Windows as a Service: Windows 10 Feature and Quality Updates

Windows 10

Windows as a service is an approach developed by Microsoft and was introduced in Windows 10 to deploy, update, and service the operating system. Instead of releasing a new version of Windows every three to five years, as the company did with past iterations of the operating system, Microsoft will continually update Windows 10. The updates are categorized in two ways: feature updates and quality updates. Traditional Windows servicing has several release types such as major revisions (Windows 8.1, Windows 8, and Windows 7 operating systems), service packs, and monthly updates, etc. You may also want to read the following articles: Out-of-Band Security Update for PrintNightmare: Patch released for Windows Print Spooler Remote Code Execution Vulnerability, and how to mitigate Print Spooler Vulnerability “PrintNightmare”: Disable Print Spooler Service or disable inbound remote printing through Group Policy.

With Windows 10, there are two release types: feature updates which adds new functionalities two times per year, and quality updates that provide security and reliability fixes at least once a month.

Windows 10 Feature and Quality Updates

Having discussed the Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) and Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) model which is considered the default servicing channel for Windows 10 devices. See the following link for more information.

With the introduction of Windows 10, Microsoft adopted an entirely need servicing model referred to as Windows as a Service (SaaS), thereby resulting in us having the “feature Update” and the “quality Update“.

First, lets us define and differentiate what both terms mean.
1: Feature Updates: In this scenario, Microsoft will package new features updates that can be deployed using the existing management tools. This will be deployed two (2) times annually (Spring and fall), i.e, March and Septemeber respectively instead of the traditional approach of 3-5 years. Technically, Feature updates are new versions of Windows 10 and are larger in size than quality updates.

  • During the development of a new major update, Microsoft uses telemetry data and feedback from internal testing as well as from participants of the Windows Insider Program to prepare the new version. Once the update has proven to be reliable, the rollout begins to consumers and then to business customers through Windows Update or as a manual install.
  • Since this is really a new version of Windows 10, this means. the installation will take longer to apply, and you’re more likely to run into problems than when installing a quality update. 

2: Quality Updates (Also referred to as Cumulative Updates):

On the other hand, instead of having overwhelming updates every month as recorded in previous versions of windows where administrators will have to choose what update is vital to install and which does not. In windows 10, instead of having these numerous updates each month and wondering which is vital to install. This has been consolidated into cumulative monthly updates that supersede the previous monthly updates. This will contain both the security and non-security fixes as well.  See the image on how the updates are organised now.

Feature updates
  • These updates are mandatory updates that you have to download and install whether manually or automatically every month through Windows Update, usually every second Tuesday of every month (also known as “Patch Tuesday”). However, from time to time, you’ll see quality updates released outside of the monthly schedule. 
  • Unlike feature updates, these types of updates do not include new features, visual changes,  or significant improvements. Instead, they are maintenance updates meant to fix bugs, errors,  patch security vulnerabilities and improve reliability with the current version of Windows 10. 
  • It installs faster and does not require the complete OS reinstallation. 

Note:  Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, and Education editions permit upgrade deferrer to your PC.  When you defer upgrades, new Windows features will not be downloaded or installed for several months (not permanently).
– There is a clear line between deferring upgrades and security updates: Deferring upgrades doesn’t affect security updates.  

This only prevents you from getting the latest Windows features by deferring upgrades. I hope you found this blog post helpful. If you have any questions, please let me know in the comment session.

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