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Windows 10 will no longer auto install feature updates twice a year

Windows Update
Windows Update (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft has announced that starting with the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, users will no longer be forced to install new Windows 10 feature updates as they become available. This comes after feedback from users who have had countless issues with updates breaking programs, losing files, and installing at inconvenient times. Microsoft has been working hard to improve Windows Update, and while the system is better than it was at launch in 2015, it's still not perfect. Now, users will have the option to not have to deal with feature updates when they are released.

What Microsoft is doing here is splitting Windows Update in two. The normal "check for updates" button will now only function for security and monthly patches. Feature updates now get their own area in Windows Update where the user can initiate the download and install process for the latest feature update available. If the user doesn't want to initiate that process, they don't have to. The user will be alerted that a new feature update is available every now and then, but at no point will the user be forced to install that update, as long as the version of Windows 10 they're currently running is still in support.

Related: The difference between 'feature updates' and 'quality updates'

That last part is key. Users can't remain on an old version of Windows 10 forever. Microsoft says that it will automatically install the latest feature update when the version of Windows 10 the user is currently running reaches end of support. For consumers, a feature update is in support for around 18 months. So, for example, assuming Microsoft releases two feature updates a year, users running Windows 10 version 1809 can opt to not install version 1903, version 1909, and version 2003 before version 1809 runs out of support and Microsoft automatically installs the latest version available, which would likely be version 2009 at the time.

Microsoft's Corporate Vice President for Windows, Mike Fortin, said the following:

Beginning with the Windows 10 May 2019 Update [version 1903], users will be more in control of initiating the feature OS update. We will provide notification that an update is available and recommended based on our data, but it will be largely up to the user to initiate when the update occurs. When Windows 10 devices are at, or will soon reach, end of service, Windows update will continue to automatically initiate a feature update; keeping machines supported and receiving monthly updates is critical to device security and ecosystem health.

This is an unprecedented change for Microsoft in the era of "Windows as a Service," which has attempted to keep everyone up to date with the latest version of Windows 10. Users will now be able to skip entire releases if they decide they don't want it. Of course, security and monthly patches will still be downloaded and installed automatically, but the user is able to pause those updates for up to 35 days if needed. Windows 10 should no longer forcefully restart itself unless you've delayed updates for a very, very long time.

These changes to Windows Update should please many users who have become frustrated with Windows 10's forceful update nature. Microsoft is giving back control to the user, allowing them to choose for themselves when a feature update should be installed on their PC, at least for 18 months.

What are your thoughts on these changes? Let us know in the comments.

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Zac Bowden
Zac Bowden

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

17 Comments
  • Won't affect me, but choice is good.
  • Yeah me too
  • WOW, this is huge news! Hope it will solve one of the biggest complaints regular users have with Windows...
  • Yeah let's hope
  • Ill be happy when I can turn off telemetry.
  • Just for the record, I hate the advertisements you are now tacking onto the end of articles seen through the Windows Central app. I don't quite understand the pattern of letting users hold off for 18 months and then bringing them up to current. It seems like if you could get into a tic tok pattern of Fall Release being major features and Spring Release being Feature Polish, you'd want to have all the slow pokes be on the Feature Polish releases as opposed to every 18 months when you either get two big feature bumps and one polish, or two polishes and one feature bump.
  • Don't worry, the advertisements are on the desktop website too.
  • Why did you just point that out.... Now I can't unsee it. 😛
  • Good guy, Microsoft.
  • Still crapp, but well, better then before. Windows 10 has managed to be hated by every admin around the world. Full of bugs a crappy stability since the launch of it, forcing updates and leacking data is the norm. This would have been the time for other systems to quickly rise up... oh well
  • > installing at inconvenient times
    Never happened to me.
    Update normally happens when I try to shutdown my PC. "Shut down" will turn "Update then shut down".
  • That's THE most inconvenient time there is. Just as I'm shutting down to dash off to do something, I get blocked from powering off the PC without forcing it and risking a mangled OS. Whatever MS was thinking when they decided the ideal time to update the PC was when the user wanted it powered down I have no clue. They are improving things, but we should never have been in this crazy place at all.
  • "...automatically installs the latest version available, which would likely be version 2009 at the time. " Now question arises what if that 2009 version is problematic for that machine, cause that's the latest one without major number of installations. Version 2003 would be more logical since it would be already old for 6 months.
  • Then manually install the logical update. The problem comes later when the logical update is no longer supported. You can't be updated if the latest doesn't work well enough to use. Essentially, your PC gets sunsetted. Personally, I think you should always be able to install the version you bought on disc. MS doesn't. They think you should buy a new PC. What this means is that old PCs need to be moved to Linux.
  • I bought a license for Win 10 Pro SOLELY for this functionality. Don’t use a single other feature of it. But I had had enough of the updates breaking things that took hours to fix. Repeatedly. Should’ve been this way from the start but hopefully this is a sign Microsoft is beginning to listen to its users once again.
  • Unfortunately the 18 month limit makes this practically no different to switching to SAC and deferring. What users and businesses wanted was the ability to stay on a feature pack that was working for them until they had an actual need for new features and changes. LTSC branches are supported for far longer than 18 months, it would have meant no additional work for Microsoft if they'd allowed users to stay on those specific versions for longer if they chose to, you can already do that unofficially with additional tools. Sadly we're still a very long way from users having the kind of control over updates that was possible in previous versions of Windows.
  • About frigging time. This has been in a pain in the rear end for those of us who have had to fix botched Windows Update on laptops that have peanuts as storage device because 28 gig emmc storage is woefully inadequate and often there is no option to remove the storage then plug it into an external case to do any sort of data recovery. Microsoft needs to mandate that all laptop manufactures use at least 64 gig of storage as with 32 gigs of which you actually get 28 gigs of storage. You lose more than half to Windows 10, then you have office and some apps by then you have a measly few gigs of storage. Then you throw in the auto update idiocy of Windows 10 home and you have no space left at all for anything beyond documents + files that don't exceed several kilobytes. Because people don't clear there temporary files, internet cache let alone run disk clean up.