Windows 10

Windows 10 is a Microsoft operating system for personal computers, tablets, embedded devices and internet of things devices. Microsoft released Windows 10 in July 2015 as a follow-up to Windows 8. Windows 10 Mobile is a version of the operating system Microsoft designed specifically for smartphones.

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Windows 10 Enterprise E3 builds on Windows 10 Pro by delivering enterprise-grade security, management, and control features for large or mid-sized companies, or any size business that processes sensitive data, operates in regulated industries, or develops intellectual property that must remain secured. The increased security helps protect your sensitive data, identities, and devices from cybersecurity threats, and provides enhanced deployment and software and device management options.
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Windows 10

The Windows 10 operating system introduces a new way to build, deploy, and service Windows: Windows as a service. Microsoft has reimagined each part of the process, to simplify the lives of IT pros and maintain a consistent Windows 10 experience for its customers. These improvements focus on maximizing customer involvement in Windows development, simplifying the deployment and servicing of Windows client computers, and leveling out the resources needed to deploy and maintain Windows over time.

 

Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP

Windows 10 Enterprise E3 launched in the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) channel on September 1, 2016. Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP is a new offering that delivers, by subscription, exclusive features reserved for Windows 10 Enterprise edition. This offering is available through the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) channel via the Partner Center as an online service. Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP provides a flexible, per-user subscription for small- and medium-sized organizations (from one to hundreds of users). To take advantage of this offering, you must have the following:

  • Windows 10 Pro, version 1607 (Windows 10 Anniversary Update) or later, installed and activated, on the devices to be upgraded
  • Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) available for identity management

Starting with Windows 10, version 1607 (Windows 10 Anniversary Update), you can move from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise more easily than ever before—no keys and no reboots. After one of your users enters the Azure AD credentials associated with a Windows 10 Enterprise E3 license, the operating system turns from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise and all the appropriate Windows 10 Enterprise features are unlocked. When a subscription license expires or is transferred to another user, the Windows 10 Enterprise device seamlessly steps back down to Windows 10 Pro.

Previously, only organizations with a Microsoft Volume Licensing Agreement could deploy Windows 10 Enterprise to their users. Now, with Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP, small- and medium-sized organizations can more easily take advantage of Windows 10 Enterprise features.

When you purchase Windows 10 Enterprise E3 via a partner, you get the following benefits:

  • Windows 10 Enterprise edition. Devices currently running Windows 10 Pro, version 1607 can get Windows 10 Enterprise Current Branch (CB) or Current Branch for Business (CBB). This benefit does not include Long Term Service Branch (LTSB).
  • Support from one to hundreds of users. Although the Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP program does not have a limitation on the number of licenses an organization can have, the program is designed for small- and medium-sized organizations.
  • Deploy on up to five devices. For each user covered by the license, you can deploy Windows 10 Enterprise edition on up to five devices.
  • Roll back to Windows 10 Pro at any time. When a user’s subscription expires or is transferred to another user, the Windows 10 Enterprise device reverts seamlessly to Windows 10 Pro edition (after a grace period of up to 90 days).
  • Monthly, per-user pricing model. This makes Windows 10 Enterprise E3 affordable for any organization.
  • Move licenses between users. Licenses can be quickly and easily reallocated from one user to another user, allowing you to optimize your licensing investment against changing needs.

How does the Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP program compare with Microsoft Volume Licensing Agreements and Software Assurance?

  • Microsoft Volume Licensing programs are broader in scope, providing organizations with access to licensing for all Microsoft products.
  • Software Assurance provides organizations with the following categories of benefits:
    • Deployment and management. These benefits include planning services, Microsoft Desktop Optimization (MDOP), Windows Virtual Desktop Access Rights, Windows-To-Go Rights, Windows Roaming Use Rights, Windows Thin PC, Windows RT Companion VDA Rights, and other benefits.
    • Training. These benefits include training vouchers, online e-learning, and a home use program.
    • Support. These benefits include 24x7 problem resolution support, backup capabilities for disaster recovery, System Center Global Service Monitor, and a passive secondary instance of SQL Server.
    • Specialized. These benefits include step-up licensing availability (which enables you to migrate software from an earlier edition to a higher-level edition) and to spread license and Software Assurance payments across three equal, annual sums.

