Controlling Windows 10 feature updates

This week is all about controlling Windows 10 feature updates. A couple of months ago a new policy type was introduced to control Windows 10 feature updates. And even more recent, support for Windows Autopilot devices was added to that policy type. That latest addition was the trigger for this blog post. In this post I’ll start with a short introduction about the different options for controlling Windows 10 feature updates, followed by more details about the Windows 10 feature updates policy. I’ll end this post by looking at the configuration options.

Introducing the control options for Windows 10 feature updates

Now let’s with an introduction about the options to control Windows 10 feature updates by using Microsoft Intune. I’m deliberately naming it controlling – and not managing – as it’s more controlling the (pace of the) installation of Windows 10 feature updates. I see managing more as being in full control of the Windows 10 (feature) updates on a device. Via Microsoft Intune it’s possible to utilize Windows Update for Business to simplify the Windows 10 update management experience in general. Utilizing Windows Update for Business is focused more on controlling the Windows 10 updates cycle, instead of approving individual updates for (specific) devices. Controlling the Windows version and controlling the installation of the quality and security updates.

It’s also good to keep in mind that Microsoft Intune only stores the policy assignments and not the updates themselves. Windows 10 devices will access Windows Update directly for the updates itself. Within Microsoft Intune the following policy types are provided to control updates:

  • Windows 10 update rings: The Windows 10 update rings policy is a collection of settings that configures setting to control when Windows 10 updates get installed. This policy type already exists for a while and enables administrators to create update rings that specify how and when Windows 10 devices should be updated with feature and quality updates. As long as the latest update is installed, the Windows 10 devices are up to date.
  • Windows 10 feature updates: (Currently public preview) The Windows 10 feature updates policy brings devices to the specified Windows version and freezes the feature set on those devices until the administrator chooses to update them to a later Windows version. While the feature version remains static, devices can continue to install quality and security updates that are available for their feature version.

As the Windows 10 feature updates policy is a new feature, the remainder of this post will focus on that feature.

Introducing the Window 10 feature updates policy

A Windows 10 feature updates policy is a pretty simplistic policy – from a configuration perspective – to control the Windows 10 feature updates on a device. When a device receives a Windows 10 feature updates policy, the device will update to the Windows version that is configured in the policy. When a device is already running a later Windows version then the Windows version that is configured in the policy, that device remains on its current Windows version. The device will not downgrade to a previous Windows version.

During the period that the Windows 10 feature updates policy is assigned to the device, the device will basically freeze on the configured Windows version (unless – as previously mentioned – the device is already running a later Windows version). That also provides the administrator more flexibility for controlling the Windows version of the device. With a Windows 10 update rings policy the administrator was limited in controlling the timeframe that a device could stay on a specific Windows version. The administrator could defer the period when the device would install a new feature update with 365 days and then pause the update assignment for another 35 days, but that was it. The Windows 10 feature updates policy actually freezes the device to the configured Windows version until the administrator modifies or removes the assigned policy.

The assigned Windows 10 feature updates policy only controls the feature updates on the device. That means that while the installed Windows version is frozen, the device can still receive and install quality and security updates for their installed Windows version. These updates will apply for the duration of support for the installed Windows version.

Limitations for the Windows 10 feature updates policy

Before looking at the current prerequisites and the configuration steps of a Windows 10 feature updates policy, it’s good to be familiar with the current limitations of this policy type.

  • When deploying a Windows 10 feature update policy to a device that also receives a Windows 10 update rings policy, the following configurations should be in place within the configured update ring:
    • The Feature update deferral period (days) setting must be set to 0.
    • The feature updates of the Windows 10 update rings policy must be running.
  • Windows 10 feature update policy cannot be applied during the Windows Autopilot process, instead the policy will apply at the first Windows Update scan after a device has finished provisioning (which is typically a day).

Also, keep in mind that this is still preview functionality. It might behave different than expected in some scenarios. At the time of writing this post I’ve seen scenarios in which this policy type might not work correctly when skipping a Windows version.

