Among the questions about Windows 11 is how—and how long—Microsoft will service it going forward, and how that compares to Windows 10. Well, Microsoft has actually discussed this a bit, as it turns out. In fact, it did so over a week ago.
I’m not sure how I missed this—fog of war, I guess—but about 10 days ago, Microsoft’s John Cable posted Windows lifecycle and servicing update to Microsoft’s Tech Community blog (and not the normal Windows blog, as usual, so maybe that’s why I missed it). And while it doesn’t answer all of our questions, there is still some good info there.
Key points include:
Update cadence. We knew—and celebrated—this before, but it bears repeating: Windows 11 will have an annual feature update cadence, a welcome change from the semi-annual update cadence of Windows 10. Feature updates, as you must know, are major version upgrades (or “new versions of Windows,” regardless of how they’re branded). Cable even admits that this change was “based on user feedback.” Windows as a Service (WaaS) was not popular with Windows 10 users.
Feature updates. Given this new schedule and the timing for Windows 11’s initial release, it will come as no surprise that Windows 11 feature updates will be released in the second half of the calendar year going forward. Microsoft had moved into a model with Windows 10 a few years ago in which the first feature update of any given year was minor and the second one, in the second half of the year, was a major update with longer support. So this makes sense too.
Feature update support. Each Windows 11 Home, Pro, Pro for Workstations, and Pro Education feature update (e.g. “each version of Windows 11) will be supported for 24 months. Windows 11 Enterprise and Education feature updates will be supported for 36 months.
Consumer capabilities with regards to updates. Mr. Cable says that consumers will have the ability to schedule a restart, pause an update, and have full control over which Windows 11 optional updates to install. The “seeker” process from Windows 10 will apply to the Windows 11 upgrade; if you seek and it’s available, it will be installed (assuming your PC meets the more stringent Windows 11 hardware requirements).
Commercial capabilities with regards to updates. Microsoft’s commercial customers, of course, will have more servicing and update options than consumers; after all, they are paying for these capabilities. The management and deployment tools that businesses use today will move forward unchanged for Windows 11, and Microsoft will update its Endpoint Analytics and Update Compliance tools later this year so that IT can determine which PCs in their environments meet the Windows 11 hardware requirements.
Changes to the monthly update cadence. Like Windows 10, Windows 11 will be serviced by monthly cumulative updates that will appear at least once each month and as often as three times, with each week in a month labeled with a letter (A, B, C, and D). The “B” week remains dedicated to Patch Tuesday, but Microsoft promises those cumulative updates will be up to 40 percent smaller than with Windows 10 and will thus be easier and faster to install. The “C” week is for preview updates that will be made available to seekers as before.
And one big question, of course:
When does Windows 11 support end? Cable doesn’t address this. He notes that Windows 10 support will continue through October 14, 2025, however, and while we already knew that, this information suggests that Windows 11 will have a similar 10-year support lifecycle as well. “We will be sharing more detailed information on both the next update[s] to Windows 10 and Windows 11, including details on how we will make available and rollout each release,” Cable notes.