In addition, in Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP, a partner can manage your licenses for you. With Software Assurance, you, the customer, manage your own licenses.

In summary, the Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP program is an upgrade offering that provides small- and medium-sized organizations easier, more flexible access to the benefits of Windows 10 Enterprise edition, whereas Microsoft Volume Licensing programs and Software Assurance are broader in scope and provide benefits beyond access to Windows 10 Enterprise edition.

Compare Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise editions

Windows 10 Enterprise edition has a number of features that are unavailable in Windows 10 Pro. Table 1 lists the Windows 10 Enterprise features not found in Windows 10 Pro. Many of these features are security-related, whereas others enable finer-grained device management.

Table 1. Windows 10 Enterprise features not found in Windows 10 Pro

Windows 10

The Windows 10 operating system introduces a new way to build, deploy, and service Windows: Windows as a service. Microsoft has reimagined each part of the process, to simplify the lives of IT pros and maintain a consistent Windows 10 experience for its customers. These improvements focus on maximizing customer involvement in Windows development, simplifying the deployment and servicing of Windows client computers, and leveling out the resources needed to deploy and maintain Windows over time.

 

Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP

Windows 10 Enterprise E3 launched in the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) channel on September 1, 2016. Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP is a new offering that delivers, by subscription, exclusive features reserved for Windows 10 Enterprise edition. This offering is available through the Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) channel via the Partner Center as an online service. Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP provides a flexible, per-user subscription for small- and medium-sized organizations (from one to hundreds of users). To take advantage of this offering, you must have the following:

  • Windows 10 Pro, version 1607 (Windows 10 Anniversary Update) or later, installed and activated, on the devices to be upgraded
  • Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) available for identity management

Starting with Windows 10, version 1607 (Windows 10 Anniversary Update), you can move from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise more easily than ever before—no keys and no reboots. After one of your users enters the Azure AD credentials associated with a Windows 10 Enterprise E3 license, the operating system turns from Windows 10 Pro to Windows 10 Enterprise and all the appropriate Windows 10 Enterprise features are unlocked. When a subscription license expires or is transferred to another user, the Windows 10 Enterprise device seamlessly steps back down to Windows 10 Pro.

Previously, only organizations with a Microsoft Volume Licensing Agreement could deploy Windows 10 Enterprise to their users. Now, with Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP, small- and medium-sized organizations can more easily take advantage of Windows 10 Enterprise features.

When you purchase Windows 10 Enterprise E3 via a partner, you get the following benefits:

  • Windows 10 Enterprise edition. Devices currently running Windows 10 Pro, version 1607 can get Windows 10 Enterprise Current Branch (CB) or Current Branch for Business (CBB). This benefit does not include Long Term Service Branch (LTSB).
  • Support from one to hundreds of users. Although the Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP program does not have a limitation on the number of licenses an organization can have, the program is designed for small- and medium-sized organizations.
  • Deploy on up to five devices. For each user covered by the license, you can deploy Windows 10 Enterprise edition on up to five devices.
  • Roll back to Windows 10 Pro at any time. When a user’s subscription expires or is transferred to another user, the Windows 10 Enterprise device reverts seamlessly to Windows 10 Pro edition (after a grace period of up to 90 days).
  • Monthly, per-user pricing model. This makes Windows 10 Enterprise E3 affordable for any organization.
  • Move licenses between users. Licenses can be quickly and easily reallocated from one user to another user, allowing you to optimize your licensing investment against changing needs.

How does the Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP program compare with Microsoft Volume Licensing Agreements and Software Assurance?

