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My computer has recently been nagging me that my version of Win10 is "reaching its end of service soon" and that I need to download a newer version to continue to get support.

I am working with a Dell Precision 3530 running Windows 10 Pro. I've been getting updates right along whenever they come available.

In all my years of using computers, I've never had to download a "new" version of the OS that I'm already running. Has MS quit renaming newer OS's and just decided to stick with Win10 as a name?

I also can't find anywhere how big the download would be and I'm on a limited connection. Does anyone know the size in gigabytes? Why are they doing this as opposed to just sending me more updates? Do I even need to worry about it?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Mokubai
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 9:38
  • If this helps you: you can download the OS update from the Microsoft website while being somewhere else (in a Coffee shop or at a friend), and bring it home on an USB drive. That would save you 3+GB of downloading at home.
    – Aganju
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 17:35
  • The limited connection is a worry, for time being just about every W10 update is a new OS. You've been putting them off too long. At least with XP they were service packs. Some people are running versions of W10 that are older than the last XP update (bluekeep). I find I need a standby machine for the update downtime.
    – mckenzm
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 20:54

6 Answers 6

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Windows 10 is different from older operating systems. It comes with Feature updates that require you to download and update. Microsoft advised us of this strategy some years back and (so far) our Operating System is Windows 10 Version xyz.

You can see what version you are on in Start > Settings > System > About. If you are at V1909 or earlier, you need to do a Feature Update to get to V2004 or V20H2 (now the current version).

For individuals (not businesses), you cannot disable this feature permanently. You can stop updates (pause updates) for a short while and schedule restarts to "off" hours. That has proven valuable to me as I am never interrupted by unscheduled restarts.

If you need to do a Feature update to get current, it is about a 3 GB download.

Once you are at Version 20H2 (the current version) Microsoft has said updates will become smaller. That seems to be true on my machines.

Smaller updates have been made possible by utilizing a new process called "Feature Update through Windows 10, version 20H2 Enablement Package". Microsoft is including core components for the future to spread out and somewhat reduce the downloading and installation time.

To get the enablement feature, it is best overall to get to Version 20H2 and then the enablement feature will be automatically installed.

A good reference for this discussion above is here:

Windows 10 Enablement Feature

Going forward: It is easiest overall to keep your system up to date by planning and utilizing Patch Tuesday. This is the second Tuesday of each month. It is good to plan for this and doing the monthly updates. I have found this to be easier than waiting for once or twice each year. Patch Tuesday keeps security up to date as well.

Bear in mind that older computers (usually over 7 or 8 years old) may not accept the most current Windows Update. Microsoft has (common source of information) about 16 Million computer / driver combinations. As they fix the older driver issues, they will update as soon as is practical. Some computers just reach end of life.

Follow up Note on Enablement 3/21/2021: At the time I posted this answer and again this evening (3/21/2021) there have been small cumulative Windows 10 Updates (causing restarts which can be scheduled). Microsoft is very apparently working on the enablement features. It does appear to be a work in progress.

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    IIRC, Feature Updates prior to 20H2 were basically downloading the entire OS all over again.
    – Casey
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 0:10
  • I think once I got to V2004, updates have gotten smaller and distributed over time (patch Tuesday). But we only differ by one version. Certainly once current, updates should be easier.
    – John
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 0:13
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    I added a section on the enablement feature - Thank you. Life cycle stuff is (to me) a different discussion. Thanks. I made a number of general improvements to the overall post as well.
    – John
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 11:59
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    > For individuals (not businesses), you cannot disable this feature permanently. -- the correct distinction is for Home and non-Home editions. It's possible, and quite easy, to make updates manual-only through supported mechanisms on Pro/Education/Enterprise. Individuals can get a Pro licence (for an additional cost).
    – Bob
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 14:41
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    Even for Pro, updates will happen eventually unless on an LTS business type of license. "Permanent" is at least over 6 years (life of Windows 10). If someone turned of updates 6 years ago, their machine would have stopped working with a warning they MUST update. This applies to individual users.
    – John
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 17:00
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Has MS quit renaming newer OS's and just decided to stick with Win10 as a name?

Generally yes, for multiple reasons. One of them is that they’ve finally managed to get it into a state where they can do in-place system upgrades reasonably quickly, relatively reliably, and (almost always) without losing user data.

More concretely, they have shifted from the product name being ‘Windows’ and the release name being either a codename (such as Vista or XP) or a number appended to that, to having the product name being ‘Windows 10’ (to distinguish it from previous releases) and the release indicator be something reported separately (because most ‘normal’ users don’t care and don’t need to care about the exact release they are running).

Does anyone know the size in gigabytes?

It’s a differential update (normally), so we really can’t be certain because we don’t know exact details of your system and what updates it will get. Given that you’re roughly two years out of date, it may end up being quite large.

‘Normal’ feature updates on the regular six month schedule are averaging around 3GB these days, though the next one is probably going to be smaller as they are not adding any major new features.

