Windows 10: News about driver updates from March 2020

[German]Microsoft has announced new details about the changed automatic device driver rollout via Windows Update. Frequently used devices should get these drivers first.


Review: What we know so far

Microsoft is working on improving the supply of drivers for Windows systems and minimizing problems. Already in January 2020 I had reported in the article Windows 10: Microsoft allows feature and driver update blocks that OEM partners have the possibility to block the distribution of feature updates if incompatibilities with drivers are known. Furthermore Microsoft has announced blocking times for the distribution of drivers from the manufacturers around patchday or an OS rollout. This is to avoid collisions of driver updates with Windows updates or function updates.

In February 2020, Microsoft announced the next step: Manufacturers can distribute drivers via Windows Update. Microsoft gave all hardware partners the opportunity to submit drivers to Microsoft for distribution via Windows Update. The publication can be specified by the partner as 'Automatic' or 'Manual'.

Windows 10: Optionale Treiberupdates
(Source: Microsoft)

  • In a manual delivery mode, the user can select the drivers for installation. To do this, there will be a page for optional driver updates in the settings under Windows Update (see figure above).
  • In an automatic delivery mode, the driver will be rolled out and installed directly on the machine via Windows Update. The user has no way to prevent the driver updates.

Publishing the drivers via Windows Update should not only make it easier for users to obtain the drivers. Partners are given new options via Microsoft's driver distribution mechanisms. I had reported that within the blog post Windows 10: Changes in driver updates. Microsoft has told me, the new approach will be applied to the upcoming Windows 10 version 2004.

New information from Microsoft on the subject

Microsoft has published the Techcommunity article Updates to Gradual Rollout, which contains some further details about the upcoming plans. Starting in March 2020, Microsoft will improve its gradual rollout process for Windows drivers via 'intelligent distribution'.


  • The automatic release of driver updates via Windows Update will initially be for a small group of users or devices. Microsoft writes that the rollout of first wave drivers for this group of devices may take up to eight calendar days.
  • Only when it is clear that there are no problems with the drivers on these devices will Microsoft extend the rollout of the drivers to all suitable devices or users worldwide.

Microsoft forms clusters of devices with hardware ID (HWID) and computer hardware ID (CHID). The selection of devices in the first test group from these clusters is aimed at systems that are representative of this group. First, highly active devices get the driver updates. Microsoft believes that there is a higher probability of receiving diagnostic data from these devices. This should enable early fault detection.

Microsoft's goal is to obtain specific clusters of HWID/CHID combinations for testing. There, the quality of the driver will be evaluated in order to be able to draw conclusions about the entire device population. Microsoft also carries out a risk assessment for each driver in question and assigns it an individual rollout. There are a few typical driver release rollout schemes:

  • immediately throttled to 100% of the retail Windows population
  • There are a few typical driver release throttle curves
  • throttle with an initial set of its eligible population that are highly active (see above)

In the latter scenario, the rollout of first-wave drivers for this device group can take up to eight calendar days. In this article, Microsoft provides guidance on how to measure and evaluate each step for successful driver installation. When the rollout reaches 100%, a new driver is available on all systems supplied by Windows Update from Windows 10 version 1709 on. This is distinct compared to my explanations in the article Windows 10: Changes in driver updates. Microsoft had confirmed to me explicitly that the new driver rollout via Windows Update will only be available for Windows 10 version 2004 and that no backport is planned. What this means exactly is currently unclear to me and I asked Microsoft.

Treiber-Rollout Windows 10
(Driver Rollout Windows 10, source: Microsoft)

Following the complete rollout of a new driver via Windows Update, Microsoft will then monitor the driver over a period of up to 30 days. For more details and an FAQ on the phased introduction of drivers, see Program Details in the Hardware Dev Center. And because Microsoft likes to spread some details within distinct articles, the article New measures to understand Windows Update success states that these measures are currently being evaluated. Only from April 13, 2020, on a decision will be made whether the new methods will be used to determine a successful (driver) update.

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