  • Microsoft Volume Licensing programs are broader in scope, providing organizations with access to licensing for all Microsoft products.
  • Software Assurance provides organizations with the following categories of benefits:
    • Deployment and management. These benefits include planning services, Microsoft Desktop Optimization (MDOP), Windows Virtual Desktop Access Rights, Windows-To-Go Rights, Windows Roaming Use Rights, Windows Thin PC, Windows RT Companion VDA Rights, and other benefits.
    • Training. These benefits include training vouchers, online e-learning, and a home use program.
    • Support. These benefits include 24x7 problem resolution support, backup capabilities for disaster recovery, System Center Global Service Monitor, and a passive secondary instance of SQL Server.
    • Specialized. These benefits include step-up licensing availability (which enables you to migrate software from an earlier edition to a higher-level edition) and to spread license and Software Assurance payments across three equal, annual sums.

In addition, in Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP, a partner can manage your licenses for you. With Software Assurance, you, the customer, manage your own licenses.

In summary, the Windows 10 Enterprise E3 in CSP program is an upgrade offering that provides small- and medium-sized organizations easier, more flexible access to the benefits of Windows 10 Enterprise edition, whereas Microsoft Volume Licensing programs and Software Assurance are broader in scope and provide benefits beyond access to Windows 10 Enterprise edition.

Compare Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise editions

Windows 10 Enterprise edition has a number of features that are unavailable in Windows 10 Pro. Table 1 lists the Windows 10 Enterprise features not found in Windows 10 Pro. Many of these features are security-related, whereas others enable finer-grained device management.

Table 1. Windows 10 Enterprise features not found in Windows 10 Pro

COMPARE WINDOWS 10 PRO AND ENTERPRISE EDITIONS

Feature

Description

Credential Guard

This feature uses virtualization-based security to help protect security secrets (for example, NTLM password hashes, Kerberos Ticket Granting Tickets) so that only privileged system software can access them. This helps prevent Pass-the-Hash or Pass-the-Ticket attacks.

Credential Guard has the following features:

  • Hardware-level security.  Credential Guard uses hardware platform security features (such as Secure Boot and virtualization) to help protect derived domain credentials and other secrets.
  • Virtualization-based security.  Windows services that access derived domain credentials and other secrets run in a virtualized, protected environment that is isolated.
  • Improved protection against persistent threats.  Credential Guard works with other technologies (e.g., Device Guard) to help provide further protection against attacks, no matter how persistent.
  • Improved manageability.  Credential Guard can be managed through Group Policy, Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI), or Windows PowerShell.

For more information, see Protect derived domain credentials with Credential Guard.

Credential Guard requires UEFI 2.3.1 or greater with Trusted Boot; Virtualization Extensions such as Intel VT-x, AMD-V, and SLAT must be enabled; x64 version of Windows; IOMMU, such as Intel VT-d, AMD-Vi; BIOS Lockdown; TPM 2.0 recommended for device health attestation (will use software if TPM 2.0 not present)

Device Guard

This feature is a combination of hardware and software security features that allows only trusted applications to run on a device. Even if an attacker manages to get control of the Windows kernel, he or she will be much less likely to run executable code. Device Guard can use virtualization-based security (VBS) in Windows 10 Enterprise edition to isolate the Code Integrity service from the Windows kernel itself. With VBS, even if malware gains access to the kernel, the effects can be severely limited, because the hypervisor can prevent the malware from executing code.

Device Guard does the following:

  • Helps protect against malware
  • Helps protect the Windows system core from vulnerability and zero-day exploits
  • Allows only trusted apps to run

For more information, see Introduction to Device Guard.

AppLocker management

This feature helps IT pros determine which applications and files users can run on a device. The applications and files that can be managed include executable files, scripts, Windows Installer files, dynamic-link libraries (DLLs), packaged apps, and packaged app installers.

For more information, see AppLocker.

