Windows Updates Get Greener

John Lister's picture

Windows updates will soon be a little more environmentally friendly. Microsoft is making a change that isn't exactly world-changing, but won't involve any extra effort or inconvenience for users.

The change is coming in Windows 11 version 22H2 (also called Sun Valley 2), which is the second of the two major updates to the system scheduled for this year. ("Major" is very much a comparative term at this point).

Automated Windows Updates will now aim to use more renewable energy, which might seem a little confusing given the electricity a PC uses is the same no matter the source.

Renewables Preferred

What's actually happening is that Microsoft is using third-party data to find times when the power grid in the user's area could be sourcing more of its energy from renewable sources. This includes periods of strong winds or bright sunshine for solar farms. (Source:

Users won't need to make any changes for the feature to work, but they will still be able to switch off automated updates or manually download and install an update at any time. (Source:

Exactly how much power installing an update uses, or what proportion of a computer's overall use through a year it takes, is unclear. In some cases the Windows Update process appears to draw 100% of available CPU capacity, though this may be a bug rather than by design.

Practical Effects Uncertain

Even with Microsoft's hundreds of millions of users, this probably won't make any significant difference to overall use of renewable energy. It's not a purely symbolic move, but rather something that does a little good without any obvious harm or added costs.

The main question is whether adjusting the time of the downloads makes any noticeable difference to users, which may depend on whether they have their machine set to carry out updates outside of their normal usage hours.

One potential problem would be that for many users, the most convenient times for an automatic update are overnight. That's inherently not a time when much energy is coming directly from solar farms (rather than through large battery banks).

What's Your Opinion?

Is this a worthwhile move from Microsoft? Does it matter if the effects are minimal? Is this useful or just showboating?

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Dennis Faas's picture

I don't see how energy sources matter (solar vs coal) because energy pricing is usually pre-defined before it's even delivered per the contract. Where I'm from, the cost for energy is defined by the time it's used (i.e. peak vs off-peak). For example, 5 PM to 7 AM is off-peak and the charge per kilowatt is less. I think it would make more sense to do the updates during non-peak hours.'s picture

Just another big company virtue signalling and showing that they worship the false god of climate change.

kitekrazy's picture

I was thinking the same thing. Thia also is no incentive to upgrade to 11. They will probably waste more energy trying to research the brilliant idea.'s picture

I tried Windows 11 on the 1 of my 3PCs and went back to Windows 10. Most changes seem to be for the sake of change.