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Microsoft Targeting 7GB of Reserved Storage for Windows 10 Updates

Microsoft wants about 7GB of your PC's storage space to keep Windows 10 up to date and reliable.

The 7GB space allocation will take effect with a new "Reserved Storage" feature that's coming in Windows 10 version 1903, according to a Microsoft announcement this week. Windows 10 version 1903 will be Microsoft's spring "semiannual channel" release. It's a new operating system release that perhaps will be arriving in April of this year.

However, the Reserved Storage feature is available for testing now. It can be found in the latest Windows Insider Program test release of Windows 10, which was announced on Wednesday.

Availability of Reserved Storage Feature
Current Windows 10 users will only get the Reserved Storage feature if their systems get "clean installed" to Windows 10 version 1903. Here's how Microsoft's announcement described it:

Reserved storage will be introduced automatically on devices that come with version 1903 pre-installed or those where 1903 was clean installed. You don't need to set anything up -- this process will automatically run in the background.

The clean install has to be actively initiated by users to get the Reserved Storage feature. Windows 10 feature updates that arrive through the typical Windows Update automatic upgrade process (known as "in-place upgrades") won't get the Reserved Storage feature, according to an explanation provided by a Microsoft spokesperson (via e-mail):

The devices that get upgraded to [Windows 10 version] 1903 the regular way of updating via Windows Update when 1903 becomes available there (and NOT via a clean install) will not get the reserved storage feature. You must either buy a new device with 1903 already installed or do a clean install in order for reserved storage to work.

Controlling the Reserved Space
Windows 10 users that have the Reserved Storage feature installed won't be able to remove it. However, they'll have some capabilities to "reduce the amount of space reserved."

Reserved Storage facilitates updates to existing applications, as well as OS updates. It's done by storing temporary installation files. Microsoft has a "Storage Sense" feature in Windows 10 that will automatically remove these temporary files when they're no longer needed. Temporary OS install files will get removed, too, typically before an update is required.

"When it's time for an update, the temporary unneeded OS files in the reserved storage will be deleted and update will use the full reserve area," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Users can gain space back from Reserved Storage by checking to see if they are using so-called "optional features," which are applications that may have been preinstalled on a PC. They can then reduce the Reserved Storage space by deleting any of these unwanted optional applications, Microsoft's announcement suggested. Similarly, installed languages that aren't needed on a Windows 10 PC can be deleted to reduce the space needed by Reserved Storage.

The 7GB Reserved Storage space could get adjusted "based on diagnostic data or feedback," Microsoft's announcement noted. If there's still a space problem for users, even with Reserved Storage in place, the OS will suggest how they can free up space or use a USB thumb drive to carry out an upgrade.

Microsoft lately has been slimming down the package sizes of its Windows 10 quality updates and feature updates by delivering the bits over time. It has also adopted other slimming measures. In October, for instance, Microsoft announced that it was dropping the delivery of print drivers with Windows 10 feature updates as a space-saving measure, starting with Windows 10 version 1809.

Many Windows 10 machines, such as laptops, have been equipped with relatively small solid-state drives as a cost-saving measure. Possibly, that's one reason why Microsoft has been taking these steps to slim its update payloads.

A "feature update," which upgrades the operating system and arrives twice per year, can require "6GB-11GB or more of free space," according to a Microsoft support article. A monthly "quality update," which just patches existing OS capabilities, can require "2GB-3GB or more" of space.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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