Why is Windows 10 Eating Up My Data? Might be the Peer-to-Peer Delivery

Welcome to the new peer-to-peer (P2P) delivery update system of Windows 10!
It is now week six of the Windows 10 experience. There are some bugs that hopefully will be resolved soon like green screens on certain videos. However, today, I would like to share some information on Microsoft’s process of downloading updates for Windows 10.

We have had a couple of customers come in with complaints that Windows 10 is running them over their data caps on the Internet. So, being the research hound that I am, I looked into it and I really wasn’t happy with what I found.

With Windows 10, we all know by now that we can’t stop the update process. Many of you who have been using Windows 8 for a while already know this. As much as updates were a headache with Windows 8, Windows 10 now brings us a bigger headache with potential of growing into a mega-flu.

The Dangers of Peer-to-Peer

The default setting for receiving updates in Windows 10 is to receive said updates on your local PC and PCs on the Internet. Sounds simple enough, right? Here’s the problem with that….

Microsoft is trying to save money on their own broadband bills by outsourcing their customer’s Windows 10 machines to deliver the updates for them. In the past, we all received our Windows updates straight from the Microsoft servers. Of course, they couldn’t send updates to everyone all at once so there was an update schedule and regions of machines would receive important updates one at a time.

Microsoft decided that they wanted to speed up the process and save some money so in 2013, Microsoft bought Pando Networks, maker of peer-to-peer technology. Does BitTorrent sound familiar to anyone? When you heard people talk about bad malware attacks in the past, the names LimeWire, BearShare, and BitTorrent usually were somewhere in the mix. The issue with peer-to-peer (P2P) is that once a corrupted file gets uploaded into the system, it is like a leaf being swept down a fast running river. It will travel through numerous machines, infecting each as it goes along. This is the scary side of peer-to-peer. If anyone were to ever corrupt any of the updates circulating through Microsoft’s P2P system, there’s no telling how many machines will be affected.


Now back to the issue of your data caps…

Any time Microsoft wants to send updates to machines in your region, they will wake up your machine and have it upload those updates to your neighbors’ machines. So even though you have already received your update and used your precious broadband to receive it, now you are going to have to use even more of your broadband to send that same update to other machines in your region. This setup may be fine for those in metro areas with unlimited data plans but for others who live in outlying areas with limited access to the Internet or who run their laptops off of a hotspot, this is a hardship.

If you would like to change how your PC receives its updates, follow these directions:

  • In your start menu, choose “Settings”
  • From there, choose “Update & Security”
  • Once the next screen has fully loaded, choose “Advanced Options” (at the bottom right-hand side of the screen)
  • On the next screen, choose “Choose how updates are delivered” (middle of the list)
  • On this last screen, choose “PCs on my local network” and then X out of the screen

Making these changes to your machine may cause a slight delay in the delivery of updates but it will be much safer receiving updates directly from Microsoft’s own servers instead of from some other PC user out there in the ether.

This article was originally posted in September 2015 on our Binary Aether Blog which is slowly being migrated here to our website.

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