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Today I was on my way home. I entered the train at 21:00, and wanted to restart my computer from Windows to Ubuntu. It then started updating:

Keep your PC plugged in until this is done
Installing update 1 of 1

I waited, then waited. Then waited more. 30 minutes later, obviously with no work done, my train arrived. I was afraid to close the screen, so I walked 30 minutes home, yes, with the screen open. Then put it on my table, and started killing time.

It was never frozen. The mouse was reacting, and the small dotty circle was "spinning". There was not a single glimpse of light from the hard drive activity diode.

At 22:15, ie after 1 hour and 15 minutes, I saw a change. It was now configuring, which was soon over.

  1. Is it normal that one such update takes that long? My laptop is only half a year old, with an Intel Core™ i3 3217U processor.

  2. Was it actually trying to download something, or at least needing access to the Internet, which was not available on the train? Perhaps it finished because I got home and it got access to the WiFi.

  3. Can I get any additional information about the update, when it's being installed? I remember vaguely that in the old days with Windows 95, it was possible to press the Windows button during installation of the OS, and then see more details about the installation. Likewise I tried a lot of key combinations today on the train, hoping for additional information, but nothing I tried had any effect. Any kind of information suggesting that something is happening would have been nice. It would also be nice to have a name of the update, then I could Google for that and see if it is actually supposed to take an hour.

  4. What would have happened if I had closed the screen?

  5. What would have happened if I had given it a hard reboot, or if it had run out of power?

  6. What is actually going on during the update, when the hard drive seems to be doing nothing.

Looking forward to your input :)

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Unfortunately it is somewhat common for some/certain updates to take a long time for Win 8 right now. I have a Core i7 with 8GB of RAM, and an update took over an hour last night on a fresh format (<24 hours old), for a single update.

Is it normal that one such update takes that long? My laptop is only half a year old, with an Intel Core™ i3 3217U processor.

Yes, sometimes. A Core i3 doesn't have a ton of power anymore. It's not bad, but just not a monster truck. How much RAM do you have? You should have 4GB, if not more, in my opinion. 8GB is my lowest for Win8 machines for IT.

Was it actually trying to download something, or at least needing access to the Internet, which was not available on the train? Perhaps it finished because I got home and it got access to the WiFi.

Not usually - Shutdown updates tend to already be (mostly) downloaded, but can download extra parts if necessary. It will fail and shut off if it doesn't have network connection, though.

Can I get any additional information about the update, when it's being installed? I remember vaguely that in the old days with Windows 95, it was possible to press the Windows button during installation of the OS, and then see more details about the installation. Likewise I tried a lot of key combinations today on the train, hoping for additional information, but nothing I tried had any effect. Any kind of information suggesting that something is happening would have been nice. It would also be nice to have a name of the update, then I could Google for that and see if it is actually supposed to take an hour.

I don't think so, not while it's installing. You can actually open the control panel from the Desktop side (actual, Windows 7-style control panel), run Windows Updates from there, or see what had installed previously, but not really. Sometimes this process runs after the install is "installed" in Windows, while you are using the computer, but it has to do some actions when nothing else is in use.

What would have happened if I had closed the screen?

If it went to sleep, it would probably be somewhat OK, but there is a good chance of failure for some updates if you do so. If it shuts down (i.e. power off completely), it will either finish the update when you turn it back on or roll back the update, then install it the next time. Error / Shutdown is not recommended for good reason, and sleep should be avoided to be safe.

What would have happened if I had given it a hard reboot, or if it had run out of power?

See above - Either it would finish the install or roll back the install and do it later. Or it would burst into flames. Flames as in errors. Avoid an actual hard shutdown at all costs. Sleep is better, but still not the best practice.

What is actually going on during the update, when the hard drive seems to be doing nothing.

That's a hard one. It could be compiling something that is small enough to fit in memory, but I doubt it since that should only take a moment. It probably was waiting for NTFS to indicate a file is no longer in use. The file shouldn't be in use, but sometimes something is missed and it'll hang for a long time.

Best practice, in my opinion, is to run your Windows Updates through the Control Panel on the Desktop, not through Windows 8's "Settings". That way you can see what is going on.

  • Thanks for the answer. I think Windows have overdone trying not to confuse the user with information. It is crazy, that even a (almost) super user like me, can be totally oblivious to what is actually going on, and not knowing if it is safe to turn off or safe to close the screen. Moreover, even my mom would like some hint about how long an update takes. – Mads Skjern Apr 29 '14 at 10:16
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    If my mom had been in my situation, she would have called me. Whereas, if the computer had told her it would take 1-2 hours, then she would not have called. – Mads Skjern Apr 29 '14 at 10:17

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