Windows 10 feature updates are coming thick and fast. How do these updates impact on older hardware and why are they being blocked on some PCs?
After reading a lively debate in response to friend and fellow author Marc Thomas’ article, 20% of Windows Users Might Switch to Mac!, I decided this topic probably deserved an article of its own. The debate was sparked by comments from regular reader “Tracy” who, if I am not mistaken, runs her own computer repair business, and I do agree with much of what Tracy has to say.
A Little History
First off; Microsoft is indeed blocking any further feature updates on Windows 10 machines powered by a particular processor, the Intel Clover Trail Atom. The Clover Trail Atom CPUs were introduced primarily to run 2-in-1 laptops, which represent a relatively small percentage of total PCs. However, in my opinion, this is irrelevant, people bought these little convertible laptops in good faith and with zero warning that their hardware would, within a relatively short space of time, no longer be supported.
Microsoft is blaming Intel who, it claims, is no longer supporting the Clover Trail Atom processors and therefore no longer providing updated drivers:
[These] systems are no longer supported by Intel… and without the necessary driver support, they may be incapable of moving to the Windows 10 Creators Update without a potential performance impact. — <source>
My question is this; What is included in these feature updates which should necessitate driver updates anyway? As far as I am concerned, no feature update to date has included anything of particular significance nor, for me personally, added anything of particular interest.
The Anniversary Update
I was running Windows 10 on modern hardware when the Anniversary update was delivered yet had a dickens of a job trying to install it. After many failed attempts, I finally discovered that a driver issue was preventing the update from completing.
Maybe my memory is at fault but I cannot recall any instance in the past when I’ve upgraded from an existing Windows operating system to the latest and specifically needed to update drivers. NOTE: I’m talking system drivers here, not drivers for peripherals, such as a printer.
It has reached the point now where many Windows 10 users view these major feature updates with a good deal of trepidation. Indeed, DCT and other tech sites are consistently providing users with instructions on how to defer these updates to help mitigate their concerns. To me, this is a sure indication that Microsoft’s early warning system is badly broken.
Microsoft used to employ a team of experts to double check, test, and verify code prior to releasing any major updates but now rely on feedback from the Windows Insider program. While I can appreciate the money saved by adopting this new approach, it clearly is not working.
It should not be necessary for manufacturers and users to be constantly updating drivers in order to keep up with Windows 10’s progress. With major feature updates occurring frequently, and with a relatively short space of time between, Microsoft needs to fulfill traditional consumer expectations. If this means not including features which require driver updates, at least for a respectable and equitable period of time, then so be it.
Furthermore; if Microsoft is intent on tying Windows 10 support to hardware manufactures’ driver support, how long before many other machines running older hardware could be affected? This would also mean that end-of-life dates announced by Microsoft potentially have no meaning and, in reality, it all comes down to whenever manufacturers decide to end support for a particular piece of hardware.
I am not usually one for conspiracy theories, however, in a lagging PC sales climate, it’s difficult not to suspect that Microsoft and hardware manufacturers might be in cahoots here. Consider this;
- A manufacturer stops supporting a particular CPU or chipset.
- Microsoft then blocks major feature updates on those machines.
- Affected users wishing to continue running the latest Windows 10 versions are forced to upgrade their hardware.