Changes to Windows 10 as a service

By November 17, 2021Windows AutoPilot

Windows as a Service

With today’s release of Windows 10 21H2 (a fairly boring release overall as there aren’t really any significant new features — thankfully it can easily be deployed to Windows 10 2004 and above as an enablement package), Microsoft announced that there is no longer a “Semi-Annual Channel.” That’s because Windows 10 (like Windows 11) will only be updated once per year for the rest of its lifetime (at least through 2025). The new term to use for these feature updates is now “General Availability Channel.” (You can abbreviate that as GAC, which will thoroughly confuse .NET developers, where a GAC is something completely different.)

OK, so there’s going to be one release per year for Windows 10. How does that affect you? First, let’s compare the (current) Windows 10 and Windows 11 lifecycles:

Windows 10 Windows 11
Home and Pro Feature updates once per year (fall)
18 months of support
Feature updates once per year (fall)
24 months of support
Enterprise and Education Feature updates once per year (fall)
30 months of support
Feature updates once per year (fall)
36 months of support
Enterprise LTSC Five years of support for LTSC 2021
Maybe no more LTSC releases?
Five years of support for LTSC
(none yet released)

So now the only real difference is in the support timeframes. Windows 10 continues to have shorter timeframes, with six months less time for both Pro and Enterprise/Education.

For those organizations running Windows 10 Pro, that’s going to mean a pretty tight timeframe: You won’t see a new feature update until 12 months after the previous one, and the day it comes out the six month countdown starts; you must finish within that six months. That’s much more leisurely with Windows 11, where you have 12 months after each release to deploy the new one.

For those running Windows 10 Enterprise or Education, once-per-year deployments are still quite reasonable, with 18 months to upgrade after each new GAC release. If you want to try to do an every-other-year deployment with Windows 10, you’re in a similar boat as the Windows 10 Pro users: You would then only have six months to complete your deployment, and that’s not much fun. But if you are using Windows 11 Enterprise or Education, an every-other-year policy is quite reasonable, as you would have a full year to deploy the N+2 release.

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