Software, Technology

How-to: Disable Windows 10 Peer Uploads

It may come as a surprise that Microsoft incorporated peer-to-peer networking into Windows 10. Somebody thought “what a great way to accelerate and distribute the rollout of the Windows 10 upgrade – the early adopters can help those who come after by sharing the load, using the kind of torrenting technology everyone’s used for years to pirate Microsoft products, right?”

By default, Windows 10 will automatically use your PC’s Internet connection to distribute updates and apps to other Windows users. Why should Microsoft pay for bandwidth to distribute its products when it can use your bandwidth instead? After all, your Internet data cap isn’t Microsoft’s problem. What you don’t know about can’t hurt you. And if you can’t find the option, you can’t turn it off. Thanks, Redmond.Microsoft states “the download is broken down into smaller parts” and “Windows uses the fastest, most reliable download source for each part of the file.” In other words, with the default setting, Windows 10 is ‘seeding’ updates through your PC’s Internet connection, using a bit of proprietary peer-to-peer torrenting software it acquired a while ago. Microsoft cunningly named this feature Windows Update Delivery Optimization. That’s optimised for Microsoft, not for you.

To be fair, Microsoft is only doing what the game industry has done for years in seeding game patches and updates through game players’ PC and consoles. Gaming is more of a community, though, and this behaviour is accepted because it is transparent.

But it’s fine, the option to disable peer-to-peer Windows updates is only buried five clicks deep in the operating system.

  • Click on the Start button and select Settings from the Start menu.
  • In the Settings window that appears, select Update & security icon.
  • In the Windows Update pane, select Advanced options.
  • In Advanced options, scroll down to the bottom and select Choose how updates are delivered.

The innocuous-sounding Updates from more than one place determines whether to use peer-to-peer or not:

“Download Windows updates and apps from other PCs in addition to Microsoft. This can help speed up app and update downloads.”

Gee, thanks.

“When this is turned on, your PC may send parts of previously downloaded Windows updates and apps to PCs on your local network or PCs on the Internet, depending on what’s selected below.”

Right, so set that to Off. This disables the peer-to-peer update feature entirely. Updates will only be downloaded from Microsoft’s servers, and won’t be uploaded to anywhere

If you choose to leave it on, under:

Get updates from Microsoft and get updates from and send updates to…

  • PCs on my local network may be a useful option if you have multiple machines on your own network, as you get the benefit of peer-to-peer updates downloading once from the Internet then shared to all your machines. This will never upload updates to the Internet.
  • PCs on my local network, and PCs on the Internet: this option is Microsoft’s highly questionable default, which allows Windows 10 to upload updates from your PC to other computers over the Internet using your bandwidth and CPU time. Unless you’re some kind of philanthropist with unlimited and unmetered bandwidth, you may not want to do this.

Or, set your connection as metered
When you set a connection as ‘metered’, Windows knows the connection has restricted bandwidth or data allowance, such as a mobile data connection or tethered smartphone. In this case, Windows won’t upload updates on a metered connection, but nor will it automatically download Windows updates.

To set your current connection as metered, open the Settings app, go to Network and Internet, Wi-Fi, Advanced options. Select the toggle option ‘Set as metered connection’ to ‘on’.

To be clear, the peer-to-peer upload applies to universal apps not just Windows updates. Deep joy. AJS

About Allan J. Smithie

Allan J. Smithie is a journalist and commentator based in Dubai.


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