Windows 10 was supposed to release, rinse and repeat on a metronomic cadence. Ticktock. Each update was to have its months in the sun, then fade away as its support expired. Ticktock. The repetitive, predictable schedule was to revolutionize operating system progress by replacing the every-several-years upgrade jolt.
That promise, though, got misplaced as Microsoft rearranged and rejiggered Windows 10’s support and update practices.
This year, Microsoft messed with the nomenclature of the still-twice-annual upgrades, dropping the yy03 and yy09 labels for the vaguer yyH1 and yyH2, an admission that the supposed precision of the earlier tags fooled no one. With half a year – first or second – as a target, Microsoft gave itself the wiggle room the original plan had rejected as old-fashioned, if not obsolete.
And as expected, Microsoft will reprise the 2019 major-minor release practice this year. For all its talk of “monitoring feedback” and “hoping to learn” whether to repeat the delivery of one major refresh and one very minor retread, or return to a pair of equal upgrades, Microsoft didn’t seem to hesitate when picking the former – not during an upside-down, inside-out year of the novel coronavirus.
Each year of Windows 10 witnesses new decay of the original concept. Each mutation of the plan comes as a surprise to customers.
That’s why everyone should be marking the calendar with Windows’ most important release events. This is the latest schedule; pencil in these dates.
Aug. 18, 2020
Microsoft continues to automatically upgrade Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro PCs running version 1903 to the latest, version 2004, aka “Windows 10 May 2020 Update.”
When Microsoft announced the “Download and install now” (DaIN) option in 2019, it reserved the right to upgrade Windows 10 PCs when they are “at, or within several months of reaching, end of service.” Windows 10 1903 falls off the support list Dec. 8, 2020, or 16 weeks from this date.
Microsoft strongly hinted on July 22 that it was kicking off forced upgrades for 1903. “We are increasing the number of devices selected to update automatically to Windows 10, version 2004 that are approaching end of service” the company said in a note on the Windows release health dashboard that day.
Sept. 29, 2020
Near this date, Microsoft may tell commercial customers that Windows 10 2004 can be deployed to all corporate PCs. If it does, it will publish the message on the Windows release health dashboard.
Computerworld says “may” because Microsoft waited until May 27 to give the same green light to corporate customers for Windows 10 1909, the minor upgrade released six and a half months earlier, on Nov. 12, 2019.
The late-September estimate for the Windows 10 2004 milestone was based on the four-month span that had been used previously by Microsoft. It was unclear if the delay for declaring Windows 1909 ready for business was a one-off or the new normal.
Oct. 1, 2020
Microsoft starts delivery of Windows 10 20H2 between now and the end of October. (As already noted, the Redmond, Wash. developer changed its feature upgrade naming convention in June, dropping the yymm format of prior for the new yyH1 and yyH2 for each year’s first- and second-half releases.)
The “upgrade” will be that in name only. In June, Microsoft said it would replicate 2019’s major-minor tempo this year, meaning that 20H2 will be a service pack-style rerun of the spring’s 2004. There will be few new features.
Most mid- and large-sized organizations will adopt this second refresh of 2020 if they do any during the year. That’s because of the 30-month support lifecycle (Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education only) awarded only to yyH2 upgrades.
Oct. 13, 2020
“Mainstream” support ends for Windows 10 Enterprise 2015 LTSB (Long-term Servicing Branch), the static build Microsoft offers customers who can’t – or won’t – adopt the more-releases-less-support model that underpins Windows-as-a-service.
Although this original LTSB (a second was released in August 2016 and a third debuted in November 2018) has five more years of “Extended” support coming to it, this date ends some support offerings, such as feature change requests and non-security bug fixes. For more information on what’s included in mainstream and extended support, refer to this support document.
Oct. 13, 2020 … Take 2
Microsoft serves up final security and non-security patches and fixes for Windows 10 Enterprise 1709 and Education 1709, the fall 2017 feature upgrade Microsoft tagged “Fall Creators Update.” The date marks the end of nearly 37 months of support, the longest-ever stretch thanks to the extra six months Microsoft tacked on in March.
Nov. 10, 2020
Microsoft hands out the last updates to Windows 10 Enterprise 1803 and Education 1803, calling it quits for support that stretched a bit more than 30 months.
Nov. 10, 2020 … Take 2
Microsoft pushes the final patches and fixes to Windows 10 1809 on Home, Pro and Pro Workstation.
This version was initially slated to retire in May, but was one of two that Microsoft awarded a six-month reprieve so that customers wouldn’t have to deal with a migration during the opening weeks of the stay-at-home-work-at-home orders in the U.S.
Dec. 8, 2020
Microsoft purges all forms of Windows 10 1903 – Home, Pro, Pro Workstation, Enterprise and Education – from the support roster on this date.
Unlike the fall feature upgrades, which are maintained for 30 months for Enterprise and Education customers, those released in the spring – previously marked yy03, now labeled yyH1 – come with 18 months of support for all editions.
Jan. 12, 2021
Somewhere around this date, Microsoft may inform businesses that Windows 10 2009 – the service pack issued three months ago – is ready to deploy throughout their environments. This message, for it will be just that, posted with nary an announcement except for a brief line from the Windows Update Twitter account, will appear on the Windows release health dashboard.
