Microsoft expands forced upgrade for 1809 users

For Windows users still running the October 2018 Update – otherwise known as 1809 – Microsoft thinks it's time to move to 1909.

Computerworld  >  Windows 10 1909 / November 2019 Update
IDG / Microsoft

Microsoft has expanded its forced upgrading of Windows 10 PCs running the 14-month old 1809 with the most recent refresh, 1909.

"We are starting the next phase in our controlled approach to automatically initiate a feature update for an increased number of devices running the October 2018 Update (Windows 10, version 1809) Home and Pro editions," Microsoft said on Jan. 21 in its Windows release health dashboard.

Microsoft kicked off the forced upgrades last month, when on Dec. 5 it said it would "slowly start the phased process" of upgrading PCs running Windows 10 1809.

Windows 10 Home 1809 and Windows 10 Pro 1809, which were released Nov. 13, 2018, will drop off Microsoft's support list on May 12. (The Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education versions of 1809 receive 30 months of support, not the 18 of Home and Pro, and so will be supported until May 11, 2021.)

The forced upgrades resulted from the changes Microsoft made to Windows 10 servicing in April 2019. Rather than deliver each feature upgrade to Windows 10 Home PCs and unmanaged Windows 10 Pro systems on the company's timetable - since 2015, Microsoft had decided when each device was told to download and install a refresh - Microsoft inserted a "Download and install now" (DaIN) option into version 1903, then refitted 1803 and 1809 with it, too.

DaIN lets users choose when to migrate from one version to another. If one does not apply DaIN, the latest feature upgrade will not be automatically downloaded and installed. The result: for the first time, users of Windows 10 Home and unmanaged Windows 10 Pro were able to easily skip a feature upgrade. (Under earlier rules, these users would have been required to upgrade from 1809 to 1903 before later moving to 1903.)

But customers cannot run a Windows 10 version indefinitely. When the current feature upgrade nears its end of support - no later than around four months to go - Microsoft intervenes by downloading and installing the latest. That intervention is what Microsoft has just expanded.

Users let Microsoft skip upgrades for them

By overturning the upgrade process for Windows 10 Home and unmanaged Windows 10 Pro, Microsoft has also upended the adoption timeline of each refresh. Prior to last April's servicing change, Microsoft upgraded the bulk of consumer and small business Windows 10 PCs near the beginning of a version's cycle. But after the introduction of DaIN, it appears that the schedule has flipped, with significant numbers of users still running the previous year's version within just a few months of its expiration date.

Put another way, a substantial number of users have decided to wait until near the end of a version's support before receiving a replacement.

According to Windows app analytics vendor AdDuplex, 22% of the Windows 10 PCs tallied Tuesday were running 1809, down only slightly from October's 25%. (AdDuplex did not publicly report on versions' measurements in November and December.)

Compare 1809 - 22% still running the version when it had four months of support remaining -- with the refresh a year earlier, Windows 10 1709, which launched Oct. 17, 2017 and for Home and Pro, was retired April 9, 2019. AdDuplex's December 2018 report - that measurement also made four months before 1709 fell off support - said Windows 10 1709 accounted for only 6% of all versions, or about a quarter of 1809's share at the same point in its lifecycle.

That difference signals the impact of Microsoft's DaIN decision last year: A substantial portion of upgrades, which once were universally front-loaded, with the bulk occurring near the beginning of a version's cycle, have shifted to the end of the lifecycle. That also suggests - and that's all, since we have no data that says otherwise - that users of Windows 10 Home and unmanaged Windows 10 Pro are kicking back and letting Microsoft handle the upgrade (which, remember, the company does in the last few months of support). In turn, that hints that that same portion of users of Home and unmanaged Pro are thus skipping an upgrade, as Computerworld predicted last year. (Users who were force-fed 1809 in late 2018 didn't bother with the next 1903 but will be given 1909 shortly.)

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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