Windows 10 Updates: What Does It Mean for Customers?

July 28, 2016
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3 min read

In the middle of 2015, Microsoft shifted its approach to developing and updating its Windows OS platform with the release of Windows 10. Microsoft stated that 10 will be “the last version of Windows.”

Windows 10 enables cumulative updates, meaning the platform will be continually developed with new features. Updates will be made available when ready rather than grouped together in a major OS update on the familiar Patch Tuesday. Microsoft hopes this approach will help eliminate fragmentation and better support the platform moving forward.

Window Closing on Outdated Versions

Microsoft will cease to offer backward compatibility for older machines running previous versions of Windows after mid-2017, effectively setting a clock for enterprise customers. Organizations especially must come to understand Windows 10 because new PCs and laptops will not support Windows 7 or 8.1 in less than a year.

Microsoft announced that computers based on newer chips from AMD, Intel and Qualcomm will need to run Windows 10 to be guaranteed continued updates. Certain machines will be able to run Windows 7 and 8.1 until July 17, 2017; after that, only Windows 10 will be supported.

Patching Windows 10

When Windows 10 was first was released, there was a lot of confusion about how these updates would be deployed and what it would mean to enterprise customers.

Microsoft is currently releasing ongoing upgrades roughly every six months. An existing patching solution, such as IBM BigFix Patch, should be able to utilize these upgrades. These solutions will support the various editions of Windows 10: Home, Pro, Enterprise and Education.

Servicing Updates and Feature Updates

There are two different types of updates that are coming out from Microsoft: servicing updates, which are typically released every Patch Tuesday, and feature updates, which Microsoft aims to release every four to six months. This means that Microsoft customers are able to upgrade their environment two or three times a year.

Release Types Release Details BigFix Tasks/Fixlets
Servicing (Security) Updates
  • Patch Tuesday and outside of Patch Tuesday
  • Includes security and other updates
  • All updates are cumulative
  • Tasks to disable Windows update
  • Fixlets to deploy updates
Feature Updates
  • Include entire copy of Windows
  • Two or three feature upgrades per year
  • First major upgrade on Nov. 12, 2015 (Threshold 2)
  • All upgrades are cumulative
  • Tasks to enable or disable Windows update
  • Windows update to deploy upgrades

The next update, named Redstone 1, is expected in July.

Choosing the Best Branch for Your Business

Customers can choose from three different options, called branches, for Windows 10. Microsoft TechNet outlined each of these options.

Current Branch

With the Current Branch (CB), customers get access to updates immediately, and each upgrade will have its own path. This is typically designed for early adopters and IT teams. Typically, the CB can be used by app development or engineering teams to validate application compatibility and features releases.

Current Branch Business

This is typically recommended for most users in an enterprise who want to have some kind of control and evaluate the update. With the CBB option, customers can defer an upgrade to the next cycle.

At that point, the customer must install the upgrade or lose all servicing updates. Customers will get a cycle of eight months to a year, giving them a chance for a staged deployment. The downside is that end users won’t have the latest version with the newest features.

Long-Term Service Branch

This is typically designed for business-critical or specialized machines. This option is for endpoints that only require the base version of the OS. Users are only interested in security updates with no new features. This is typical for machines with very long upgrade cycles.

Servicing Options Release Details BigFix Patch Support
Current Branch (CB)
  • Receive feature upgrades and servicing updates immediately
  • Two or three feature upgrades per year
  • Each feature upgrade will receive servicing updates for four months
  • Supported by the following Windows 10 editions: Home, Pro, Enterprise and Education
Current Branch for Business (CBB)
  • Defer receiving feature upgrades for a period of approximately six months
  • Each feature upgrade can receive service updates for eight months to a year
  • CBBs can receive servicing updates for approximately twice as many months as CBs
  • Two CBBs can receive servicing updates at the same time
  • Supported by the following Windows 10 editions: Pro, Enterprise and Education
Long-Term Servicing Branch (LTSB)
  • Includes entire copy of Windows
  • Only receives servicing updates
  • Feature upgrade tagged as LTSB can receive servicing updates for 10 years
  • Not all feature upgrades will have LTSB (Microsoft expects to publish feature upgrades with long-term servicing support approximately every two or three years)
  • Only for Windows 10 Enterprise edition
David Harsent
Technical Mobility & Endpoint Security Specialist, IBM
David Harsent is a contributor for SecurityIntelligence.