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windows 10 update uploads and downloads

Windows 10 includes a new peer-to-peer download feature for updates and Windows Store apps. By default, Windows will automatically use your PC’s Internet connection to upload updates, hiding the option to disable this five clicks deep in the operating system.

You can continue to use peer-to-peer updates on your local network, but you may not want to waste upload bandwidth to help reduce Microsoft’s bandwidth bills. This is especially true if you have data caps on your Internet connection.



Peer-to-Peer Updates Explained

Peer-to-peer updates are actually a great feature — on your local network. Download the update once and all your computer can share it. Bandwidth on your local network should be plentiful. This actually saves you both time and reduces how much data you have to download, as you won’t have to download the updates five times if you have five Windows 10 PCs at home.

Microsoft acquired Pando Networks back in 2013. Pando Networks was a peer-to-peer media distribution company, and used a modified form of BitTorrent to distribute data. It hasn’t been confirmed, but Microsoft-watchers believe Windows 10’s peer-to-peer downloads are based on this technology. As with BitTorrent, 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 BitTorrent parlance, Windows 10 is “seeding” updates on your PC’s Internet connection with the default setting.

Windows 10 isn’t the first software product to play this game. A variety of PC game companies, notably Blizzard Entertainment, distribute games and patches with a peer-to-peer downloader that uses BitTorrent in the background to speed up downloads, sharing your Internet connection with other people downloading. However, these are generally more conspicuous — it isn’t a hidden feature enabled in the background that’s always running.

If MIcrosoft’s servers are being slammed, the distributed nature of the updates can ensure they reach more people faster. This will also help Microsoft save on bandwidth bills, as they’re passing on some of the upload bandwidth they’d need to pay for to their customers’ Internet connections.

According to MIcrosoft, this feature is named “Windows Update Delivery Optimization.” Microsoft says it also uses your computer’s Internet connection to upload universal apps you’ve downloaded to other PCs over the Internet, so it isn’t just about Windows updates. This isn’t made clear in the Settings app itself, but only on Microsoft’s website.

For more information, consult the official Windows Update Delivery Optimization FAQ on Microsoft’s website.