found on tech forums to users is “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broken“. This same principle could, and should, apply to software and operating system makers. I fail to understand why a working ESD upgrade method was changed to UUP? Please make it right guys and gals, or roll back to the ESD method. As it currently stands, UUP is a step backward not a step forward.


Author: Kari Finn

A former Windows Insider MVP, Kari started in computing in the mid 80’s writing code for VAX / VMS systems. Since then, he’s worked in a variety of IT positions. He specializes in Windows image capture, customization, repair and deployment as well as Hyper-V virtualization. Kari is a proud Team Member at number #1 Windows site TenForums.com.

4 Responses “Windows 10 and UUP – What’s wrong?”

  1. Keith
    October 9, 2019 at 16:02

    Mine was the first comment Kari posted. 1 hour 55 mins is double the best UUP upgrade I have had and there was only the one pass. I have on some builds “bounced” three or four times and taken up to five hours to complete. I have been fortunate that I have had very few complete failures or rollbacks. It’s difficult to compare directly the EDS method because at the time I had considerably poorer hardware but if memory serves I never had an upgrade that took much over an hour. One disagreement I have with Kari is that I think the download size is much smaller. last night’s was around 1.5GB. My own feeling is that differential downloads are fine for regular cumulative updates but full downloads would be better for Feature Upgrades.

    • October 10, 2019 at 12:08

      It is good to know that your download size has been smaller with UUP. Mine has remained about 3 GB. Have you had the downloading – installing done several times, or do you have always got it in one run?

  2. CountMike
    October 9, 2019 at 16:54

    I sure would like simpler way, “Here’s our new build, download this ISO and do In Place Upgrade” That invariably works even with damaged system, why wouldn’t it work with healthy one ? I can and did it few times in 15 -30 minutes, worked like a charm.

    • October 10, 2019 at 12:12

      I always give Windows Update a chance first, but if it fails on first try, UUP Dump and in-place upgrade from ISO is the next step. I agree with you, Microsoft should release the ISO, too, but I think that it would be seen as admitting that UUP does not work as intended. Basically, ISO is the same than the old, working ESD method, using full install source for upgrade.

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