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Windows 10 Users Getting New Process for Finding Optional Driver Updates

Accessing Windows 10 drivers classified as "optional updates" will be more of a manual seek-and-install type of experience, starting on Nov. 5, 2020, Microsoft explained in a Wednesday announcement.

The change will be a subtle one, and it won't affect organizations that use management software to control Windows 10 updates. It'll be noticeable just for organizations and individuals that let the Windows Update service handle updates.

Here's how the announcement made that point:

For IT professionals managing drivers on behalf of their organizations, there will be no change. The changes described above applies only to machines that are open to receive driver updates directly from Windows Update.

View Optional Updates
The new approach for Windows Update users brings a new "View optional updates" link within Windows 10's Update and Security pane. It's used to get those optional updates, which otherwise don't automatically arrive under the new behavior. Microsoft had described this approach back in August. It was supposed to have begun appearing on systems with the arrival of Microsoft's August security patches, but it seems Microsoft quietly pushed out the date.

The View optional updates link replaces having to use Windows 10's Device Manager controls to find optional updates. However, the change is not just a user-interface modification. Microsoft is slightly altering how Windows 10 drivers arrive for Windows Update service users.

For those users, there will be a difference in how Windows 10 version 2004 and newer versions handle updated drivers versus Windows 10 version 1909 and older versions. Users of Windows 10 version 2004 and newer will get updated drivers only when they search for them using the View optional update command, and this search will just find the drivers that are already on the device rather than seeking out new ones via the Windows Update service.

In contrast, users of Windows 10 version 1909 and older versions will have the old experience. When users search for updated drivers using Device Manager, it'll pull down the "highest-ranking driver from Windows Update, regardless of whether it is classified as Automatic or Optional/Manual," Microsoft explained in this partner-oriented document.

The plug-and-play experience isn't changing with this subtle driver update delivery modification that starts on Nov. 5. Windows 10 systems will still look for a driver that's already on a Windows 10 machine when a device gets plugged into it.

Optional Updates Used for Driver Problems
Users may resort to seeking out optional updates when something goes wrong on a Windows 10 device. If the problem is due to a driver-related issue, it's possible that a driver maker may have produced a fix, which then becomes available through an optional update. The Nov. 5 change will just makes this process more manual for end users.

In its communications, Microsoft doesn't explain why it is making the change. However, issues with drivers have typically been stumbling blocks after Windows 10 gets updated. It has seemed that "third-party" (non-Microsoft) developers of software drivers have had trouble keeping up with Windows 10's faster update cycles.

The partner document noted above explained that Microsoft has a vetting process (called "flighting") that takes place before drivers can be "automatically delivered to all applicable systems." Bad drivers still get through, though. Unexplained is why Microsoft is making the seeking of new drivers, with possible fixes, a more manual process for Windows Update users.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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