Application Virtualization (App-V)

This feature makes applications available to end users without installing the applications directly on users’ devices. App-V transforms applications into centrally managed services that are never installed and don't conflict with other applications. This feature also helps ensure that applications are kept current with the latest security updates.

For more information, see Getting Started with App-V for Windows 10.

User Experience Virtualization (UE-V)

With this feature, you can capture user-customized Windows and application settings and store them on a centrally managed network file share. When users log on, their personalized settings are applied to their work session, regardless of which device or virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) sessions they log on to.

UE-V provides the ability to do the following:

  • Specify which application and Windows settings synchronize across user devices
  • Deliver the settings anytime and anywhere users work throughout the enterprise
  • Create custom templates for your third-party or line-of-business applications
  • Recover settings after hardware replacement or upgrade, or after re-imaging a virtual machine to its initial state

For more information, see User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) for Windows 10 overview.

Managed User Experience

This feature helps customize and lock down a Windows device’s user interface to restrict it to a specific task. For example, you can configure a device for a controlled scenario such as a kiosk or classroom device. The user experience would be automatically reset once a user signs off. You can also restrict access to services including Cortana or the Windows Store, and manage Start layout options, such as:

  • Removing and preventing access to the Shut Down, Restart, Sleep, and Hibernate commands
  • Removing Log Off (the User tile) from the Start menu
  • Removing frequent programs from the Start menu
  • Removing the All Programs list from the Start menu
  • Preventing users from customizing their Start screen
  • Forcing Start menu to be either full-screen size or menu size
  • Preventing changes to Taskbar and Start menu settings

Deployment of Windows 10 Enterprise E3 licenses

See Deploy Windows 10 Enterprise licenses.

Deploy Windows 10 Enterprise features

Now that you have Windows 10 Enterprise edition running on devices, how do you take advantage of the Enterprise edition features and capabilities? What are the next steps that need to be taken for each of the features discussed in Table 1?

The following sections provide you with the high-level tasks that need to be performed in your environment to help users take advantage of the Windows 10 Enterprise edition features.

 

Building

Prior to Windows 10, Microsoft released new versions of Windows every few years. This traditional deployment schedule imposed a training burden on users because the feature revisions were often significant. That schedule also meant waiting long periods without new features — a scenario that doesn’t work in today’s rapidly changing world, a world in which new security, management, and deployment capabilities are necessary to address challenges. Windows as a service will deliver smaller feature updates two times per year, around March and September, to help address these issues.

In the past, when Microsoft developed new versions of Windows, it typically released technical previews near the end of the process, when Windows was nearly ready to ship. With Windows 10, new features will be delivered to the Windows Insider community as soon as possible — during the development cycle, through a process called flighting — so that organizations can see exactly what Microsoft is developing and start their testing as soon as possible.

Microsoft also depends on receiving feedback from organizations throughout the development process so that it can make adjustments as quickly as possible rather than waiting until after release. For more information about the Windows Insider Program and how to sign up, see the section Windows Insider.

Of course Microsoft also performs extensive internal testing, with engineering teams installing new builds daily, and larger groups of employees installing builds frequently, all before those builds are ever released to the Windows Insider Program.

Deploying

Deploying Windows 10 is simpler than with previous versions of Windows. When migrating from earlier versions of Windows, an easy in-place upgrade process can be used to automatically preserve all apps, settings, and data. And once running Windows 10, deployment of Windows 10 feature updates will be equally simple.

One of the biggest challenges for organizations when it comes to deploying a new version of Windows is compatibility testing. Whereas compatibility was previously a concern for organizations upgrading to a new version of Windows, Windows 10 is compatible with most hardware and software capable of running on Windows 7 or later. Because of this high level of compatibility, the app compatibility testing process can be greatly simplified.

Application compatibility

Application compatibility testing has historically been a burden when approaching a Windows deployment or upgrade. With Windows 10, application compatibility from the perspective of desktop applications, websites, and apps built on the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) has improved tremendously. Microsoft understands the challenges organizations experienced when they migrated from the Windows XP operating system to Windows 7 and has been working to make Windows 10 upgrades a much better experience.

