Windows 10's new beta lets computers download updates from other PCs

The new feature is supposed to speed up the process of downloading updates on unreliable networks

A Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10
A Surface Pro 3 running Windows 10 Credit: Blair Hanley Frank

Microsoft is trying to make it faster for people to download Windows updates by using the vast network of PCs around the world to deliver them. 

A new beta build of Windows 10 released on Wednesday enables Delivery Optimization by default, which lets PCs download update bits from other computers connected to the internet. Those bits can be delivered alongside those brought in from Microsoft's servers, to help speed up the process of downloading updates, especially on less reliable network connections. 

The feature works similarly to the BitTorrent file distribution system. Update files get split into chunks, and then Windows 10 will download each chunk from the device that can deliver it the fastest. Microsoft first introduced the feature with the major Windows 10 update last November, but it only allowed people to download updates from computers on a local network or from Microsoft's servers. 

Users who want to turn off Delivery Optimization can go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced options and then click on "Choose how updates are delivered." Once there, they can disable their computer's ability to download updates from multiple computers, or just limit it to download only from other devices on its local network. 

IT administrators will be able to control these settings through Group Policies or device management software. It's also possible for administrators to expand the definition of their company's local network beyond the LAN in a single building, allowing computers in one office to download update bits from those in another office. 

Using the system could be a boon to people who have a large number of computers on the same network, whether that's at home or at work. Microsoft has seen a 30 to 50 percent reduction in internet bandwidth usage to keep multiple PCs on the same network up to date, Dona Sarkar, the face of the Windows Insider Program, said in a blog post. 

Right now, the feature is only available to members of the Windows Insider Program's Fast ring, but the system will likely roll out to PCs on the Slow ring of the Windows 10 beta soon. It won't make its way to consumers until much later, as part of a larger update. 

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