Jan. 19, 2021
Microsoft begins to forcibly upgrade PCs powered by Windows 10 Home 1909 or Windows 10 Pro 1909, the first service pack-esque update, to the recent Windows 10 20H2.
Remember that when Microsoft announced the “Download and install now” option in 2019, it reserved the right to upgrade Windows 10 PCs when they near “end of service.” Microsoft cited security concerns for holding the forced-upgrade card.
Windows 10 Home/Pro/Pro Workstation 1909 exits support May 11, 2021, or 16 weeks from this date.
Feb. 9, 2021
Around this date, Microsoft may inform businesses that Windows 10 20H2 – the service pack issued four months ago – is ready to deploy throughout their environments. This message, for it will be just that, posted with nary an announcement except for a brief line from the Windows Update Twitter account, will appear on the Windows release health dashboard.
April 1, 2021
Windows 10 21H1 – probably nicknamed “April 2021 Update” – releases after this date. The likeliest launch date: April 13, the month’s Patch Tuesday.
Because of its 18-month support lifecycle, this refresh will be installed primarily by Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro customers.
May 11, 2021
Microsoft serves the last security patches and other bug fixes to Windows 10 Home 1909, Windows 10 Pro 1909 and Windows 10 Pro Workstation 1909, wrapping up 18 months of support.
May 11, 2021 … Take #2
Microsoft delivers the final updates for Windows 10 Enterprise 1809 and Windows 10 Education 1809, ending 30 months of support for the fall feature upgrade.
Customers running 1809 must migrate to a newer refresh – 1903, 1909, 20H1, 20H2 or even the likely-just launched 21H1 – to continue to receive security patches. Windows 10 Enterprise 20H2 and Windows 10 Education 20H2 would seem to be the best bet, since they have the most support remaining (about 22 months from this date).
Aug. 10, 2021
Microsoft gives Windows 10 2103 the green light around this date, telling IT professionals that the spring upgrade has been put through the field-test wringer and is safe to deploy across their organizations.
But because 2103 has a limited shelf life – its support expires not much more than a year from now – few take Microsoft up on the offer.
Microsoft gives the go-code on its Windows release health dashboard.
Aug. 18, 2021
Microsoft begins to upgrade Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro PCs still running version 2004, replacing that with Windows 10 21H1, the fresh feature upgrade.
Citing security needs – as in wanting to make sure users are not stuck running an OS that doesn’t get patched – Microsoft has reserved the right to upgrade Windows 10 Home and Pro PCs when they are “at, or within several months of reaching, end of service.” Windows 10 2004 loses patching privileges Dec. 14, or 16 weeks from now.
Oct. 1, 2021
Microsoft begins rolling out Windows 10 21H2, aka “October 2021 Update,” after this date. The probable launch: Patch Tuesday, Oct. 12.
The 30-month support lifecycle on Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education means this will be the year’s preferred upgrade for Microsoft’s larger customers. The Redmond, Wash. developer will service this version until April 2024.
Oct. 12, 2021
“Mainstream” support ends for Windows 10 Enterprise 2016 LTSB, the second no-changes-allowed build that Microsoft offered for deployment in instances unsuited to the Windows-as-a-service model.
LTSB, for “Long-term Servicing Branch,” which was later rebranded as LTSC (Long-Term Servicing Channel), is the only edition of Windows 10 which retained the traditional 5+5 support scheme of Mainstream and Extended periods.
This date ends some support, including feature change requests and non-security bug fixes. For a more detailed description of Mainstream and Extended, refer to this document.
(Note: This milestone of 2016 LTSB does not end support of 2015 LTSB, Microsoft’s first static build. Windows 10 Enterprise 2015 LTSB will continue in Extended support until Oct. 14, 2025.)
Nov. 9, 2021
Around this date, Microsoft ships Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2022 (Long-term Servicing Channel). The successor to LTSC 2019, which launched three years prior, this build will be supported until January 2032.
In a May 2019 blog post, a Microsoft marketing manager announced that customers could expect the next LTSC “toward the end of 2021.”
Dec. 14, 2021
Microsoft issues the final bug fixes and non-security changes to all SKUs (stock-keeping units) of Windows 10 2004, from Home to Enterprise, ending 18 months of support.
Dec. 21, 2021
Microsoft kicks off its forced upgrades to replace Windows 10 Home 20H2 and Windows 10 Pro 20H2 with the year-later refresh Windows 10 21H2.
Windows 10 Home/Pro/Pro Workstation 20H2 runs out of support around April 12, 2022, giving Microsoft 16 weeks to push the latest code to those PCs.
Feb. 1, 2022
Sometime near this date, Microsoft may tell commercial customers that Windows 10 21H2 – the update released 16 weeks ago – is ready for broad deployment. Customers should monitor the Windows release health dashboard for Microsoft’s green light message.
April 12, 2022
Windows 10 22H1 ships on or after this date. Microsoft will also refer to this spring upgrade as “Windows 10 April 2022 Update.”
Microsoft will support this release for 18 months, or until the fall of 2023.
May 10, 2022
Support ends here for Windows 10 Enterprise 1909 and Windows 10 Education 1909, the upgrades that debuted in November 2019, concluding 30 months of security and non-security updates. (Windows 10 Home 1909 and Windows 10 Pro 1909 exhausted their support a year ago.)
The most suitable replacement will be Windows 10 21H2, the refresh released in October 2021 that also offered two-and-a-half years of support.