Microsoft’s software update beats Apple and Ubuntu

Every OS out there can be updated over the Internet. In fact, this functionality is a critical and important part of the OS, and updates are often done in an automated fashion. Windows has its Windows Update, Mac OS X has its Apple Software Update and Ubuntu has its main repositories.

We have measured the software update “access point” availability for these three operating systems during Q2 2008 (April, May, June). If that access point is unavailable or inaccessible, the operating system cannot connect and download updates.

So, how reliable are they?

Software update uptime

It turns out that Microsoft wins this one hands down. Their Windows software update was available 100% of the time.

Apple had a respectable 99.9% uptime for its software update. It was only unavailable a total of 2 hours and 34 minutes.

Ubuntu on the other hand came off worse, with only a 98.64% availability for its main repository. That is a total of 1 day, 5 hours and 45 minutes in the three months of this survey. It should be noted, though, that Ubuntu’s repositories have mirrors around the world, so users can download packages from those as well.

About the survey:

The monitoring was done using Pingdom’s uptime monitoring service, performing a test once every five minutes. Downtime was always confirmed from two different locations.

For Apple’s software update we monitored the URL “” which contains the index information necessary to receive new updates.

For Windows we monitored the URL “” which is used by Microsoft to distribute updates.

For Ubuntu we monitored the URL “” which is the main repository that contains all the packages that can be downloaded through Ubuntu. Again, it should be pointed out that there are other mirrors that can be used.


  1. Interested in releasing when this downtime was?
    I’m assuming 95% of it or more is centered directly around Ubuntu 8.04 release day, when Ubuntu distributes many full copies of it’s new operating system over the net, as well as what amounts to “super service packs” replacing most of the packages installed on users systems.
    Not mentioning the timing of the downtime makes this study misleading at best.

  2. The other thing that Microsoft does better than Ubuntu and Apple is to allow users to configure updates to run quietly in the background without prompting the user. The exception to this is the “you need to reboot now or not now” nag prompt.

    Apple bugs the pants off of me by constantly asking me to agree to the iTunes EULA.


  3. There are 2 problems with this (otherwise interesting) survey:
    1. Ubuntu have many repositories have many mirrors and you can find the fastest mirror also, so it’s not really a problem for people if the main one is out of order.
    2. If we look at the dates, Ubuntu came out on 24 April. Around release time usually the repositories are very busy because of the updates/installs, so of course they are down most of the time.

  4. Neither Apple nor Microsoft offer full operating system upgrades via their upgrade systems. They are just security updates and so forth, so there is much more load on Ubuntu servers. There are also many mirrors you can select to use. I use the nearby Georgia Tech mirror and have experienced no downtime. You did point this out.

    The graph is very misleading. The software updates for Ubuntu serve more purposes.

  5. Spurious! I’ve used all three from the UK and have found the rank of connection quality to be exactly the opposite.
    Furthermore, the more important measure is rate of software update rather than server availability.

  6. uhh? This is helpful?

    Things you are not mentioning:
    Just because something pings does not mean it is downloadable.
    Timeouts, etc.

    Are you measuring that?

  7. Well you’re taking a beating from the Ubuntu users. Can’t say I blame them.

    As they’ve pointed out, most Ubuntu users install all their software from repositories, not just the OS, browser and media player. All Ubuntu’s applications’ updates go through the repos.Don’t forget that in April, Ubuntu Hardy Heron was released. Thousands and thousands of users did a full OS upgrade.

    And you’ve tested one out of a multitude of Ubuntu’s update servers. On installation, you pick a local mirror to speed things up. Now, this isn’t as clean as a transparently geo-mirrored solution as Microsoft, but you’re just plain wrong to suggest that if the main repo went down now, nobody could get updates. Users on it *could* switch to another repo.

    Then not let us forget the quality of updates. We can have Update Tuesday!? Yeah that makes so much sense in a 0-day exploit world. Or updates when they’re needed.

    98.64% uptime isn’t that bad, either! They have room to improve and make the process more transparent, but hell, suggesting that they’re somehow worse when the service the Ubuntu repos provide far outstrips the service provided by the other two is poor analysis.

    If you want to do this properly, monitor all the Ubuntu update servers. And (for my interest) publish response times.

  8. If Microsoft and/or Apple did launch full operating system upgrades, then Ubuntu wins hands down.

    This is a completely bogus test of “updates”.

    How about instead how quickly a when a vulnerability is discovered, how long before we see an update from one of the vendors?

  9. How is 98.64% even worth worrying about? Factor in all the mirrors and it is 100%

    i vote to remove this misleading article. shame on you

  10. An excellent example of a poorly-designed study resulting in a conclusion intended to offend, thus bringing attention to your company.

  11. “Beats?” Beats at what.

    Why not just say “Microsoft’s software update service uptime beats Apple and Ubuntu” and spare us from reading this drivel.

    Only link whores don’t write descriptive titles to their posts.

    Now legions of competitors will enter your market and dominate your sorry ass plumbing business. Uptime monitoring. What a cast of fools.

  12. I find this article to be a bit misleading, not only in the title but also the content. The title is just another headline grabber for other sites to use in the typical MS FUD campaign. And let’s face it, a plain vanilla Ubuntu or OS X system with no updates will still be safer and more functional to use than a clean Windows install. This ‘alleged’ update situation is a very minimal issue, As for content, just read the previous comments.

  13. This is rather a strange premise for a ‘comparison’.

    My 2 cents worth: I use Linux (Ubuntu) and Windows both. I’ve never had an Ubuntu update fail or time out or simply not work, but I’ve had those things all happen with Windows.