That said, you can also update by getting a copy of the Windows 10 installation media for the most recent release. It’s a pain to download these if you are running on Windows (MS tries to force you to use their ‘Update Assistant’ tool, which will largely do exactly what Windows Update would do, you have to spoof your user agent string to get around this), but if you can get physical media that will work too (just make sure it’s recently produced and from a reputable supplier). Just insert the media and try to run it like you would a CD in an older computer, you should get something offering to update your existing install.

Why are they doing this as opposed to just sending me more updates?

They are sending you more updates, they just finally managed to wrap their heads around the concept of handling updates that bring you new features independent of those that fix bugs or security issues. This is pestering you about the first type, not the second, while normal ‘updates’ are the second type.

It’s important from a manageability perspective for MS as well that you have these latest feature updates, because it means they don’t have to test any of those security and bugfix updates on older Windows 10 releases, which makes it less likely that they will run into issues that make it harder to fix things properly.

Do I even need to worry about it?

Yes, you should worry about it. Not getting off of this old release of Windows means you will stop getting security updates, and that newer software may not work correctly (or may not work at all).

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    You can download Windows ISOs on Windows by faking user agent to look like Linux or using this 3rd party website (if you trust it).
    – gronostaj
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 7:42
  • This answer is by far the best as far as addressing the questions the OP actually asked. It might benefit from pointing out that Microsoft did in fact change the definition of "version" to mean something different when they announced that Windows 10 would be the "last version of Windows."
    – barbecue
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 13:04
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Security

The very most important reason for updating Windows 10, or any software for that matter, is to fix critical security issues.

Of course, given the nature of software, as old bugs are fixed, new ones are introduced, so you always run the risk of updating to a less secure version than what you had before. However, generally speaking, the security improves over time. If you decide not to update the software you use, which is something you can do with practically any piece of software, including Windows 10, the chances of your system having a significant, publicly known vulnerability increase over time, quite rapidly. There are many places with a very rigid infrastructure (i.e., financial and medical institutions) that often suffer very serious damages from relatively primitive attacks simply because they do not keep their software up-to-date. Contrary to popular belief, every hour matters, which is precisely why Windows 10, to their users' great displeasure, force updates to be installed ASAP.

Software at the level of operating systems is so vastly complex that it is practically impossible to keep it perfectly secure and without bugs.

This is why running important software with discontinued support is very risky, even though the diehard Windows XP and 7 fans would have you believe otherwise. There are so many publicly known exploits related to just slightly outdated operating systems and low-level services that if you are connected to the Internet, you may as well assume that your system was compromised.

Many people blindly rely on anti-malware, but when it comes to the vulnerabilities I mentioned, it is utterly useless and only gives you a false sense of safety. When a new kind of exploit emerges, it takes the anti-malware companies quite some time to figure out how to detect it. It is very much possible that an update with a fix to the vulnerable software is available before the malware can even be detected, assuming there is any malware to detect, to begin with.

Performance/Stability

As software and hardware develop over time, all sorts of drivers, services, middleware, and libraries need updating to allow the best possible performance. Oftentimes, a driver update can improve the performance of older hardware simply because it introduces an optimization they have not thought of before. Most of the Windows 10 updates are not really updates to the core of the operating system, but rather updates of the accompanying software, typically with the intent of improving performance, stability, security, or all of those. These, at least in theory, do not typically require any interruption of the user's workflow (read: system reboot), and they can be just as important as core updates.

The "feature" updates are a bit harder to justify, but it is all in the name of, presumably, a better user experience.

Versioning

Finally, yes, Windows 10 were always supposed to be the somewhat final stop for the Windows line, at least for a while. They were advertised as such since as far as I can recall. If I were to guess, Microsoft has figured out that most people do not care about operating systems and could not be bothered to upgrade on their own, so the only time they buy a license is with a new computer. This way, they can save effort by selling and supporting just one major version of an operating system, which kind of further reduces room for bugs.

Choosing not to get updates is in many ways like choosing not to get vaccinated because of the small inconveniences that come with it. Sure, the forced reboots are annoying, but for regular users, they should be quite rare. Sure, there is a risk of making your system more vulnerable. However, in general, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

I have been running the Insider stream of Windows 10 builds since the Windows 10 Insider program was first announced over a year before the Windows 10 release and I have never found the reboots to be a major issue. If you have reasonably fast storage, the update installation almost always takes under five minutes, including both reboots. I am not sure about this, but I believe I receive these large updates at least twice as often as regular users, and even then I hardly even notice them. Compared to the endless iOS updates, Windows 10 updates are like a breeze.

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    Microsoft makes money on users purchasing new devices, however, users are often perfectly fine keeping their device for years or decades (I certainly have kept my Vista laptop happily). So the only way Microsoft can persuade users to buying a new device is to continuously update Microsoft. It’s worked for decades for Apple with MacOS and iOS. It’s trivial to provide the updates to existing users to keep good will
    – Ramhound
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 4:22
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Was going to add it as a comment, but it ended up being a little too hefty. As a small addendum to what others have already said:

Has MS quit renaming newer OS's and just decided to stick with Win10 as a name?

