Windows 10 could start pushing ‘essential’ updates over metered connections

Update: Microsoft has been in touch to clarify that big updates won’t be sent automatically over these sort of connections. A Microsoft spokesperson told us: “We don’t plan to send large updates over metered connections, but could use this for critical fixes if needed in the future.” 

[Original story follows below.]

With the Creators Update, Microsoft has been making some welcome changes in terms of giving users greater control over aspects of Windows 10, such as more upfront privacy settings. But when it comes to options for dealing with mandatory updates on a metered connection, the company appears to have taken a step backwards in the latest preview build of the OS.

You may be familiar with the option to postpone automatic downloads of Windows updates when you’re on a metered connection, because obviously, if you’re using your tablet or laptop with a 4G connection for example, chunky updates could get you in serious hot water regarding your data allowance.

But, as spotted by SuperSite Windows, in the latest preview build of Windows 10 (version 15058) the text describing update settings under Windows Update has changed.

Previously it read: “Available updates will be downloaded and installed automatically, except over metered connections (where charges may apply).”

However, Microsoft has now added an additional sentence to say: “In that case, we'll automatically download only those updates required to keep Windows running smoothly.”

Image credit: SuperSite Windows

Image credit: SuperSite Windows (Image credit: SuperSite Windows)

Data difficulties

This is a key change, because instead of halting all downloads on a metered connection, some ‘required’ updates will still be automatically triggered – a worrying prospect for those with limited data allowances.

Of course, the added bit of text doesn’t make it clear exactly how this will work. Which updates are required to keep Windows running smoothly, exactly? Presumably Microsoft is talking about critical security updates, but at this point, we simply don’t know for sure.

At any rate, hopefully it will only apply to smaller updates.

There's also a chance that this is a preview tweak which will disappear in the release version of the Creators Update, although that doesn’t seem too likely given that the latter is now almost done (it will allegedly land on April 11).

Microsoft certainly needs to be careful about how it treads in the run-up to this major upgrade, as there's an increasing feeling the company might be pushing its luck in terms of what it can get away with in Windows 10. You only have to look at the recent controversy over more ads appearing in the operating system.

Another interesting change – and a more positive move – observed by SuperSite Windows in the Creators Update is that Microsoft is now allowing a wired Ethernet connection to be marked as metered under network connection settings. Previously, you could only set a Wi-Fi connection as metered, and as ever here, the more options, the merrier.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).