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The 'when' of Windows 10: Microsoft's update and upgrade schedule explained

Gregg Keizer | July 20, 2015
If Microsoft follows through on its announced plans for updating and upgrading Windows 10 after the new OS launches in two weeks, it will issue the first update no later than the end of November or early December, then follow with three more in 2016, repeating with a trio each year following.

Users of Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise can stick with the old way of managing updates -- using Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) or another patch-management product -- or go with the new Windows Update for Business (WUB), an analog to the consumer-ish Windows Update service.

Those on WUB must deploy a given build within four months of its release or Microsoft will shut off the patch spigot: That means CBB users applying updates/upgrades with WUB must have the first build on their devices by approximately August 1, 2016.

Businesses can delay the first update only so long

Microsoft's not giving anyone a choice: Either take the updates and upgrades or face a security patch drought. (The one exception: Windows 10 Enterprise.)

The longest delay allowed for CBB will be eight months from a specific build's release to the branch, or 12 months after the same build has hit the consumers via the CB.

Customers using WSUS or another Microsoft (or third-party) patch management solution must have the first build deployed no later than late November, early December 2016.

Businesses get rings, too

The CBB will offer users release "rings" as well, at the very least a slow ring and a fast ring, but there may be others.

Microsoft has talked about rings on the CBB since the May announcement of Windows Update for Business, but as with rings on the CB, details remain muddled. How long the slow ring follows the fast, for instance, is unclear.

Only Windows 10 Enterprise can ignore the updates and upgrades

The only Windows 10 edition that can pass on the constant updates and upgrades is Enterprise, the SKU available solely to organizations that have a volume licensing agreement tied to the annuity-like Software Assurance (SA) program.

The branch available only to Windows 10 Enterprise, dubbed Long-term Servicing Branch, or LSTB, mimics the traditional way Microsoft has handled its OS: Only security patches and critical bug-fixes will reach systems on the LTSB.

Every two to three years, Microsoft will create another LTSB build, integrating some or all of the feature changes released to CB and CBB in the intervening time, then offer that to customers. They will have the option to move to that build -- it won't be mandatory -- and can skip at least one build, passing on LTSB 2 (or whatever Microsoft names it), then years later adopting LSTB 3 with an in-place upgrade.

The code released on July 29 will be considered LTSB 1, Microsoft has said, so a second, optional LTSB won't appear until 2017 at the earliest.

By December 2016, there will be multiple update/upgrade builds being used


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