It's less that Microsoft has switched to keeping "Windows 10" as a name, and more that they've switched to a "Windows-as-a-Service" model. Here's a docs article where they explain your core question:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/deployment/update/waas-overview

Do I even need to worry about it?

Not to scare people away from ever updating but: I've seen a lot of issues caused by Windows 10 updates.

If you read the actual article, particularly the "Quality updates" section, it would lead you to believe that Windows 10 should have "more consistent updates with less unexpected issues". However, I've dealt with clients that had updates on multiple machines which deleted data from user folders, uninstalled applications, removed essential drivers, etc. I never noticed this problem to the same extent on the older versions of Windows, nor on Linux.

What I definitely recommend is ensuring that you've got important documents backed up prior to any major Windows 10 update (and doing reguar backups is honestly just good advice in general). And just to be on the safe side, I personally wouldn't even leave any external drives attached during the update process, lol.


As a bit of a hot-take:

From a business perspective, I understand Microsoft's decision here; but as a techie I really don't like the removal of user-choice when it comes to the administration of your own system though (even if this only applies presently to "Windows Home Edition"). By declaring Windows as a "service" rather than a "product", Microsoft have basically said that you are only afforded as much control over your system as MS decides you need. Whether that bothers you, depends on the individual.

If you really don't like it, Windows 8.1 has extended support for another ~2 years. But after that, unless you feel like switching to OSX or a Linux variant (or using some sort of 3rd party update manager), this seems to be the direction Microsoft's going.

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  • This answer would better without the unnecessary commentary expressing your opinion about WAAS
    – Ramhound
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 16:19
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    Apple and RedHat have used the same model for their OS for years, nobody seemed to complain about iOS, MacOS, and RHEL release schedules
    – Ramhound
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 4:16
  • @Ramhound The question was a little multifaceted: "Do I even need to worry about [my perceived changes to Windows updates]?" could charitably be interpreted as "Should I be worried about the transition to Windows as a service?" and that final section as answering "Only if you care about reductions in user choice; if so your only alternatives are X". But even at that, I agree that it still felt a bit more tangential / opinion-based, which is why I sectioned it off & prefaced it with "hot-take" :) And yeah, don't actually own apple products, I can take out "OSX" if they're doing the same thing. Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 1:41
  • All the operating systems are doing the same thing to some degree or another
    – Ramhound
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 2:08
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For another approach, instead of doing unwanted upgrades, you can disable them. This is a good tool for that:

https://github.com/WereDev/Wu10Man

this is up to date (2020) open source program that can disable the Windows Update service.

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    It's quite ironic that you're emphasizing that the tool is up to date, while advising someone to keep their system not up to date.
    – gronostaj
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 14:02
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    This is of course terrible advice, since you will no longer install security updates, leaving your system dangerously unprotected. Doing this is an invitation to get hacked.
    – josh3736
    Commented Mar 15, 2021 at 20:42
  • Even if one doesn't care about the safety of their own computer, having an infected computer means your computer can play a part in infecting other computers. Unless one is an expert at computer, which this question doesn't seem to indicate is the case, computers need to be kept fully up to date all of the time, in all circumstances, if not for ones own protection and benefit, then for the protection and benefit of others. Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 1:31
  • I think this answer is useful under niche circumstances; though I can't vouch for the tool, never used it. Win10 Home users have no long-term control over their systems. Visiting remote areas where internet is limited & expensive, it could make sense to disable updates until you can get back to a broadband connection. Even saying "I'm on a metered connection" still forces system updates eventually & they can be gigabytes in size. Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 8:22
  • @Lovethenakedgun - We already have a question that asks how to disable Windows Update on Windows 10, we don’t need another question, with more of the same answers. The answer also doesn’t answer the author’s actual question. If this answer actually does answer the author’s question then the entire question should be closed as a duplicate of that existing question
    – Ramhound
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 4:07
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It means that the the version of Windows 10 is reaching the end of support. Unlike older versions of Windows, Microsoft releases feature updates biannually. The versions have a 18 mo support lifecycle. So, your version of Win10 is reaching end of support. My guess is you are running Win10 version 1909. To check this, type “winver” (without quotes) into the search box (on the taskbar, or press Windows Key and R) and press enter. There’s more info on https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/lifecycle/faq/windows#windows-10. (You should know that setting it as metered would not help,because it is nearing the end of support, Ramhound made a good point here.) If you can, go to a coffee shop, use the Win10 media creation tool to download a iso onto a flash drive (or just bring the computer and use windows update) and open the setup file that is in the flash drive.

The support lifecycle can be found on https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/lifecycle/products/windows-10-home-and-pro.

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  • You should update, especially because of security. Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 21:25
  • And yes, Microsoft is keeping the Windows 10 name virtually forever. To check the size, download the update and it says it in Settings > Windows Update. Then cancel it and set the network as metered. Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 21:32
  • Setting the connection as metered might not be enough of the author is indeed using 1909 since that’s the only version that would have the warning the author’s complaining about
    – Ramhound
    Commented Mar 17, 2021 at 4:15

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