Most Windows 7–compatible desktop applications will be compatible with Windows 10 straight out of the box. Windows 10 achieved such high compatibility because the changes in the existing Win32 application programming interfaces were minimal. Combined with valuable feedback via the Windows Insider Program and diagnostic data, this level of compatibility can be maintained through each feature update. As for websites, Windows 10 includes Internet Explorer 11 and its backward-compatibility modes for legacy websites. Finally, UWP apps follow a compatibility story similar to desktop applications, so most of them will be compatible with Windows 10.

For the most important business-critical applications, organizations should still perform testing on a regular basis to validate compatibility with new builds. For remaining applications, consider validating them as part of a pilot deployment process to reduce the time spent on compatibility testing. Desktop Analytics is a cloud-based service that integrates with Configuration Manager. The service provides insight and intelligence for you to make more informed decisions about the update readiness of your Windows endpoints, including assessment of your existing applications. For more, see Ready for modern desktop retirement FAQ.

Device compatibility

Device compatibility in Windows 10 is also very strong; new hardware is not needed for Windows 10 as any device capable of running Windows 7 or later can run Windows 10. In fact, the minimum hardware requirements to run Windows 10 are the same as those required for Windows 7. Most hardware drivers that functioned in Windows 8.1, Windows 8, or Windows 7 will continue to function in Windows 10.

Servicing

Traditional Windows servicing has included several release types: major revisions (e.g., the Windows 8.1, Windows 8, and Windows 7 operating systems), service packs, and monthly updates. With Windows 10, there are two release types: feature updates that add new functionality twice per year, and quality updates that provide security and reliability fixes at least once a month.

With Windows 10, organizations will need to change the way they approach deploying updates. Servicing channels are the first way to separate users into deployment groups for feature and quality updates. With the introduction of servicing channels comes the concept of a deployment ring, which is simply a way to categorize the combination of a deployment group and a servicing channel to group devices for successive waves of deployment. For more information about developing a deployment strategy that leverages servicing channels and deployment rings, see Plan servicing strategy for Windows 10 updates.

For information about each servicing tool available for Windows 10, see Servicing tools.

To align with this new update delivery model, Windows 10 has three servicing channels, each of which provides different levels of flexibility over when these updates are delivered to client computers. For information about the servicing channels available in Windows 10, see Servicing channels.

Naming changes

There are currently two release channels for Windows 10:

  • The Semi-Annual Channel receives feature updates twice per year.
  • The Long-Term Servicing Channel, which is designed to be used only for specialized devices (which typically don't run Office) such as those that control medical equipment or ATM machines, receives new feature releases every two to three years.

 Important

With each Semi-Annual Channel release, we recommend beginning deployment right away to devices selected for early adoption (targeted validation) and ramp up to full deployment at your discretion. This will enable you to gain access to new features, experiences, and integrated security as soon as possible. The "Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)" designation is no longer used. For more information, see the blog post Windows 10 and the "disappearing" SAC-T.

 Note

For additional information, see the section about Servicing Channels.

You can also read the blog post Waas simplified and aligned, with details on this change.

 Important

Devices on the Semi-Annual Channel must have their diagnostic data set to 1 (Basic) or higher, in order to ensure that the service is performing at the expected quality. For instructions to set the diagnostic data level, see Configure the operating system diagnostic data level.

Feature updates

With Windows 10, Microsoft will package new features into feature updates that can be deployed using existing management tools. Because feature updates are delivered more frequently than with previous Windows releases — twice per year, around March and September, rather than every 3–5 years — changes will be in bite-sized chunks rather than all at once and end user readiness time much shorter.

