More answers about our first software update

UPDATE—Fri. Mar. 4

This week we began sending the February update to more customers around the world, adding 10 additional carriers to the distribution list. Since then we’ve been listening and watching the rollout closely. Despite the increased scale of the distribution, we continue to improve on the 90% percent success rate I’ve mentioned.

We also received reports this week that a small number of customers—about 100 total worldwide—are encountering a new issue when trying to install the February update. The problem only appears to prevent the update from installing.

We’ve spent the last 24 hours aggressively investigating the issue, and have identified a work around for error code 800705b4. You can find it here. We appreciate the patience of customers affected by the error and will continue to carefully monitor the update rollout and troubleshoot any issues that arise.

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UPDATE—Wed. Mar. 2

Starting today, we plan to resume rolling out the February update to Samsung phones. Meanwhile, we’re continuing to dispatch the update to other Windows Phone models. As has been the case, the software patch is being sent out on a rolling schedule. You’ll see a message on your phone when it’s available.

During the past week the engineering team has pinpointed and fixed problems that were preventing a small percentage of Windows Phones from installing the February software patch.  We apologize again for the delay and continue looking for ways to improve the update process.

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It’s been roughly 48 hours since we hit the send button on our first Windows Phone software update. The rooms around me are buzzing with folks monitoring the rollout, sifting carefully through incoming phone health data (from customers who provide it) and pouring over the anecdotal update reports you’ve been posting around the web.

You’ve said loud and clear that you want to be kept in the loop. So here’s what we’ve learned so far.

Contrary to some of the gloomy headlines out there, our preliminary internal data paint a very different picture about update progress:

  • 90 percent of people who’ve received an update notification have installed the new software patch successfully. (So when your turn to download it arrives, chances are good this will be a non-event.)
  • Of the 10 percent who did experience a problem, nearly half failed for two basic reasons—a bad Internet connection or insufficient computer storage space. Luckily, both are easy to fix.

Has the update process gone perfectly? No—but few large-scale software updates ever do, and the engineering team here was prepared. Of course, when it’s your phone that’s having a problem—or you’re the one waiting—it’s still aggravating. That’s why we’re committed to learning from our first update and improving the process. We know we have work to do, and we won’t be satisfied until you are.

As the teams here continue to monitor the ongoing update, I’ll report back if there are any other noteworthy developments. Meanwhile, let me address a few other questions I’ve been seeing, here and elsewhere.

Q: I’ve read there are problems updating Samsung phones. Is this true?

A: We’ve identified a technical issue with the Windows Phone update process that impacts a small number of Samsung phones. We’re working to correct the problem as quickly as possible. But as a precaution, we’ve briefly suspended updates to Samsung phones. We are continuing to update other Windows Phone models as scheduled.

Q: How can I make the update go more smoothly when my turn comes?

A: Given what we’ve learned so far, the best way to prepare for your update is to make sure your computer has an Internet connection and plenty of disk space before you begin. Why? Because before updating your phone, the Zune software and Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac attempt to back up your phone data as a precaution. For more details, see Make room on my computer for phone updates.

Q: If I have questions or a problem with the update, where can I get help?

A: This troubleshooter addresses several update-related error messages. Another great source for troubleshooting info is the Windows Phone forum on Microsoft Answers. Finally, see our complete set of Phone update articles on the Windows Phone website.

Q: Can every Windows Phone receive this update?

A: Yes. All Windows Phone 7 devices are eligible for updates.

Q: Can I get this update “over the air” via my carrier’s cellular network?

A: No. The only way to update your phone is to connect it to your computer and update it via either the Zune software or the Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac. (Only the update notification is sent over the air to your phone.)

Q: I don’t live in the U.S. Will the update process work differently where I am?

A: No. Everyone with a Windows Phone 7 in a supported market will receive a notification when new updates become available, and will have to update their phones by connecting it to their computer and running either the Zune software or the Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac.

Q: I still haven’t received an update notification yet. When can I expect it?

A: It’s hard to predict because it depends on many factors. It could be days—or even weeks—before you’re able to update your phone.

Q: Why can the process take so long?

A: The simple truth is that the smartphone world is complex, and even a small update like this requires a coordinated effort by multiple companies to pull off.

Another reason is that Microsoft and the carriers we’ve partnered with around the world need time to test phone updates to make sure they meet our joint quality, performance, and reliability standards. Testing schedules can vary, and that affects when you’ll be able to download an update.

We’re working closely with our worldwide partners to determine update delivery schedules and also looking for ways to improve the process.

Q: What happens if I don’t update my phone?

A: Even if you skip this update, you’ll still eventually receive it. The patch will simply be bundled together with our next update.