After Windows 10's buggy patches, Microsoft talks up its 'high-quality' fixes

Microsoft promises its software updates will improve next year.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Microsoft continued to face criticism over the quality and testing of its updates in November, the month it resumed the Windows 10 version 1809 rollout, after a bug destroyed user data, and pulled an update for version 1803 that caused Blue Screens of Death (BSOD) on its flagship Surface Book 2.

Now, the company has posted a new blog in its series explaining the 'Windows approach to quality' and the efforts it takes to patch bugs quickly without causing headaches for users.

The post attempts to assuage concerns that Microsoft isn't adequately testing its software updates before releasing them to the public.

The post is a follow-up on quality updates after resuming the Windows 10 October 2018 Update.

In the first post Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows, Michael Fortin, highlighted the complexity of dealing with millions of Windows drivers, some of which have since caused it to block that update for users.

This time Fortin highlights the complexity of managing quality and security at scale, noting that "each month, we update over one billion devices ranging from desktop PCs and IoT devices to servers", ranging from the latest version of Windows 10 back to Windows XP for companies on custom support agreements.

Fortin also offered an explainer on Microsoft's various monthly updates, which include the Patch Tuesday update, also known as the B release on the second Tuesday of every month.

There's also the C and D releases that contain non-security fixes and which are released in the third and fourth weeks of the month.

Fortin notes these are optional releases that users need to actively seek. The other types of updates are out-of-band or 'on-demand' releases, such as emergency fixes for critical security flaws or quality issues that affect lots of devices.

The C and D releases were in the spotlight earlier this month after an update for Windows 10 1803 triggered BSOD issues on Surface Book 2 devices.

SEE: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (free PDF)

As an IT pro noted at the time, Microsoft only tests these updates with Windows Insiders for the latest version of Windows 10. Some Surface Book 2 owners criticized Microsoft for apparently not testing the update on its flagship Surface hardware.

However, Fortin says Microsoft engineers do use a "combination of testing procedures" to build and validate all feature and security updates before unleashing them on the world.

These procedures include a Pre-release Validation Program (PVP); a Depth Test Pass (DTP) targeting code changes; a Monthly Test Pass (MTP) that includes tens of thousands of different devices to ensure application and hardware compatibility; the public Windows Insider Program with non-security fixes; and the invitation-only Security Update Validation Program for enterprise and ISVs that are used to validate the impact of security fixes before Patch Tuesday.

Fortin stresses that as patches and updates are released the company also publishes related knowledge-base (KB) articles to explain the issue and fix. And after that Microsoft's telemetry systems monitor how the update is performing among users.

This process includes live site validation testing (LSVT) to ensure the update is available on Windows Update and is successfully downloading and installing on devices.

It also monitors customer support and feedback channels, and employs machine learning to help monitor social media and forums for reported problems.

To its credit, Microsoft has been particularly transparent about compatibility issues that have cropped up since re-releasing Windows 10 version 1809, updating consumer and enterprise customers about issues, resolutions and fixes on the Windows 10 1809 support page.

The page lists past and ongoing blocks for iCloud users, Cisco enterprise users, customers with certain Intel drivers, and the just-fixed mapped drives bug.

"We plan to improve this throughout 2019 to provide more information about our actions or partner actions to mitigate issues," wrote Fortin.

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