Prerequisites for the Windows 10 feature updates policy

When starting with the implementation of a Windows 10 feature updates policy, the following prerequisites must be met – at this moment – by the assigned devices to guarantee the described behavior.

  • The device must be running Windows 10 version 1703 or later
  • The device must be enrolled in Microsoft Intune and should be Azure AD joined or Azure AD registered.
  • The device must have telemetry turned on, with a minimum setting of Basic.

Configuring the Windows 10 feature updates policy

The configuration of the Windows 10 feature updates feature is actually pretty straight forward and doesn’t require a lot of configuring. The following 5 steps walk through the configuration of the Windows 10 feature updates feature and all the available configuration options.

  1. Open the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center portal and navigate to Devices Windows > Windows 10 feature updates to open the Windows – Windows 10 feature updates blade
  2. On the Windows – Windows 10 feature updates blade, click Create profile to open the Create feature update deployment wizard
  3. On the Deployment settings page, provide the following information and click Next
  • Name: Provide a valid name for the Windows 10 feature updates deployment
  • Description: (Optional) Provide a description for the Windows 10 feature updates deployment
  • Feature update to deploy: Select the Windows 10 version that should stick on the devices (current options are Windows 10 1803, Windows 10 1809, Windows 10 1903 and Windows 10 1909)
  1. On the Assignments page, click Select groups to include to assign the Windows 10 feature update deployment to a group of devices and click Next
  2. On the Review + create page, review the configuration of the Windows 10 feature update deployment and click Create

Administrator experience

Now let’s end this post by having a quick look at the administrator experience. Once the policy is assigned to the device, the device will check-in and install the Windows feature update according to the configured policy. The eventual result can be verified by navigating to Devices Windows > Windows 10 feature updates > [CreatedWindows10FeatureUpdatesPolicy] > End user update status. That report provides an overview of the assigned devices and their (feature) update status (as shown below).

More information

For more information about configuring updates in Microsoft Intune, refer to the documentation about Manage Windows 10 software updates in Intune.

10 thoughts on “Controlling Windows 10 feature updates”

  1. Hi there,

    If we are upgrading from windows 10 1903 to 1909 using ConfigMgr and the 1909 feature update is about 3.5GB….

    I know the 3.5GB gets downloaded to site server and DPs but to the target device does the entire 3.5GB get downloaded or only whatever amount is needed for each device (obviously up to 3.5GB)?

    Thank you

  2. Hi Peter, nice post. One thing I have noticed is that it does not seem to work that well with White Glove. If the WuFB policy is device targeted then the 0 days deferral is applied during White Glove device provisioning. Then when the user enrols the device through OOBE they receive an offer to upgrade to the next version of windows, this is true even if you have a Feature Update policy assigned to hold the device on the current OS version. Is this a scenario you have tested? Would be good to understand if you have seen the same thing :-).

  3. Hi William,
    For smaller downloads and faster installation times, you can look at express updates. Do keep in mind that it does require more storage space on the server-side.
    Regards, Peter

  4. Hi Peter,
    I already use update rings and features updates in our organization and I assure you that it works just as you mention in the post. Thanks!
    What I would like to ask is whether you fully trust the report presented in End user update status.
    I don’t feel safe in the number of devices, updated data and how to mitigate errors.
    Do you advise using Power BI + Data Warehouse for a more detailed view?

    Thank you,

  5. Hi Sidnei,
    That report definitely provides a quick overview of the current status. But indeed if you need more (detail) information you might want to look at using the data warehouse.
    Regards, Peter

  6. Hi Peter, Great article as always, it has been helpful!

    I am just starting to use this now and I can see the update ring control works pretty well.

    Do you know if this feature works with MDM managed Hybrid joined devices, as the pre-reqs are quite explicit in saying MDM managed and Azure AD Joined or registered.


  7. Hi Shimal,
    That’s a good question, when literally following the documentation that’s not supported. To be sure you might want to double-check with Microsoft and/or test.
    Regards, Peter

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