Quality updates

Monthly updates in previous Windows versions were often overwhelming because of the sheer number of updates available each month. Many organizations selectively chose which updates they wanted to install and which they didn’t, and this created countless scenarios in which organizations deployed essential security updates but picked only a subset of non-security fixes.

In Windows 10, rather than receiving several updates each month and trying to figure out which the organization needs, which ultimately causes platform fragmentation, administrators will see one cumulative monthly update that supersedes the previous month’s update, containing both security and non-security fixes. This approach makes patching simpler and ensures that customers’ devices are more closely aligned with the testing done at Microsoft, reducing unexpected issues resulting from patching. The left side of Figure 1 provides an example of Windows 7 devices in an enterprise and what their current patch level might look like. On the right is what Microsoft’s test environment devices contain. This drastic difference is the basis for many compatibility issues and system anomalies related to Windows updates.

 

   
   
   
   
   
   
   

Deployment of Windows 10 Enterprise E3 licenses

See Deploy Windows 10 Enterprise licenses.

Deploy Windows 10 Enterprise features

Now that you have Windows 10 Enterprise edition running on devices, how do you take advantage of the Enterprise edition features and capabilities? What are the next steps that need to be taken for each of the features discussed in Table 1?

The following sections provide you with the high-level tasks that need to be performed in your environment to help users take advantage of the Windows 10 Enterprise edition features.

 

Building

Prior to Windows 10, Microsoft released new versions of Windows every few years. This traditional deployment schedule imposed a training burden on users because the feature revisions were often significant. That schedule also meant waiting long periods without new features — a scenario that doesn’t work in today’s rapidly changing world, a world in which new security, management, and deployment capabilities are necessary to address challenges. Windows as a service will deliver smaller feature updates two times per year, around March and September, to help address these issues.

In the past, when Microsoft developed new versions of Windows, it typically released technical previews near the end of the process, when Windows was nearly ready to ship. With Windows 10, new features will be delivered to the Windows Insider community as soon as possible — during the development cycle, through a process called flighting — so that organizations can see exactly what Microsoft is developing and start their testing as soon as possible.

Microsoft also depends on receiving feedback from organizations throughout the development process so that it can make adjustments as quickly as possible rather than waiting until after release. For more information about the Windows Insider Program and how to sign up, see the section Windows Insider.

Of course Microsoft also performs extensive internal testing, with engineering teams installing new builds daily, and larger groups of employees installing builds frequently, all before those builds are ever released to the Windows Insider Program.

Deploying

Deploying Windows 10 is simpler than with previous versions of Windows. When migrating from earlier versions of Windows, an easy in-place upgrade process can be used to automatically preserve all apps, settings, and data. And once running Windows 10, deployment of Windows 10 feature updates will be equally simple.

One of the biggest challenges for organizations when it comes to deploying a new version of Windows is compatibility testing. Whereas compatibility was previously a concern for organizations upgrading to a new version of Windows, Windows 10 is compatible with most hardware and software capable of running on Windows 7 or later. Because of this high level of compatibility, the app compatibility testing process can be greatly simplified.

Application compatibility

Application compatibility testing has historically been a burden when approaching a Windows deployment or upgrade. With Windows 10, application compatibility from the perspective of desktop applications, websites, and apps built on the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) has improved tremendously. Microsoft understands the challenges organizations experienced when they migrated from the Windows XP operating system to Windows 7 and has been working to make Windows 10 upgrades a much better experience.

Most Windows 7–compatible desktop applications will be compatible with Windows 10 straight out of the box. Windows 10 achieved such high compatibility because the changes in the existing Win32 application programming interfaces were minimal. Combined with valuable feedback via the Windows Insider Program and diagnostic data, this level of compatibility can be maintained through each feature update. As for websites, Windows 10 includes Internet Explorer 11 and its backward-compatibility modes for legacy websites. Finally, UWP apps follow a compatibility story similar to desktop applications, so most of them will be compatible with Windows 10.

