It’s Wednesday, and I’m programming. In a few hours I need to set this aside and get my next SWJFOLOL post ready for tomorrow. I’m having a minor little problem with Visual Studio that forces me to restart the program every hour or so to continue working. I see there’s an update available. Maybe that will fix my problem?
I click the button, and Visual Studio spends about 45 seconds updating itself. Then it ends with a message telling me that I need to restart my computer before I can continue.
Ugh. Well OF COURSE I do.
This is more annoying than you might think. I’m running Unity, my image editor, Blender, and (until a few seconds ago) Visual Studio. I’ve got web windows opened on both monitors, one for checking comments on this site and another filled with Google search results for the three or five C# problems I’m trying to unravel. I have several explorer windows opened up and all of these things are positioned in very specific places to facilitate my workflow.
The point is that it takes some time to get all of these things running again after a reboot. But fine. Let’s get this over with.
I click on the restart button and I see the dreaded message that informs me that a Windows Update is waiting for me. My stomach is instantly in knots. I’m feeling actual fear and stress right now. This happens every single time there’s an update. Most of the time updates go fine, but updates that don’t go fine are usually catastrophic. I’ve lost count of the number of times that Windows has killed itself in an update and forced me to spend a few days re-installing the OS and nursing the machine back to usefulness. Choosing to update always feels like a game of Russian roulette.
I know you’re supposed to keep your machine up-do-date. It’s supposedly irresponsible to leave your machine un-patched because then the magical hacker demons will take control of your machine. Well, I’ve never been hacked like that, but I have experienced self-destructive updates on multiple occasions, on multiple computers, using multiple versions of Microsoft’s global misery engine.
I hover over the update button for a few seconds, trying to figure out if being afraid of updates is a rational concern or an irrational phobia. I don’t know what to think.
Hmm. Well, it’ll probably force me to take the update eventually. I’m rebooting now, so I might as well get it over with. I figure I’ll go make a sandwich and hopefully it’ll be done when I get back. These things usually take about fifteen minutes. I’m not sure WHY, since it only takes TEN minutes to install the entire OS from scratch, but whatever. A sandwich sounds good right now.
I click update and walk away.
I come back in fifteen minutes. It is not done. I have a black screen with a spinning “wait” circle at the bottom. That’s it.
Hey, remember back in Windows 98 when it would say something like “Installing Update 1 of 12” or whatever? That was nice. You could tell if you were making progress. The updates took a variable amount of time so it couldn’t tell you how long it was going to take, but you COULD tell that it was making progress. Well, that feature is gone. So now we have this stress-inducing trap:
- Make sure to always install updates!
- You have no idea how long it will take, and no way to tell if the process is stuck.
- Don’t ever stop an update in progress! You could damage your machine!
I wait. I pace. I cuss. I think about using one of the other computers in the house, but I’d have to install a bunch of software on their machine to do my job. Also, those people are, you know, USING their computers and I don’t want to spread the misery by ruining someone else’s day.
I Google “How long does Windows Update take?” That’s a dumb question since updates are incredibly variable in duration, but I run into an article from the last couple of weeks and it gives an estimate of “4 hours”.
That’s ludicrous. Imagine what you could accomplish with 4 hours of processing time. That’s enough time to re-install the OS from scratch 24 times. That’s enough time to download the entire Windows 10 installer a dozen or so times. It’s also enough time to do FOUR HOURS OF PRODUCTIVE WORK, WHICH WAS MY PLAN.
This is horrific. Rather than pacing, I decide to go take a nap. I get up a few hours later to discover that we’re now SEVEN hours into this ordeal, and I’m still staring at the same fucking spinning circle.
What could Windows Update POSSIBLY be doing for SEVEN HOURS?!?! That’s enough time to re-install the OS from scratch around 40 times! We could have written and re-written the entire contents of C:/ several times over.
WHAT IS IT DOING?
Yes, I’m using a solid state drive.
Yes, I have a pretty fast machine, not some clunker from 2005.
Yes, the internet connection is just fine. Nobody has observed the internet running at 1/100th normal speed or anything crazy like that.
Will this ordeal complete in a minute? Two more hours? Three days from now? Or is it stuck and I’m waiting for no reason?
Fuck this. I’m rebooting.
The machine starts up again, although now all of my input devices have gone dark on me. I fiddle around changing USB outlets and eventually my mouse and keyboard come back to life. I go to rollback the update, but Windows is confused about what’s going on. I’m sure that’s due to aborting the update. It claims I have the latest update, but it also claims I last updated in mid-Auuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust.
Oh, that’s another problem. That nonsense at the end of the last sentence? That hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhas happens constantly now. I’m not creating those for comedic effect. This is a real thing that’s going on. The keyboard & mouse lock up randomly every 30 seconds or so, and if I’m currently holding down a key it will repeat that key for the duration of the lockupIt’s been happening the whole time as I wrote this article, but I fixed the earlier ones. Now I’m just going to leave them.
So I lost a full day of productivity and my computer is now fucked up. As someone who types for a living, this is a pretty serious problem. Yeah, you’re not supposed to stop an update in progress and maybe if I’d waited a fortnight the update would have completed successfully. But this isn’t the first time Windows Update has crippled my machine.
That does it. I don’t care about this supposed threatttttttttttttttttt of hackers. Windows Update is more of a threat to my machine than the hackers ever were. And if they get me? I keep really good off-site backups and re-installing the OS is still faster than Windows Update by an order of magnitude. This is monstrous. If I ever get this thing into working order again, I’m turning off Updates. Using Windows Update is like shooting yourself in the spine to avoid catching an exotic illness with a known cure.
I know Windows 10 is free, but I’d gladly pay full price if it was possible to obtain (say) a copy of Windows 7 that supports modern games.
And seriously: WHAT WAS IT DOING FOR SEVEN HOURS?!?! Do you know how many processor cycles that is? I don’t, but it’s an unthinkable amount of processing power.
This question is driving me crazy. I honestly want to know hooooooocould how could you possibly make an update take that long? Short of deliberately inserting
Sleep (1000000); in a loop somewhere, I don’t know how you can keep a computer busy for so long just installing updates. This question is so baffling and so inexplicable that I find myself turning to conspiracy theories. Is Windows just randomly digging around in my personal files? I’ve got a 7TB external drive here that I use for backups and storing video. I guess cataloging the whole thing miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittake might take a while.
I got Windows 10 for free and I still feel like I’ve been horribly ripped off. My time is worth more than this.
Anyway, I welcome your guesses at to what my computer was doing for seven fucking hours. In the meantime, I have to see if I can fix this keyboard problem before I completely lose my mind.
 It’s been happening the whole time as I wrote this article, but I fixed the earlier ones. Now I’m just going to leave them.
So what happens when a SOFTWARE engineer tries to review hardware? This. This happens.
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