When does a Windows 10 release reach end of life?

Earlier this year I spoke at the inaugural System Center Universe Australia event on managing Windows 10 servicing with ConfigMgr. At that time, we only had two releases of Windows 10 and Microsoft had not been exactly clear when a release would reach end of life and stop receiving updates and support. We knew that there was minimum support of a year for each release, so what would happen to the initial 1507 build after this milestone had passed? How much longer were Microsoft planning on supporting it?

Quick recap of Windows 10 Servicing

To provide a more agile release cycle of new operating system features and improvements, Microsoft moved to a servicing model with the release of Windows 10. The model allows Microsoft to introduce new features, take advantage of new hardware innovations and provide security improvements without having to release service packs or entirely new versions. Remember, as Terry Myerson stated “there’s no one working on a Windows 11” (for now!)

To manage this release life cycle, Microsoft introduced the concept of ‘branches’ where each release would be staged and promoted from one branch to another once it had been deemed ‘ready’ for consumers and the enterprise. The release branches are as follows:

  • Windows Insider Program
  • Current Branch (CB)
  • Current Branch for Business (CBB)
  • Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB)

By default, Windows 10 Home, Pro and Enterprise are on the Current Branch release schedule, and only Pro and Enterprise editions can join the Current Branch for Business cycle. LTSB does not receive operating system feature updates however it still receives monthly cumulative updates like the CB and CBB releases. The Windows Insider Program is an opt-in release schedule which receives early preview builds of Windows 10 and once a release is deemed release ready, it is promoted to Current Branch. This post will focus on the CB and CBB servicing branches.

Windows 10 Code Base

 

Current Windows 10 Releases

So far, we have had three releases of Windows 10 (excluding the Windows Insider Program and LTSB):

  • Windows 10 1507 (CB and CBB released July 2015)
  • Windows 10 1511 (CB released November 2015, CBB released April 2016)
  • Windows 10 1607 (CB released August 2016)

Windows 10 current versions by service option

When Microsoft released Windows 10 1507 in July 2015, it was the first Current Branch release of the operating system. Microsoft also released it to the Current Branch for Business branch as it was first time a Windows 10 build had been promoted to Current Branch. Microsoft’s goal with Current Branch for Business releases is to ensure that they are ‘enterprise ready’ by delaying the Current Branch release by at least 4 months to ensure that any major issues can be identified and resolved quickly. The Current Branch for Business release is the same as the Current Branch release however the latest cumulative update release is also included.

Support model for Windows 10 CBB releases

Microsoft have stated that they will only ever support two CBB releases at a time which at this stage are builds 1507 and 1511. Build 1607 is only a month old and will not be promoted to CBB for at least another 3 months.

Microsoft also recently announced that support for an expiring CBB release will be extended by 2 months to give organisations more time to plan and migrate to a newer CBB release. So therefore two months after 1607 is promoted to CBB, release 1507 will reach end of life and will no longer receive support or updates, which will be around February or March 2017.

Windows 10 Servicing

It’s also important to note that the LTSB has 10 years of support and updates (5 years support + 5 years extended support) so upgrading to newer LTSB releases such as the August 2016 version is optional.

Windows 10 releases moving forward

This year we are only receiving 1 new Current Branch release even though the frequency of Windows Insider Program releases has increased, as Microsoft has received feedback from the enterprise market stating that their initial intention of 3 to 4 CB releases a year was too aggressive and difficult to manage. Additionally Microsoft have stated that they are expecting to release only two more CB releases in 2017.

Summary

So to summarise:

  • Microsoft will only ever support two CBB releases at a time
  • After a third CBB release, the oldest CBB release will expire 2 months later (so really, Microsoft are supporting 3 releases for a short period of time!)

If you are currently running Windows 10 1507, you have approximately 5 to 6 months to migrate to a newer release, assuming that 1607 will be promoted to CBB in 3 to 4 months time (around December 2016 to January 2017) which includes the additional 2 months support. We recommend that you plan to do this as soon as possible to ensure that you have enough time to move to a supported release. If you are still evaluating Windows 10 or are about you, we recommend that you consider starting with build 1607 so that you receive the new benefits and longevity of this release.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss your Windows 10 servicing strategy further, feel free to leave a comment below or get in contact with us via our website

Cheers

Sam

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