For the most important business-critical applications, organizations should still perform testing on a regular basis to validate compatibility with new builds. For remaining applications, consider validating them as part of a pilot deployment process to reduce the time spent on compatibility testing. Desktop Analytics is a cloud-based service that integrates with Configuration Manager. The service provides insight and intelligence for you to make more informed decisions about the update readiness of your Windows endpoints, including assessment of your existing applications. For more, see Ready for modern desktop retirement FAQ.

Device compatibility

Device compatibility in Windows 10 is also very strong; new hardware is not needed for Windows 10 as any device capable of running Windows 7 or later can run Windows 10. In fact, the minimum hardware requirements to run Windows 10 are the same as those required for Windows 7. Most hardware drivers that functioned in Windows 8.1, Windows 8, or Windows 7 will continue to function in Windows 10.

Servicing

Traditional Windows servicing has included several release types: major revisions (e.g., the Windows 8.1, Windows 8, and Windows 7 operating systems), service packs, and monthly updates. With Windows 10, there are two release types: feature updates that add new functionality twice per year, and quality updates that provide security and reliability fixes at least once a month.

With Windows 10, organizations will need to change the way they approach deploying updates. Servicing channels are the first way to separate users into deployment groups for feature and quality updates. With the introduction of servicing channels comes the concept of a deployment ring, which is simply a way to categorize the combination of a deployment group and a servicing channel to group devices for successive waves of deployment. For more information about developing a deployment strategy that leverages servicing channels and deployment rings, see Plan servicing strategy for Windows 10 updates.

For information about each servicing tool available for Windows 10, see Servicing tools.

To align with this new update delivery model, Windows 10 has three servicing channels, each of which provides different levels of flexibility over when these updates are delivered to client computers. For information about the servicing channels available in Windows 10, see Servicing channels.

Naming changes

There are currently two release channels for Windows 10:

  • The Semi-Annual Channel receives feature updates twice per year.
  • The Long-Term Servicing Channel, which is designed to be used only for specialized devices (which typically don't run Office) such as those that control medical equipment or ATM machines, receives new feature releases every two to three years.

 Important

With each Semi-Annual Channel release, we recommend beginning deployment right away to devices selected for early adoption (targeted validation) and ramp up to full deployment at your discretion. This will enable you to gain access to new features, experiences, and integrated security as soon as possible. The "Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)" designation is no longer used. For more information, see the blog post Windows 10 and the "disappearing" SAC-T.

 Note

For additional information, see the section about Servicing Channels.

You can also read the blog post Waas simplified and aligned, with details on this change.

 Important

Devices on the Semi-Annual Channel must have their diagnostic data set to 1 (Basic) or higher, in order to ensure that the service is performing at the expected quality. For instructions to set the diagnostic data level, see Configure the operating system diagnostic data level.

Feature updates

With Windows 10, Microsoft will package new features into feature updates that can be deployed using existing management tools. Because feature updates are delivered more frequently than with previous Windows releases — twice per year, around March and September, rather than every 3–5 years — changes will be in bite-sized chunks rather than all at once and end user readiness time much shorter.

Quality updates

Monthly updates in previous Windows versions were often overwhelming because of the sheer number of updates available each month. Many organizations selectively chose which updates they wanted to install and which they didn’t, and this created countless scenarios in which organizations deployed essential security updates but picked only a subset of non-security fixes.

In Windows 10, rather than receiving several updates each month and trying to figure out which the organization needs, which ultimately causes platform fragmentation, administrators will see one cumulative monthly update that supersedes the previous month’s update, containing both security and non-security fixes. This approach makes patching simpler and ensures that customers’ devices are more closely aligned with the testing done at Microsoft, reducing unexpected issues resulting from patching. The left side of Figure 1 provides an example of Windows 7 devices in an enterprise and what their current patch level might look like. On the right is what Microsoft’s test environment devices contain. This drastic difference is the basis for many compatibility issues and system anomalies related to Windows updates.

 

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