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How does patching work in Windows 11

Smaller packages and improved downloading logic should make Windows updates faster than ever.

Windows 11 is the future of Windows. Microsoft released its new operating system on October 5 and has already made clear that it will stop supporting Windows 10 in 2025. So why not get ahead of the curve and learn what changes with Windows 11 in regard to one of the most important tasks for Windows admins: Keeping the system up-to-date and patched.

Let’s take a look at how Windows 11 is different from its predecessor when it comes to patching.

Smaller updates

Microsoft has invested a lot of work in improving the inner workings of the Windows update mechanism. One result: The cumulative update size in Windows 11 is about 40 percent smaller than in Windows 10.

This is thanks to a more efficient packaging of the individual update files and the removal of special files called “reverse differentials” that took up a lot of space in the older update packages. In Windows 11 the information contained in reverse differentials is computed on the fly during an update. If you want to read more about how this works Microsoft has a good blog post about it.

Quicker downloads

Smaller update sizes mean faster update downloads but there is more. Microsoft has brought back the Express technology in Windows 11, a feature that was initially present in Windows 10 but got replaced in Windows 10 1809. The revamped Express technology helps the Windows update mechanism to request only the update package that it really needs. Again Microsoft’s blog post explains this in more detail.

A smoother update experience

Smaller package sizes and quicker downloads thanks to a more selective download approach should lead to a smoother overall update experience. This will reduce the interruption that a Windows update means for end-users and system administrators. That is a big deal since many updates get postponed because they simply take so long. Speeding up the update process will therefore directly improve the security of devices and networks.

Patch Tuesday is here to stay

Some things will probably never change and one of them is Microsoft’s famous Patch Tuesday. With Windows 11, Microsoft will keep with its traditions and publish new patches on the second Tuesday of each month.

One change to the update release cycle however seems to be coming: In the official release information for Windows 11, Microsoft writes that the new operating system will receive only one feature update per year. Windows 10 so far received two new feature updates per year. An annual update cycle for feature updates makes more sense and will simplify things by reducing the number of current Windows versions in circulation.

You can keep your old workflow

So what does this all mean for the actual process of bringing your Windows 11 system up-to-date? From a user point of view nothings changes. The Windows update mechanism still works the same as in Windows 10. So no matter whether you use a patch management solution like Patchdeck, distribute patches via WSUS or are still doing manual updates, you can keep your old workflow and still benefit from the speed improvements.


Windows 11 brings some exciting improvements to the patching process. Reduced package sizes and better downloading logic should make Windows updates faster than ever. Let’s hope that Microsoft continues to invest engineering resources in optimizing the Windows update mechanism.

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