Microsoft has decided that because Windows Update can’t properly check to see if you have enough hard drive space available before it applies updates, the solution is to simply steal more of the user’s hard drive space and reserve it for OS updates.
Starting with Windows 1803, Microsoft began warning users that if they didn’t manually clear data before installing the OS, it might fail to reboot properly post-update. The reason? According to the company, “Windows Update does not check systems for adequate space requirements before it initializes.” The manual solution to this problem is for the end user to clear temporary files and “maintain awareness” of available storage. The idea that Microsoft might have needed to maintain awareness of the storage requirements of its own operating system has apparently been rejected as an explanation for the problem, given that the company still sets a minimum storage requirement of 16GB for Windows 10 32-bit devices and 32GB for 64-bit products.
With the release of Windows 19H1 / 1903, Microsoft will require you to give up roughly 7GB — possibly more, depending on system characteristics — in order to preserve the operating system’s ability to operate efficiently and without error when there is a limited amount of storage space available. You will not be allowed to disable this feature, though you’ll be able to change how much storage is reserved (it’s not clear how much control you’ll have over this process). As Microsoft states:
Through reserved storage, some disk space will be set aside to be used by updates, apps, temporary files, and system caches. Our goal is to improve the day-to-day function of your PC by ensuring critical OS functions always have access to disk space. Without reserved storage, if a user almost fills up her or his storage, several Windows and application scenarios become unreliable. Windows and application scenarios may not work as expected if they need free space to function. With reserved storage, updates, apps, temporary files, and caches are less likely to take away from valuable free space and should continue to operate as expected. Reserved storage will be introduced automatically on devices that come with version 1903 pre-installed or those where 1903 was clean installed.
If we’re a bit salty on this point, it’s only because this is scarcely a new problem. When available storage is critically low, Windows’ behavior collectively becomes a bit wonky. It’s not unusual to see general system instability or performance degradation as a result. Microsoft’s decision to carve out a specific storage area for hosting temporary files and other information to prevent these issues isn’t intrinsically a bad one, even if it’s embarrassing to see Windows Update failing to check for available disk space before starting the update process.
The problem is, Microsoft didn’t bake these requirements into its storage specifications for Windows 10 in the first place. A 7GB storage pool represents 22 to 44 percent of the available storage on a 16-32GB Windows 10 system. Obviously enthusiasts, with substantially more resources, may not have a problem here. But the advent of cloud data has pushed a number of OEMs to offer relatively small amounts of storage on entry-level Windows hardware.
It would be nice to see the company adjust its minimum storage capacities to reflect these new requirements. Creating a solution to this problem that doesn’t require users to manually move photos and video to properly perform an update is a good idea, but not when it comes at the cost of leaving already-constrained users gasping.
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