There is a borderline conspiracy theory among novice Windows users - and some self-proclaimed "Experts" - that Windows Update slows down Windows and our system. According to them, we should not install Windows updates, ever. Could this have even a hint of truth? Let's take it to the test.
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Table of Contents
- Does Windows Update slow down Windows 7?
- Does Windows Update slow down Windows 8.1?
Does Windows Update slow down Windows 7?
The control system is a VMWare workstation Virtual Machine with 2GB of RAM and a clean installation of Windows 7 Home Premium. This would be a fairly typical setup for a laptop sold with Windows 7.
This is actually Windows 7 with SP1, which contains a significant number of Windows updates. However, since the only OEM Windows 7 ISOs currently available contain SP1, hunting for a non-SP1 version wouldn't make much sense.
In any case, the update history in Windows update is empty.
After 20 minutes of idle uptime - for all the startup processes to have completed - the system has 30 processes running, and uses 486MB of RAM.
Boot Time Measurements
After the measurements, we installed the Maas360 Boot Analyzer, to measure the average boot time over ten automatic reboots.
The result is a nice, homogenous 9 seconds to boot.
This is our baseline before Windows Update.
Installing Windows updates
The first round from Windows Update includes 184 important updates and 10 optional updates.
Of course, Windows update on a fresh Windows 7 installation is rarely a one time deal. After the first restart, we have an extra 82+5 updates.
And then, another 10 updates. Because, why not? It's not like we have anything better to do.
At long last, the Windows Update is done.
It's measuring time.
Windows 7 after a full Windows update
So, how much resources do Windows guzzle after all those hundreds of megabytes of updates?
Actually less than before. There are still 30 processes, but the RAM usage has dropped more than 40MBs. It's not much, but the system definitely isn't any slower.
On the boot time measurements, the results over 10 boots varied between 8 and 10 seconds, with an average of 8.30 and a standard deviation of 8.32.
So, there you have it. Not only Windows Update doesn't slow down Windows 7, it actually slightly speeds up the OS. Along with installing essential updates to patch up dangerous vulnerabilities, of course.
But what about Windows 8.1?
Does Windows Update slow down Windows 8.1?
For Windows 8.1, we went for the 64-bit version, and gave the virtual machine 4GB of RAM, typical for a modern laptop sold with Windows 8.1.
After 20 minutes of idle uptime, and with 32 processes running...
...our system was using 625MB of RAM and had 3.2 GB RAM available, because part of the RAM is on standby.
The boot time measurements were between 17 and 19 seconds, for an average of 17.30 and a standard deviation of 17.31.
If that looks a lot, remember that on reboot Windows 8.1 don't use the fast startup feature, that can give a cold boot of less than 10 seconds - and mess up our data on dual-boot.
Installing Windows updates
Windows Update on a clean Windows 8.1 system can be brutal. We need to download nearly 1,4GB of updates.
And that is with the Microsoft ISOs, which already have the Windows 8.1 Update 1 version.
Not only there is a huge volume to download, it also takes forever to install. At least, after the reboot, we just had to install a couple more updates, unlike Windows 7.
Windows 8.1 after a full Windows update
After the 20 minutes of uptime, we have 34 Processes running.
It might seem that the system is using more ram, but the actual available RAM is 3.3GB.
We had a slight increase in boot time, of 0,1 seconds on average. But the maximum boot time never reached the 19 second mark, as on the "clean" system.
So, there you have it. If anything, Windows Update makes Windows slightly more efficient, both on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1
What is important to understand, though, is that even if Windows Update did actually slow down our PC, not doing the updates would be worse. There are updates that fix extremely serious security flaws.
After all, the only reason Windows XP is considered dead, is that it won't receive new updates anymore. So, if we aren't installing Windows updates on our Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, we are effectively killing our OS before its time.
So, what is your take on Windows Update? Do you do all the updates, or were you under the impression that Microsoft sabotaged its own operating system? Leave us a comment.
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