  14. Mmmmm one ponders if this person has ever used Ubuntu for more than 5 minutes.

    Like one of the previous people Windows update has failed on many occasions for me, let alone when they just don’t install. Mmmmmm one wonders who the sponsers are. Ubuntu has many mirrors… so not a true test. Seems like a half baked article !

    I would much rather use Ubuntu over any version of Windows, yeah I am converted but thats because I have used both sides. Never going back to MS !

  15. “Every OS out there can be updated over the Web.”

    Wow. Really? You’re a tech person? I think you mean that they can be updated over the Internet. Really not the same thing.

  16. An enduser is not interested in excuses why the update service does not work.

    For an end user it works, or it doesn’t.

    This is the main difference between MS and all Linux distribution. A linux user has to know where to find the updates (If the main repository is down, you can search google…)… I bet MS has many mirrors in the world, but they are handled transparent, and I dont have to know them…

  17. Andrew: Thanks for the heads up. You’re absolutely right. “Internet” it is. Corrected.

    Regarding (Ubuntu) mirrors: We did point out (twice) that there are mirrors of the Ubuntu repositories that can be used. Monitoring every single mirror out there would have been outside the scope of this small survey, so we went for the “default” main repositories.

    Regarding when the Ubuntu repository downtime was, for those of you who asked, some of it took place during April 24-26, which would indicate that it was “overloaded” due to the new version being released. During these days, 17 hours of downtime was recorded, most of it in small 10-20 minute intervals.

  18. …and 78.63% of all statistics are sloppily made.

    Have you seen that looooooong yellow bar for Ubuntu? It’s like a trillion times longer than the one for other two systems, so ubuntu MUST be a trillion times worse than Mac or Winz. Wow!


  19. Regarding (Ubuntu) mirrors: We did point out (twice) that there are mirrors of the Ubuntu repositories that can be used. Monitoring every single mirror out there would have been outside the scope of this small survey, so we went for the “default” main repositories

    The problem I have with this is that all the mirrors together make up the Ubuntu Archives, not just one. Also was only one server looked at for all OS’s?

  20. Pingdom: No one is asking you to monitor every Ubuntu mirror, but you should have at least chose 5 or 6 for the sake of fairness.

    For the record I was downloading off my local mirror at line saturation (~1200 k) on release day. In other words, even on the worst of days, there was absolutely no difficulty with the mirrors.

  21. so if i understand to stay uptodate, the key point is not to get patch as soon as possible but to be able to ping main central download server.

    if we try to compare something like ubuntu versus windows with weapons from windows world, how will be surprised if windows work?

  22. It should also be noted that security updates for Ubuntu don’t come from, but from

    This article is misleading.

  23. Another study shows worse results !

    According to this study, on a long period (24th april from 8.12pm to 8.13pm), the Ubuntu main server had a downtime of 100% (didn’t respond at all), while in the same time, Microsoft servers for Windows Update were working perfectly !

  24. I have to agree with George.
    How can you check only one of the ubuntu mirrors when microsoft runs off the load balanced distributed servers at akamai. This is more of a question of which domain is up rather than which server is up because who knows how many servers akamai is using or which is up? Practically very time you connect to that domain you get a different server.

    This article is just another piece of microsoft fud.

  25. ah, and i would like to see an article about the speed of the updates. while windows gets and installs 6 updates, my ubuntu box does 94 updates 😀

    that was a MiSleading garbage, but thanks anyway (found it on a joke site ;))

  26. It is crazy isn’t it? So many happy and satisfied users, not having any complaints with what they are doing. Along comes somebady and TELLS them they have a PROBLEM. Now, I don’t know how many of you have ever read a book on MARKETING, but I can tell you this is the definition nummero uno of MARKETING. Don’t let somebody else define your needs for you. Then you end up with an OS that is packed with a lot of stuff you don’t use any way and a wordprocessor that asks you everyt time whether you are trying to write a letter. Like you were looking for a conversation in stead of trying to be productive.

    Let it slide, you know what you have. Stats always have been used to clarify a doubtful and not black and white clear situation. And thus can lean towards what you want it to be. Some call it multivariate, other call it the truth. And turning it around, just assuming THAT the MS servers were so much better. Is that because they have to update ALL THE TIME? Because another patch was needed, or because again there was another Mallicious Software Removal Tool to distribute? Because MediaPlayer again stumbled over its own legs and 100 MB needs to be added to the core programming.

    Like I said, don’t let somebody else tell you what you need. YOU define what you need. That is how the whole discussion on choice and open source was started some decades ago, remember..?..

  27. “It turns out that Microsoft wins this one hands down. Their Windows software update was available 100% of the time.”

    Yes, but for updating what? I have Office XP on a Windows XP. Ever since I installed “Microsoft Update” (recommended in place of their Windows Update), that stupid f*** wants to install every single update for Office 2002 and Office 2007 as well. Why do I need them??? And it keeps nagging EVEN WHEN I TELL IT NOT TO SHOW ME THOSE UPDATES ANY MORE!!!

    Of course, not to mention that Windows Update only updates your windows, while Ubuntu’s update updates all your software…

  28. I just starting to use the Ubuntu Server, loving it. I used to be loyalty and certified with Microsoft, I have to admit that the only best side on Microsoft is the supports and very quit response, but it all come down to money and you need licensing for almost everything on the network.

    It’s hard to find study materials on Ubutuntu, where I have to study most on my own, but it is the most reliable system I’ve ever seen and I have faith that Ubuntu will eventually out beat Microsoft one day. Not to mention the “shell” that Microsoft starting to implement, where you can take control of the system from any places, but I like Ubuntu better where you have almost all of the control.

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