Windows 10 Version 1903 Arriving in May with Enhanced Controls
The newest Windows 10 feature update, version 1903, is expected to arrive next month, but Microsoft is planning to give users greater control over when it arrives.
The "Windows 10 May 2019 Update," a new version of the operating system that's also known as "version 1903," will be available as a "release preview" for Windows Insider Program testers next week. Commercial users can "begin their targeted deployments in late May, which will mark the beginning of the 18-month servicing period for Windows 10 version 1903 in the Semi-Annual Channel," explained Mike Fortin, corporate vice president of Windows at Microsoft, in a Thursday announcement.
Based on that description, the late-May release likely will be the so-called "semiannual channel targeted" (SAC-T) release of Windows 10 version 1903, although Fortin didn't describe it as such. The SAC-T descriptor is an important milestone for IT pros using Windows Update for Business to manage Windows 10 updates. Microsoft still describes these sorts of release details in its "Release Information" page for Windows 10, but such information typically gets omitted from its blog announcements.
Windows 10 Update Improvements
Fortin said that Microsoft had taken notice of "feedback" from its customers about Windows 10 updates. In response, Microsoft has been taking steps to make feature updates and monthly cumulative updates less disruptive for users.
Fortin described the following changes to that end, which will be coming with the Windows 10 May 2019 Update:
- All Windows 10 users, including Home edition users, will be able to pause an update for up to 35 days (a pause action is in effect for seven days, but it can be renewed five times consecutively).
- Users of Windows 10 version 1803 and later will get a "Download and Install Now" option within the OS starting in late May. The Download and Install option will let users compel the installation of a Windows 10 feature update on an eligible device that has no blocks for it. The "Check for Updates" option will still be there in the OS, but it's just there for getting "monthly quality and security updates."
- Microsoft will coordinate Windows updates and Microsoft Store updates to minimize user disruptions by installing them when machines are idle.
- The current Active Hours feature in Windows 10, which permits users to declare when they don't want to get an update, will have a new option to automatically adjust those hours based on the user's "device-specific usage patterns."
New Health Dashboard
In addition, later this month, Microsoft plans to release a new "health dashboard" for Windows 10 users. It will show "near real-time information on the current [Windows 10] rollout status and known issues (open and resolved) across both feature and monthly updates," Fortin explained.
The new dashboard will be built based on Microsoft's current Windows 10 Update History page, he added.
Fortin described how Microsoft is trying to improve the quality of its updates, starting with the Windows 10 May 2019 release.
For instance, Microsoft plans to keep the new OS at the preview stage longer. The idea is to get feedback from its original equipment manufacturing and independent software vendor partners that test the OS. Microsoft is also improving its machine learning services to detect possible issues. Fortin specifically mentioned detection improvements "in the area of data loss," an issue that had tripped up Microsoft's Windows 10 version 1809 release. Microsoft also plans to add new user feedback prioritization improvements where Microsoft's engineers will see top issues "in hours versus days," he suggested.
Windows Update for Business Deferrals
Microsoft also gave notice to Windows Update for Business users this week that they could have set their Windows 10 update deferral policies for too long of a time period. If it's too long, Windows 10 OS updates can come to a halt, leaving a computing environment unpatched and potentially insecure.
For instance, version 1709 of Windows 10 Pro or Windows 10 Pro for Workstations will fall out of support on April 9, 2019. Organizations that had previously set a 274-day deferral policy will get stuck on a dead OS channel, explained John Wilcox, a Windows as a service evangelist at Microsoft, in a Wednesday announcement.
Wilcox added that the Windows Update for Business management solution currently doesn't account for Windows 10's end-of-service date when IT pros specify a deferral period. Consequently, it's possible for them to "defer past the end of a service date."
Microsoft plans to add a safeguard for the deferral period in the future, Wilcox promised. However, in the interim, he recommended that Windows Update for Business users should not defer updates "more than 180 days."
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.