Windows 8 to appease users with fewer reboots

It's one of the biggest pet peeves for Windows users -- the mandatory restart. But Microsoft is promising a brighter tomorrow -- or at least one with fewer required reboots -- with its newest operating system.

Windows 8, the software conglomerate said, will minimize the need for restarts after the installation of monthly and out-of-band Windows updates.

In a Building Windows 8 blog post, Farzana Rahman, group program manager of the Windows Update group, discussed how the top grievance with Windows Update is the frequency of restarts. 

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"We know this architectural challenge is one that frustrates administrators and end-users alike, but it does represent the state of the art for Windows," Rahman wrote. "It is important to understand that for many updates, even if you could continue running the existing code that is already in memory, it is that very code that is a security vulnerability (for example), so the risk to the security (or reliability) of the machine would remain until you restart your machine."

Rahman and his team would like to completely rid Windows 8 of mandatory restarts after updates, but it's just not possible. What is possible, he said, is improving the overall patch process by streamlining updates.

Windows 8, when released as a product, will only require one restart on Patch Tuesday. It won't matter how many updates were pushed through during the month. Windows will notify the user, giving a three-day leeway before a restart occurs. After that grace period, Windows will automatically reboot.

This monthly cycle will alter only when fixes for critical holes in Microsoft software are required to ensure user security.

"There is one exception to the rule to wait for the monthly security release, and that is in the case of critical security update to fix a worm-like vulnerability (for example, a Blaster worm)," Rahman wrote. "In that case, WU will not wait, but will go ahead and download, install and restart automatically. But this will happen only when the security threat is dire enough."

In any case, Windows will only instigate a restart if no data-sensitive applications are running. The aim is to protect users from losing any unsaved work.

The notifications that users get via Windows Update will also go through a change. The OS will no longer prompt you for a restart with an intrusive message window. Instead, it will automatically restart only if there are no applications open.

Automatic restart can be disabled. In this instance, a restart message will appear on the login screen. For those who have chosen to be notified of any updates before downloading, this message will also appear on the login screen.

Windows 8 will support third-party software updates by creating a common set of tools for drivers and software patches that have undergone Microsoft screening. However, Windows 8 will not cater to every third-party update, according to Rahman.

"The wide variety of delivery mechanisms, installation tools, and overall approaches to updates across the full breadth of applications makes it impossible to push all updates through this mechanism," Rahman claimed.  "As frustrating as this might be, it is also an important part of the ecosystem that we cannot just revisit for the installed base of software."

In March of 2010, Microsoft and Adobe had worked closely on patch distribution though the Microsoft Windows Server Update Service and Microsoft System Center. But, beyond such cooperation, it appears that Microsoft does not plan bundle up third-party software patches with its own when Windows 8 finally appears on the market.


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