Your Windows 10 system may have a “Defer upgrades” option for Windows Update. This option delays feature upgrades for several months while allowing security updates through.

Enabling this option puts your Windows 10 PC on the “Current branch for business.” It’s intended for business users who want to wait a bit longer before getting new features on their PCs.

Microsoft’s Explanation

Microsoft explains the “Defer upgrades” option in this way:

“Some Windows 10 editions let you defer upgrades to your PC. When you defer upgrades, new Windows features won’t be downloaded or installed for several months. Deferring upgrades doesn’t affect security updates. Note that deferring upgrades will prevent you from getting the latest Windows features as soon as they’re available.”

That provides some idea of what’s going on, but isn’t very specific.

Which Windows 10 Editions Can Defer Upgrades?

RELATED: Should You Upgrade to the Professional Edition of Windows 10?

The Professional, Enterprise, and Education editions of Windows 10 all have the “Defer upgrades” option. Windows 10 Home — the standard version of Windows 10 you’ll get on most new PCs — does not have this option. If you do really want this option, however, you can pay $99 to upgrade your Windows 10 Home PC to a Windows 10 Professional PC.

Note that the Professional edition of Windows 10 doesn’t actually use this option by default — you’ll still have to enable it yourself.

Which Upgrades Are Deferred?

RELATED: You Won’t Be Able to Disable (or Delay) Windows Updates on Windows 10 Home

Windows 10 is updated in a different way from previous versions of Windows. Both Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Professional will automatically install the latest security updates — there’s no option to disable Windows Update.

Microsoft will also be releasing feature updates for Windows 10 rather than holding back new features for the next version of Windows. When these are released, they’ll first be tested by people who have signed up to test new builds of Windows as “Windows Insiders.” After they’re tested, they’ll be made available on Windows Update, where they’ll be automatically downloaded by Windows 10 in the same way security updates are.

Some businesses don’t want new features to suddenly appear on their PCs before they’ve been able to be tested, so clicking “Defer upgrades” will delay only feature upgrades. You’ll still get security updates automatically.

How Long Can Feature Upgrades Be Delayed?

Feature upgrades can only be delayed several months. It’s unclear exactly how many months these upgrades will be deferred for. But it is clear that you can’t defer these upgrades indefinitely.

After several months, Windows Update will automatically download the new feature update and install it. Microsoft will also stop producing security updates that can be installed on that old “build” of Windows, requiring you to install the feature update to keep getting security updates.

Why Defer Updates?

You can defer updates to ensure they’ll receive more testing before they make it to your PCs. Enabling the “Defer upgrades” option puts your PC on the “Current branch for business.”

Microsoft will roll feature updates out on Windows 10 Home PCs first, and all those home users will effectively act as beta testers for you. if there are any problems with the update, they should be found and fixed by the time they become mandatory on Windows 10 Professional.

If you’d like to test major updates to ensure they don’t break important business software, you can defer upgrades. But, as MIcrosoft warns, you won’t get new features immediately. If you’re an enthusiast who wants to get the latest features when they’re available in Windows 10 Home, don’t enable this option. The Windows Insider testing process should hopefully catch most bugs before the update rolls out of Windows 10 Home PCs, anyway.

Windows 10 Branches Explained

Windows 10 offers several different update “branches” with different frequencies of updates. Microsoft will be supporting each of them with security updates, and they’re all intended for different types of PCs.

  • Current Branch: The Current Branch is the standard version of Windows 10. Everyone on this branch will receive feature updates as soon as they’re released. All Windows 10 PCs are on this branch by default, and Windows 10 Home PCs can only be on this branch.
  • Current Branch for Business: The Current Branch for Business is similar to the Current Branch, but feature upgrades are delayed for several months to allow for more testing. Enabling the “Defer upgrades” option will put your PC on this branch. This option is available on Windows 10 Professional, Enterprise, and Education systems.
  • Long Term Servicing Branch: The Long Term Servicing Branch is designed for enterprises who need rock-solid, stable software without the latest features. Enable this option and you’ll just receive security updates — no feature upgrades. This option is designed for PCs that really don’t care about new features — Microsoft says it’s for “systems powering hospital emergency rooms, air traffic control towers, financial trading systems, [and] factory floors.” The long-term servicing branch will have a mainstream support period of five years and an extended support period of another five years, for a total of ten years of security updates. The Long Term Servicing Branch is available only on Enterprise and Education versions of Windows. Typical users can’t get these versions of Windows — they require a big volume-licensing contract.

In addition to these builds, users can opt-in to test preview builds of new features as “Windows Insiders,” just as people could test preview builds of Windows 10 before it was released.

So, should you enable Windows 10’s “Defer upgrades” option? That’s up to you. If you want to get the latest feature upgrades and Windows changes when all those Windows 10 Home users do, leave the option disabled. If you’d like to put off feature updates and changes until most testing is done — potentially to test those updates yourself if you’re part of an organization with mission-critical software — then enable the “Defer upgrades” option. Either way, you’ll only be spared the upgrade for a few months.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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