IT admins want one, and only one, Windows 10 upgrade annually

Though they question how Microsoft has reduced the number of Windows 10 refreshes, for admins it's clearly a case of less is more.

A digital hub marked with crossed wrench and screwdriver branches circuits through a system.
Traitov / Getty Images

IT administrators voiced strong support for Microsoft's move to a fewer-than-two-upgrades-a-year Windows 10 cadence, even as many question the way the Redmond, Wash. developer has reduced the number of refreshes.

Approximately 75% of nearly 500 IT professionals said that Windows 10's feature upgrades – which officially remain on a twice-annual schedule – should be released no more than once a year. More than half of those admins – 40% of all polled – voted for one upgrade per year while the remainder, or 35%, chose the one-every-two-years option from a survey on patching, updating and upgrading.

Less than 8% picked a twice-a-year cadence as their preference, and only a tenth of that – or 0.8% – want more than two each year on themselves and their colleagues.

The results came from a questionnaire distributed last month by Susan Bradley, a computer network and security consultant who moderates the mailing list where IT administrators discuss updates and exchange information. Bradley also writes for, the Windows tip site run by Woody Leonard, a Computerworld blogger.

"Once a year is more than enough," wrote one IT admin in a comment appended to the questionnaire. "((That)) keeps it in line with other OSes."

Little changed from 2018

Bradley polled IT personnel in 2018, when she posed many of the same questions as this year. The results then were in line with the latest responses, although there were two notable differences. Two years ago, the percentage that asked for one upgrade every two years was four percentage points higher; the number for those who selected the current tempo of two each year was six points lower.

Then, 78% of the IT professionals preferred a slower-than-Microsoft frequency of one upgrade annually or one every two years.

It wasn't surprising that the two polls differed slightly, since, as Bradley was quick to point out, these were not scientifically-conducted surveys. But something else may have played a part: Between the two questionnaires, Microsoft made massive changes to its Windows 10 upgrade process.

In May 2019, Microsoft released Windows 10 1903, which offered new features and functionality, just as had the previous six upgrades. But rather than deliver a second feature-rich refresh in the fall, Microsoft shipped Windows 10 1909 as a rerun of 1903, with the former including all the fixes made in the latter since 1903's debut, plus a very small number of additions and enhancements.

Many said 1909 resembled the old-school service packs, which Microsoft once offered as a convenient way to update Windows with all earlier fixes, rather than asking users to download and install them one after another, with a slew of restarts in between. With that, Microsoft introduced a major-minor cadence – major upgrade in the spring, minor rehash in the fall – that could be viewed (and was by Computerworld) as a one-upgrade-annually schedule.

Microsoft will repeat 2019's scheme this year, with Windows 10 2004 offering numerous new features and Windows 10 20H2 not.

The larger percentage this year (17% vs. 11% in 2018) who said that "two times a year is fine" may have been thinking of this major-minor pattern. Happy with the results – officially two upgrades but effectively only one – they considered it as the new normal and voiced opinions accordingly. That might account for the surge.

Stop messing around, Microsoft, and scale back to once a year

But the comments many IT admins wrote on their questionnaires showed that a significant number remained unconvinced by the major-minor upgrades, seeing them as a faux once-a-year cadence and wishing that Microsoft would move to a real annual schedule.

"I don't get the point of two times a year when updates from spring to fall are essentially 'flipping a few bits,'" said one administrator. "This leads to customer confusion and lack of confidence in the product."

The animus against two upgrades annually – and thus a call for one upgrade max – was often intertwined with admins' negative opinions about the feature upgrades' usefulness.

"A single annual release makes a lot of sense. Anything ... more often than that is unnecessary, certainly for business," said an administrator.

"There are usually not enough good new features to warrant a lengthy complex version upgrade more than once per year," echoed another.

"I'm hoping that with a once a year time frame there would be a more serious plan to bring real improvements to the OS," one more IT professional chimed in. "So much of the six-month timeframe stuff is 'meh' fluff."

For her part, Bradley put the idea of just one upgrade a year at the top of her to-do list. When asked what she would advise Microsoft if she could give one piece of advice about Windows servicing, she put it plainly. "I would only have a feature release once a year," Bradley replied via email. "Twice a year is too much."

But is Microsoft listening?

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

Bing’s AI chatbot came to work for me. I had to fire it.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon