Microsoft’s latest Windows 10 feature update is now available to the public. Should you install the update, or should you wait? What happens if you wait too long? And why did the options to defer updates disappear from Windows 10 Settings?
Those are all good questions without easy answers.
The rules and tools for controlling these big feature updates used to be fairly simple. That’s no longer true; unfortunately the formula for feature updates now feels more like a midterm exam in differential calculus.
When will Microsoft offer you a new feature update? When should you install that update? Before you can solve either problem, you need to calculate several variables. Let’s go through the list.
WHICH EDITION OF WINDOWS 10 ARE YOU RUNNING?
This is the most important variable of all.
As it has since the dawn of the Windows 10 era, Microsoft reserves its full set of update management features for business editions. And in a relatively new wrinkle, the end-of-service date (the date when Microsoft stops supplying updates for a version) has a major impact on when feature updates are automatically installed.
- Home You can’t automatically defer any updates, but you can pause all updates for up to 35 days. On versions that have not yet reached their end-of-service date, feature updates are offered but are not installed automatically.
- Pro Paying for the upgrade to Pro edition (and the relatively new and extremely rare Pro for Workstations edition) unlocks a handful of business-related features, including the ability to set deferral policies for both quality updates and feature updates. You can set these Windows Update for Business policies using the Windows 10 Settings app (in versions 1909 and earlier) or by applying Group Policy (the only option as of version 2004).
- Enterprise or Education These editions offer the same tools for managing updates as Windows 10 Pro. The major difference that’s relevant to this discussion is a longer servicing support schedule: 30 months for the H2 versions, compared to a fixed 18-month servicing support period for Home and Pro editions and the the H1 release of Enterprise edition.
To check which edition is running on the current system, click Start, type settings:about in the search box, and press Enter. That opens the Settings > System > About page, where you’ll find your Windows edition and version information under the Windows Specifications heading. Make a note of that version information; you’ll need it in the next section.
- How to take control of Windows 10 updates and upgrades (even if you don’t own a business)
- FAQ: How to manage Windows 10 updates
- Windows 10 updates: How to install, reinstall, upgrade, and activate
- Windows 10 Enterprise customers will now get Linux-like support
WHICH VERSION OF WINDOWS 10 ARE YOU RUNNING?
In the “Windows as a Service” era, Microsoft releases a new version of Windows 10 every six months. For all updates through the first half of 2020, the major version, corresponding to each one of those semi-annual feature updates, was expressed as a four-digit number in the format yymm. That number indicates the year and month in which the current version was finalized. Version 1909, for example, was completed in September 2019.
Beginning in the second half of 2020, that numbering system changes slightly. The yy portion remains, identifying the year in which the update was released, but it’s followed by H1 or H2, indicating whether the release is from the first or second half of the year. The October 2020 Update, version 20H2, is the first to use this nomenclature, with 21H1 and 21H2 on deck for next year.