Windows 10 upgrades are now delivered differently. Here’s why that matters

Windows 10's new motto is more bug fixes, less problems

The major updates to Windows 10 can be a headache. From the infamous blue screen of death errors, data deletion bugs, or privacy concerns, installing the latest version of Windows 10 isn’t as seamless as it should be.

That’s why, heading into the release of this year’s Windows 10 19H2 Update, Microsoft is making a change to the way major updates are rolled out. You’ll still be seeing the latest versions of Windows (often known as “featured updates”) through Windows Update, but under the hood, things work very differently.

Here’s an explanation of how things work, and how it will impact you come download time.

Twice a year, just as before

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Before getting into changes, there is a need to address some history. Unlike years past when Windows versions were released every three or five years, Microsoft sells Windows 10 as “Windows as a Service.

What does that mean for you? Well, it boils down to twice a year major featured updates to Windows 10. One in the spring, and another in the fall, usually in April and October. This keeps the operating system fully updated, fresh with new features, and is intended to help companies and PC manufacturers with deploying Windows 10.

For instance, earlier this year, Microsoft released the Windows 10 May 2019 Update. Internally, the update was code-named 19H1, and it was pushed out in late spring — the first half of the year. The next update to follow it is currently in testing with Windows Insiders and is code-named 19H2. It is rumored to be released in the second half of the year, in September.

However, in the face of criticism of buggy updates, starting with 19H2 in 2019, Microsoft is changing the way it handles things. This twice-a-year motto has been used for quite some time. Last year, Windows 10 received the April 2018 Update, followed by the bug-plagued October 2018 Update.

An emphasis on quality

Windows Update and Security

Now, it’s time for the changes. While Microsoft will still update Windows 10 twice a year, featured updates from the second half of the year (for the fall) has now shifted to servicing Windows with bug fixes.

For example, this year’s May 2019 Update from the spring already delivered on new features such as a new light theme and improved start menu, as well as Windows Sandbox. That means that the incoming 19H2 update won’t necessarily ship with brand-new features and is primarily designed to “fix” errors and bugs with the May 2019 Update.

“The next feature update for Windows 10 (known in the Windows Insider Program as 19H2) will be a scoped set of features for select performance improvements, enterprise features, and quality enhancements,” Microsoft explained.

So, why does that matter for you? Well, if you’re already running the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, it should mean for a more quality experience when updating to the new version of Windows 10. Similar to the service packs from Windows XP and Windows 7, Windows 10 featured updates are now smaller in scope.

It also means that if you’re already running with the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, the incoming 19H2 Update will be less disruptive to your laptop or desktop. While still completely optional, the download size will be significantly smaller, and 19H2 will appear in Windows Update just as a standard Windows security patch. It should install faster, and without the headaches from previous Windows 10 feature updates.

You’re still in control

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But what if your PC is on an older version of Windows 10? Do these changes to the way major Windows 10 Updates are rolled out still apply to you? Will you have smaller update sizes? The short answer is No, but you’ll still be in control.

According to Microsoft, this new system only applies if your PC if it is already running the May 2019 Update.

“For consumer or commercial users coming from versions of Windows 10 earlier than the May 2019 Update (version 1903), the process of updating to the new release will be the same as it has been and work in a similar manner to previous Windows 10 feature updates,” explained Microsoft.

In April, Microsoft announced separate enhancements to the Windows Update method, so these will all apply to you. Your PC won’t automatically download the 19H2 update. You’ll see it appear under Windows Update, and you’ll be in full control if you want to install it or not with a Download and Install button.

A slower pace is a good thing

Compared to other major operating systems, Windows 10’s upgrade system is a bit complex. Apple only releases MacOS versions once a year, but Microsoft doubles that to two. Previously, these twice-a-year updates ensured Microsoft was always adding new features to Windows 10, but now, it’s more of a focus on bug fixes.

That’s a good thing, as considering all the types of hardware in the wild, Windows is much more difficult to maintain. Microsoft wants a healthy Windows 10 experience for everyone, everywhere. With support for Windows 7 ending soon, that’s more important than ever.

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