Microsoft scores with free Windows 10 upgrade as downloads tally 10x Windows 8's first-day sales

The large jump was no surprise, since Microsoft is giving away Windows 10 upgrades to the bulk of systems running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1

Microsoft customers downloaded 14 million copies of the Windows 10 upgrade on the first day of availability, the company said today.

The 14 million, just a fraction of what Microsoft hopes will adopt the new OS in the next three years, was served with little if any disruption to the Internet, or to the ISPs (Internet service providers) and CDNs (content delivery networks) that delivered the 5GB-plus upgrade files, according to an expert who earlier in the week worried that the massive traffic would present problems.

"We now have more than 14 million devices running Windows 10," said Yusuf Mehdi, an executive in the Windows and Devices Group, on a Friday blog.

The number was more than 10 times larger than the last roll-out: The company touted 4 million upgrades sold in the first three days of Windows 8's availability in 2012.

The large jump was no surprise, since Microsoft is giving away Windows 10 upgrades to the bulk of systems running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. "Clearly, Microsoft, by giving this OS away, they're less focused on grabbing dollars from vendors who sell new Windows devices, they're much more interested in getting much more of their installed base over to Windows 10," said Tom Mainelli, an IDC analyst, in a recent podcast about the new operating system.

In the context of the approximately 1.5 billion devices running Windows worldwide, however, the 14 million was only a small slice -- under 1% of the total, or about 1.4% of the 1 billion goal Microsoft has set for itself by mid-2018.

Mehdi also urged patience for those who have not yet received the on-screen notification that Windows 10 has been successfully downloaded and that the upgrade is ready to process. "We are grateful for your excitement and enthusiasm and we appreciate your patience over the days and weeks ahead as we carefully roll out Windows 10 in phases to all of you that have reserved," Mehdi said, referring to the "nag-and-notification" app that lets eligible users "reserve" a copy of the upgrade.

His thank-you for patience -- and other notices Microsoft planted on its websites -- signaled that the company has been inundated with questions by customers who want to know when they will be able to upgrade. Messages placed on the front page of its Windows website, including a banner atop all support pages, led users to more information about upgrade timing.

For customers who couldn't take the wait, Microsoft suggested they download a disk image file in .iso format, and use that to apply the upgrade.

So far, Microsoft's upgrade delivery has gone very smoothly, said Dan Rayburn, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan. "Overall, it seems most ISPs are doing well," with a few experiencing some quality of service or quality of experience issues, Rayburn wrote on his own, where he covers Internet traffic issues. "Third-party data shows that the CDNs Microsoft is using for a large percentage of downloads have so far not experienced any performance problems."

Earlier in the week, Rayburn, citing unnamed sources, said that Microsoft had reserved an unprecedented 40Tbps (terabits per second) capacity with various CDNs for Windows 10's distribution. He predicted that the new OS and free upgrade deal would set traffic records, and said that they could impact the Internet in general.

"Based on numbers I have been given, total traffic amongst all CDNs delivering the update looks to have peaked at around 10Tbps," Rayburn said.

Other estimates pointed to both larger and smaller spikes in ISP traffic. California-based Procera Networks, which provides data analytics and other services to broadband operators, reported a Windows 10 upgrade peak of 30Tbps at one European ISP. Meanwhile, Canadian networking firm Sandvine said that downloads to Windows Insiders -- the beta test participants who had first dibs on the upgrade -- accounted for just 6% to 8% of one American ISP's traffic on Tuesday, then dropped to 3% to 4% the next day.

Rayburn applauded Microsoft for its planning and execution. "Microsoft's approach of staging Windows 10 downloads in a tiered model is working well and was a smart way to go about it," he said. "The way Microsoft is metering the delivery seems to have provided most with a good download experience."

At the same time, Rayburn cautioned that the upgrade process had just begun and simultaneously maintained his forecast that it would break records. "Overall, Windows 10 will result in the largest number of bits being delivered on the Web for a single event," he said.

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Gregg Keizer

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