Windows 10 Current Branch is the default servicing mode for Windows 10 providing stable updates on a regular cadence. It will update at a much faster pace (2-3 times a year) than previous versions of Windows Service Packs (every few years) and the updates are large and more disruptive.

Branch upgrades

Current Branch will release upgrades 2-3 times a year. To date, we have the GA release (1507), the November 2015 update (1511), and the next update will be known as the Anniversary Update. If it isn’t clear, the nomenclature is Year Month (YYMM) for the versioning. There are also regular (Patch Tuesday, etc.) updates that I’ll discuss in a future article.

Branch updates are large serving as both full installs and upgrades. The 1511 ISO is a whopping 3.3 GB for x86 and 4.0 GB for x64. Branch updates are more like OS upgrades that Service Packs. The other big difference is the user experience of a branch upgrade versus a service pack. Branch upgrades will reboot the computer or at least put it into an update mode where the user cannot do anything. In my testing on a virtual machine with 2 GB of RAM and 1 processor core of my 2.3 GHz i7 processor, the reboot \ update mode part of the update took just under 25 minutes from reboot to desktop usability which for most end users and businesses is an eternity of down time. The size of the upgrade and the impact to users are a big reason to use a patch management solution to optimize this process.  I’ll discuss how to deploy branches in a future article.

Update lifespan

Here is one of the great mysteries of Current Branch. In Microsoft’s article on Windows 10 servicing options for updates and upgrades, one is inclined to believe that security updates will only be provided on the latest Current Branch based on Figure 5. In reality, Microsoft is providing security updates for 1507 and 1511 branches. Our understanding is that current and previous branches will continue to receive updates until the subsequent branch has been declared a Current Branch for Business. In other words, 1507 (and 1511) will be serviced until the Anniversary Update (presumed to be 1607) is declared Current Branch for Business. At that time 1507 no longer receives update. Now, we’ll see if this holds true, but if so then you should be updating your 1507 systems to 1511 today to be ready.

When to use

For many smaller businesses, Current Branch could be the preferred option for their business. For larger businesses, Current Branch may not be ideal due to the frequency of updates and potential disruption to application stability. In that case, businesses will want to consider Current Branch for Business which adds multiple updates to fix issues. That said, businesses may want to take the same approach discussed in my Windows 10 Insider Preview Branch article using Current Branch as an early indicator of desktop instability. Unlike Insider Preview, Current Branch will be far more stable and provide at lest 4 months of preview before Current Branch for Business is released.

Key takeaways

Here is a summary of Windows 10 Current Branch:

  • Current Branch is the default update cadence for Windows 10.
  • Expect updates 2-3 times per year.
  • Current Branch upgrades are large (3-4 GB) and more like an operating system upgrade than a service pack like previous versions of Windows.
  • Security updates are supported for current and previous branch once the current is declared a Current Branch for Business.
  • Stability is high, but Current Branch for Business will provide additional time to assess compatibility.

Steps to Windows 10 migration success