Rethinking Upgrades for Windows 10

With the release of Windows 10, Microsoft introduced a new way to manage and maintain the Windows operating system. Microsoft calls this new process “Windows as a Service” or WaaS.

The impact of this change in our college will be most visible to faculty and staff with the one to two major revisions of Windows we will be deploying in the college each year.

This differs from previous versions of Windows in that major revisions only happened once every few years by way of service packs or full version releases (e.g. Windows XP, Windows 7, etc.). Keeping up with WaaS major revisions, called feature upgrades, is mandatory if the machine is to keep receiving security updates from Microsoft. Since its release in mid-2015, four completely new versions of Windows 10 have been released, with another slated for release this fall.

How does this affect you moving forward?

In addition to the monthly security updates we have always pushed out, we will now be required to stage rollouts of WaaS feature upgrades up to twice a year. Faculty, staff and students should expect one major Windows upgrade per computer each year. Feature upgrades take approximately one to two hours to complete, during this time the computer will be unusable.

As with any other operating system upgrade, feature upgrades have the potential to cause issues with hardware device drivers, application incompatibilities and data loss. We have not yet run into any of these issues, but it is important to remember these complications are always a possibility even during normal day-to-day operation, so file management and regular backups should be a constant point of emphasis in your computing repertoire.

Lastly, the intended purpose of these feature upgrades is to provide regular improvements to the Windows OS and changes to settings pages or their location should be expected.

When will upgrades begin?

The rollout of feature updates will begin in stages this fall. When and if your computer upgrade occurs will depend on the version of Windows installed on your computer(s). We will start working with departments to schedule upgrades in the coming months. Microsoft plans to continue with the Windows as a Service lifecycle in perpetuity and we will adjust and improve our upgrade process as we learn from each migration and technology advancements occur.