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Microsoft Changes WU Driver Inclusion Rules

I got wind of a new “Driver Shiproom Schedule for 2020” this morning, first from Liam Tung at ZDNet. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the Microsoft source link, it no longer worked. Nor did any amount of creative searching produce that info. Luckily for me, I found a copy of this elusive document at TenForums.com, where the always-vigilant and eagle-eyed Shawn Brink posted a cut-n-paste copy this morning. (Just for the record, he references the same now-dead link that Liam Tung also did.) By now you’re probably ready for some info, instead of the backstory. Please keep reading so you can understand how Microsoft changes WU driver inclusion rules.

Microsoft Changes WU Driver Inclusion Rules.shiproom2020

MS controls the time window around updates to keep driver issues from scotching successful CUs and Feature Updates.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

If Microsoft Changes WU Driver Inclusion Rules, What Gives?

In MS release jargon, the “Driver Shiproom” states the times when drivers may be included in Windows Updates, and when they may be included. This image from the Microsoft Tech Community, from Kevin Tremblay, Senior Program Manager for Windows OneCore and Device Enablement, shows what that looked like for 2019:

The 2019 Driver Shiproom Schedule shows blackout dates in colored blocks. Only open, white dates are eligible for driver delivery to MS.
[Click image for full-sized view.]

The equivalent schedule and related commentary for 2020 is apparently what came up and then disappeared earlier this morning. Enough people managed to see it that I can still recap its most important elements anyway:

  1. Neither Patch Tuesday nor Feature Updates will include drivers still in need of approval. This means flighted  and optional drivers.  Flighted drivers are those marked Automatic = Critical Update (DU), Dynamic Update (DU), or both (CUDU). Optional drivers must always obtain  Shiproom approval from Microsoft.
  2. This decision arises from 2019 updates with problem drivers. These caused devices to go missing, device drivers to crash, security issues, connectivity losses, or updates to hang or fail. In addition, MS partners can request Microsoft to block device updates with known compatibility issues. This means driver updates don’t show up in WU until the block clears. Tung provides this quote from the document “Recently when a driver update is released alongside OS updates, it has resulted in a poor experience and significantly impacted end users.”
  3. Partners can request a temporary Windows Update offer block from 30 to 60 days to prevent WU from offering feature updates or CUs to devices with known incompatibilities.
  4. By examining the blackout dates on the preceding Shiproom Schedule for 2019 you can also see that MS doesn’t allow new drivers to release on weekends, around holidays, and during other scheduled update activities. This helps ensure that MS workers are around to field questions and address issues if and when they should arise.

Driver Blocks Can Be Good…

“Good on them!” is my response to this change in policy.  It’s too bad things had to go seriously sideways last year to bring about such a change, but it’s all to the good. Hopefully, we’ll get a chance to see the Shiproom Schedule for 2020 and its supporting documentation again. Sometime soon would be better than sometime later on. But only time will tell!

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