Updates released for Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system are different in several regards. While most home users still get them through Windows Update, several key aspects of updates have changed in Windows 10.
You may have read about feature updates, Windows 10 servicing, deferred updates or the different servicing branches that Microsoft created for Windows 10 but since Microsoft did not reveal too much about them, it was not really clear how they'd affect administrative tasks in Windows environments.
The new Introduction to Windows 10 servicing document on Technet reveals missing information about updates. Designed specifically for Enterprises, it is providing home users and businesses with vital information about Windows 10 servicing and updates.
The article that Microsoft published is highly technical and a long read. The following paragraphs provide you with a summary of core information revealed in the article.
Microsoft distinguishes between two types of updates in Windows 10:
Feature upgrades, note that Microsoft calls them upgrades and not updates, always contain an entire copy of Windows so that they can be used to install Windows on existing devices. It is like Windows 10.1, 10.2 and so without these releases being named that way.
Microsoft plans to release between two and three feature upgrades per year and to publish accompanying servicing updates for supported feature upgrades.
Servicing updates will continue to be delivered on Patch Tuesday primarily (second Tuesday of a month) but may also be pushed out at other times when the need arises. This is exactly the same as it is done today for all supported Microsoft operating systems.
One difference here, as you may have noticed already, is that these patches will only be delivered to systems running supported feature upgrades.
This in turn means that Home users who run Windows 10 on machines won't be able to block feature upgrades for a long period of time as they won't receive servicing updates anymore.
Microsoft distinguishes between two branches relevant for Home and Business environments. The Current Branch receives feature upgrades immediately and the servicing lifetime of each feature upgrade is a minimum of four months.
This seems to confirm that these feature upgrades need to be installed in that time period for the system to continue receiving security updates.
The Current Branch for Business delays the availability of feature upgrades for four months and extends the minimum length of the servicing lifetime to eight months.
Another interesting difference between updates for Windows 10 and previous Windows operating systems is the cumulative nature of Windows 10 releases.
It is important to note that, in order to improve release quality and simplify deployments, all new releases that Microsoft publishes for Windows 10 will be cumulative. This means new feature upgrades and servicing updates will contain the payloads of all previous releases (in an optimized form to reduce storage and networking requirements), and installing the release on a device will bring it completely up to date.
Microsoft notes that it is no longer possible to "install a subset of the contents of a Windows 10 servicing update".
The remainder of the article reveals how Microsoft releases Windows 10 feature upgrades.
When a new feature upgrade gets released, it is made available to Current Branch systems right away. What then follows is several months of servicing updates followed by the release of the feature upgrade plus all servicing upgrades to Current Branch for Business systems.
The actual frequency and timing of releases will vary according to Microsoft.
Although Microsoft is currently planning to release approximately two to three feature upgrades per year, the actual frequency and timing of releases will vary. Because the servicing lifetimes of feature upgrades typically end when the servicing lifetimes of other, subsequent feature upgrades begin, the lengths of servicing lifetimes will also vary.
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