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Microsoft Letting Orgs Test Drive Windows 10 20H2 Before Fall Release

While not scheduled for release until this fall, the next major update to Windows 10 is available for testing now, Microsoft announced this week.

Microsoft may have once classified this release of Windows 10 version 20H2 as a "semiannual channel (targeted)" release, though the company dropped that term last year. Back then, a targeted release was intended to signal to Windows Update for Business users that they should deploy the new operating system in their testing "rings" (small groups of users) to ensure no problems occurred. It's Microsoft's recommended approach for IT pros deploying Microsoft's twice-per-year Windows 10 feature updates.

Windows Update for Business delivers Windows 10 feature updates through the Windows Update service. It can be managed via Group Policy or a mobile device management solution.

This test release of Windows 10 version 20H2 can be accessed through other means than the Windows Update service, though.

"You can access Windows 10, version 20H2 through all standard outlets, including Windows Update, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), and Azure Marketplace, or you can download an ISO file," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Participants in the Windows Insider Program, a publicly available testing program, will get automatically updated to Windows 10 version 20H2 if they are on the Beta Channel (formerly known as the "Slow Ring") or the Release Preview Channel (formerly known as the "Release Preview Ring"). In June, Microsoft renamed its Windows Insider Program Windows 10 test releases as "channels."

The "20H2" nomenclature for this release also represents a naming convention change. Biannual Windows 10 releases for business customers now use "H1" (first half) and "H2" (second half) labels instead of being referred to as "spring" and "fall" releases (which didn't work well for people in different hemispheres). However, Windows 10 releases for consumers are a little different and use the month and year in the name, such as the "September 2020 Update," perhaps.

Microsoft is touting a faster Windows 10 version 20H2 update installation experience for organizations that already have Windows 10 version 2004 (H1) installed. It's because the two OSes share bits that get turned on via a so-called "enablement package."

The shared H2 bits arrive to Windows 10 version 2004 via monthly quality updates, according to Microsoft's explanation:

New features are included in monthly quality updates for version 2004 in an inactive and dormant state. These new 20H2 features remain dormant until they are turned on through the "enablement package," a small, quick-to-install "master switch" that activates the Windows 10, version 20H2 features.

Microsoft promises that Windows 10 systems upgraded in this way will just require "a single restart" to complete the installation.

However, organizations running Enterprise or Education editions of Windows 10 may prefer to just upgrade once in the fall (H2) because these H2 releases are supported for 30 months. If an organization uses a spring (H1) release, then it's just supported for 18 months before an upgrade is required.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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