Windows 10 enterprise updating explained – branches, rings, and the OS as a service
Are you an admin or power user who feels slightly confused by the detail underpinning Microsoft’s Windows 10 updating and patching plans? If so, that’s not surprising. Microsoft has at times been less than clear about the ins and outs of the new Windows 10 updating branches and ‘rings’ which is some respects are similar to the regime pre-dating Windows 10 but dressed up in a new and confusing terminology.
Here we try to piece together what’s what with updating and Windows 10. There are certainly some things to watch out for. What is clear is that this new world is more complex, necessarily so. Today, Windows 10 is still an operating system but at some point it will resemble more of a service. This is the fate for all ‘big’ operating systems.
The mental map to understanding what’s going in are the different updating ‘branches’ and, within each of those, the deployment ‘rings’. A second important issue is to understand the difference between ‘updates’ (additional feature and services) and patches/fixes (security updates). The first of these is described in detail below while the second will happen as and when they deigned necessary by Microsoft.
For a specific primer on Windows 10’s main Security features see Windows 10 – the top 7 enterprise security features
Windows 10 updating: Current Branch (CB) – Windows 10 Home
This is plainly just the old Windows Update (WU) that home users have grown used to since its appearance in 2003 with Patch Tuesday but there are some important subtleties. Instead of the current monthly patching cycle, some updates will be applied on an ongoing basis, including Defender updates and what would once have been called ‘out of band’ security patches. Bigger updates covering new features will happen every four months, nudging Windows evolution along more rapidly than in the past.
In short, security fixes might coincide with CB updates but are, at a deeper level, independent of them and can happen on any timescale Microsoft chooses.