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Windows 10 1903 to seize 7GB of user storage space for smoother upgrades

Windows 10's next feature upgrade will commandeer 7GB of a personal computer's storage space to better ensure updates are properly processed, Microsoft announced Monday.

The drive space, dubbed "Reserved storage," will be set aside starting with what Microsoft will likely name "Windows 10 April 2019 Update" and mark as 1903 in its four-character yymm label. The feature upgrade may begin distribution in March or April.

"Our goal is to improve the day-to-day function of your PC by ensuring critical OS functions always have access to disk space," Jesse Rajwan, a program manager in the storage and file systems group, said in a Jan. 7 post to a company blog.

Although Rajwan touched on several tasks for which the reserved storage would prove useful, he highlighted its duties during an update/upgrade. (Because of Microsoft's habit of using "update" as an all-inclusive term that also covers "upgrade," he only implied that the set-aside space was necessary for the two feature upgrades Windows 10 receives annually.)

"Every update temporarily requires some free disk space to download and install. On devices with reserved storage, update will use the reserved space first," Rajwan wrote.

The compressed files comprising an update or upgrade need drive space to unpack. Updates and upgrades also build temporary files as the process runs. Ideally, such files are deleted after they've served their purpose. (Reserved space is not used to hold the previous iteration of Windows 10 which is stored so that the user can roll-back the system during the first 30 days.)

According to Rajwan, reserved storage will be implemented by default in all PCs with 1903 and later factory pre-installed or on machines where 1903 and later were clean-installed, such as during a re-image by IT. It was unclear whether Microsoft would requisition the space on PCs upgraded to 1903 from an earlier version or would do so later, perhaps during a 1903-to-1909 upgrade late in 2019.

Other questions remained unanswered as well, including whether company administrators would be able to manage reserved storage via group policies. Microsoft did not immediately reply to queries about the feature.

Reserved storage is at its most basic a way for Microsoft to guarantee that there is sufficient disk space to process and complete a feature upgrade. Although software tradition has been to simply tell the user how much space is required for installation, Microsoft wants to remove the user from the equation.

In that way, reserved storage is simply another example of how Microsoft has tried to automate updates and upgrades to secure their success (or as high a rate of success as possible within a hardware/software environment that seems infinitely inconstant). With moves like cumulative updates, Microsoft has aggressively removed variables that stand in the way of upgrade/update victories; this forced caching of disk space is in the same vein.

It's also part of a resource appropriation pattern Microsoft has crafted with Windows. For example, the company has mandated diagnostic data collection from the OS - where in the past that was strictly opt-in - and taken bandwidth from some users to better serve updates and upgrades to others. In the past, such behavior by Microsoft has met with resistance.

This story, "Windows 10 1903 to seize 7GB of user storage space for smoother upgrades" was originally published by Computerworld.