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Microsoft Brings Some Transparency to Windows 10 Updates

Starting Tuesday, Microsoft is giving administrators more visibility into how and when it updates Windows 10.

A new "Windows 10 history page," announced by Microsoft on Feb. 9, gives administrators a bulleted and dated list of Windows client updates. The page will likely be well received by IT pros who, prior to Windows 10, had been used to getting detailed information about Windows client changes. However, Microsoft switched its approach with Windows 10, offering scant or no information.

No doubt, the history page will just show highlights and omits many other changes. It does not include links to get more information. However, there is a Windows 10 release information page that offers a few more details about the overall release history. Michael Niehaus, directory of product marketing for Windows at Microsoft, pointed to both resources in this Microsoft blog post.

Tracking Service Branches
The update history page isn't too friendly for IT pros just getting their minds wrapped around Microsoft's current Windows 10 servicing scheme. That scheme involves a "current branch" release, followed by a "current branch for business" release, which happens about four months later. Only the "long-term servicing branch" option permits traditional update deferrals by IT pros, but Microsoft sees that option as only being used for Internet of Things device-management scenarios. Organizations are expected to want to use the current branch for business update approach, according to Microsoft's thinking.

The update history page does have this link to a page that explains Microsoft's Windows 10 servicing options, although a more nuanced explanation can be found here.

The new history page doesn't use Microsoft's servicing branch nomenclature. IT pros have to look at the Windows 10 release information page to get those details. At that page, it's shown that the July Windows 10 update (version 1507) was both the current branch and the current branch for business release, while the November Windows 10 update (version 1511) was just the current branch release. That's really very obscure (and confusing) information, but it's missing in the main Windows 10 history page.

The tools for IT pros to track service branch changes seem to be lagging a bit. Microsoft showcased how tracking will work in a future update to System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) back in January. Under that concept, organizations will get a graphical view of Windows 10 use per service branch, but we don't know when that capability will arrive in SCCM (Microsoft now updates SCCM like Windows 10). In addition, using the free Windows Update for Business management capability to track service-branch changes seems to be a work in progress at this point.

Two Updates, One OS
Microsoft also released Windows 10 updates on Feb. 9, per the new Windows 10 history page. The update that arrives for an organization will depend on which service branch they are using.

Update KB3135173 is for systems using Windows 10 version 1511 (the November update of Windows 10). It will update these Windows 10 systems to build 10586.104, which is now most current build. Microsoft's new update history page shows a bulleted list of improvements included in this update. It's worth checking out as IT pros may spot problematic issue getting fixed. For instance, the first bullet states that Microsoft "fixed issues with authentication, update installation, and operating system installation," although no other details are provided.

Update KB3135174 is for systems using Windows 10 version 1507 (the July update of Windows 10). It will update these Windows 10 systems to build 10240.16682. Microsoft's update history page also provides a bulleted list of improvements that come with this update, although it, too, contains limited information.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.