Windows 10 uses your bandwidth to help strangers download updates

Have you updated your computer to Windows 10 yet?

If so, one hopes you’re aware of one of its less well-known features – that could mean that your internet bandwidth and data plan is being used to help complete strangers download their updates.

If you weren’t aware – consider this a public service announcement.

In some ways, Windows Update Delivery Optimisation (WUDO) sounds really cool:

Windows Update Delivery Optimization lets you get Windows updates and Windows Store apps from sources in addition to Microsoft. This can help you get updates and apps more quickly if you have a limited or unreliable Internet connection. And if you own more than one PC, it can reduce the amount of Internet bandwidth needed to keep all of your PCs up-to-date.

In other words, it sounds pretty neat. Chances are that you may have more than one PC in your household, and why should they all have to drag an update down in its entirety from the internet?

But here’s the next bit:

Delivery Optimization also sends updates and apps from your PC to other PCs on your local network or PCs on the Internet.

Yes, you read that right. WUDO doesn’t just look for computers on your internal network, but – just as if you were downloading a torrent of a Hollywood movie – it will try to find other computers on the internet which are running Windows 10, and try to get parts of the download from them too.

And, of course, it could be your Windows 10 PC that is giving a helping hand to those complete strangers’ PCs by *uploading* the data that they are looking for.

If you are an altruistic fellow, you might have no problem with this at all. But if your internet connectivity is metered or capped with a data plan, then you may be unhappy at the thought of it being gobbled up just to make Microsoft’s job of distributing updates easier.

Naturally, as seems to be the way of the world these days, you don’t opt in to WUDO. Microsoft has already turned it on by default for you.

Fortunately, you can change the settings if you’re not happy with how Microsoft has decided it should use your internet connection:

 

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1: Go to Start, then Settings > Update & security > Windows Update, and then select Advanced options.
2: On the Advanced options page, select Choose how updates are delivered. From there you can use the toggle to turn Delivery Optimization off (you will still be able to get updates and apps from Windows Update and from the Windows Store), or disable WUDO’s default setting of potentially downloading updates from, and offering them to, PCs anywhere else on the internet.

Microsoft says that WUDO won’t use metered or capped internet connections to download/upload updates, but that’s only the case if you have *told* Windows 10 that a particular internet connection is metered.

Have you done that? Of course, you haven’t. Wouldn’t it have been better if Microsoft had made you go through that process of telling it which internet connections it could use for this feature *before* turning it on by default?

Regardless, of whether your data connection is metered or not, you may still object to the idea of it being used to upload fragments of updates to strangers on the internet. It should be your choice what data travels across your internet connection, not a decision made by Microsoft without your approval.

In Microsoft’s FAQ on the feature, it reassures users that they should not have to worry about unknown PCs providing its updates to your computer as it “uses information obtained securely from Microsoft to validate the authenticity of files downloaded to your PC. Delivery Optimization also checks the authenticity of each part of an update or app that it downloads from other PCs before installing it.”

Furthermore, according to the company, WUDO cannot access the personal files you store on your PC (which obviously you wouldn’t want being uploaded to the hard drives of strangers).

Let’s hope that they’ve done their job properly, and malicious hackers never find a way to trick the system. I mean, it would be terrible if malicious hackers were able to somehow exploit a weakness in the Windows Update system to spread an attack (as they managed a few years ago with the Flame malware).

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