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​Windows 10: How Microsoft used AI to speed up its April 2018 Update roll out

Microsoft said it used AI technologies to monitor its latest Windows 10 update.

Microsoft yesterday declared the Windows 10 April 2018 Update fit for business and now running on 250 million PCs. But despite the rocky upgrade for some users, the Redmond company insists its AI made the record fast roll out a responsible one.

Microsoft boasted that the April 2018 Update was the fastest version to reach 250 million devices since Microsoft launched Windows 10 in 2015, shifting to the Windows-as-a-service model.

That means the Windows 10 April 2018 Update is now running on about 36 percent of the nearly 700 million monthly active devices on some version of Windows 10.

It's significantly less than the 50 percent adoption reported by Windows-focused ad analytics firm AdDuplex reported last month, however the firm was on the right track when it said it was the "fastest spreading Windows 10 update by far".

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Microsoft customer support calls and online queries continued to decline with the Windows 10 April 2018 Update

Microsoft

Microsoft says the 250 milestone was reached in "less than half the time" it took the previous feature update, the Fall Creators Update, to hit that number.

While fast adoption is generally a positive signal, the reaction to AdDuplex's finding was not. Influential Windows watcher, Paul Thurrott, said the numbers were "irresponsibly worse" than he expected due to numerous glitches that users have encountered after or while updating. These have affected Chrome users, Avast antivirus users, machines with certain Intel SSDs, and a range of Dell's Alienware devices.

But Microsoft insists its combination of telemetry data and artificial intelligence (AI) actually made this update both "safe and fast", allowing it to identify problems early and block updates to hardware it will cause problems for. It did this for Alienware devices and Intel SSDs that clashed with the update.

"Our AI approach has enabled us to quickly spot issues during deployment of a feature update, and as a result has also allowed us to go faster responsibly," the company said in yesterday's blog.

"When our AI model, feedback or telemetry data indicate that there may be an issue, we quickly adjust and prevent affected devices from being offered the update until we thoroughly investigate. Once issues are resolved we proceed again with confidence. This allows us to throttle the update rollout to customers without them needing to take any action."

Microsoft also addressed issues that its AI and telemetry miss, such as the recent black screen and reboot chaos that Avast users had when moving to the April 2018 Update.

Microsoft claims it detected that issue "within 24 hours of it first appearing" and nipped it in the bud by blocking the Windows update to potentially affected devices.

"We immediately blocked all PCs that could be impacted by this issue from being updated, and communicated to customers within 24 hours, including an initial work around. In the next 24 hours, in cooperation with Avast, Microsoft identified an element of the Avast Behavior Shield that conflicted with the April 2018 Update. Avast immediately released a fix to prevent this issue from further occurring, enabling us to continue to safely roll out the April 2018 Update to those devices."

Microsoft posted its answer on its community forum a day after ZDNet reported what was then a suspected but unconfirmed clash with Avast and the Windows 10 update. However, the computer repair company that first tied the issue to Avast discovered the problem on May 22, which generated plenty of discussion on Reddit in the three days prior Microsoft and Avast fixing it.