Windows 10 Service Branches or Servicing Branches Explained

Are you aware of the Windows as a Service concept?

Or, you are confuse which plan would be best for you to use.

Microsoft has introduced a new concept for supporting the various versions of Windows 10. They have converted Windows into the Service model. That is, Windows is now available as a Service and instead of getting a new version of Windows, the user would get frequent updates to Windows 10 only.

The concept is supported by Windows 10 Service Branches or Servicing Branches.

Let us get to know what Windows as a Service (WaaS) is and further what is Service Branch.

What is Windows as a Service?

If you are an avid Windows user, you might remember that previously Microsoft used to provide a new version of Windows every 3 to 4 years. But currently, there is no sign of getting the successor of Windows 10 from Microsoft.

This is because, after the failure of Windows 8, Microsoft has introduced a new model to build, deploy, and service Windows known as Windows as a Service (WaaS).

In this new model, Microsoft provides frequent updates to Windows 10 in order to maintain its stability and productivity. There are two types of upgrades – Feature Updates and Quality Updates.

  Explained: Windows 10 B, C and D Updates

Feature Updates

Feature Updates is basically getting a new version of Windows altogether. Windows 10 receives the feature updates twice a year, the first one around April and then in October. These semi-annual releases introduce new features, User Interface improvements, latest security patches, and improve overall OS environment. 

Every feature update gets support for 18 months. After that, the user needs to upgrade their system to the newest feature update for proper functioning and getting security and non-security patches. So it is not mandatory to update your device with the latest feature update as soon as Windows releases it.

Quality Updates

Windows 10 quality updates, also known as cumulative updates, are the compulsory updates that your system installs automatically every second Tuesday of the month. Unlike feature updates, the quality updates do not introduce any significant changes like the new feature, or the visual changes. It is mostly for maintenance purposes like fixing a bug or vulnerability and increase the reliability of the OS. 

There are four types of quality updates known by B, C, D, and out-of-band

‘B’ happens to be get released every second Tuesday of the month and is the most important one, while ‘C’ and ‘D’ are published in the third and fourth week of the month. “out-of-band” includes important fixes that can’t wait for the next month release.

  Difference Between Windows 10 Cumulative and Feature Updates

What is a Windows 10 Service Branch or Servicing Branch?

A Service Branch is simply a category of service. It is analogous to the version of Windows you used to pay. For instance, Windows Home, Windows Pro, and more.

Apparently, there will be four different service branches:

  • Windows Insider Preview Branch
  • Semi-Annual Channel
  • Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB)

Windows Insider Preview Branch

This branch is reserved for Windows Insiders. You see the Windows Insider program will continue even after Windows 10 is RTM’ed.

Characteristics of the Windows Insider Preview Branch

  • Windows Insiders stay up to date with preview features as soon as they are released.
  • Opportunity for enterprise customers to preview upcoming features and influence product development.
  • Security updates and fixes are delivered regularly.

Semi-Annual Channel

In this Service Branch, you get two updates to Windows 10 in a year. Previously, it was known as the Current Branch for Business service channel. You can stall the updates upto one year if you have Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or Windows Update for Business. The Semi-Annual Channel has two different categories:


Previously known as the Current Branch, this is the least flexible branch of the three. It requires Windows users to take any new features, fixes, and security updates that Microsoft pushes to them via Windows Update. No choice, complaining, or flexibility. You can still find this around, but it is no longer supported.

Characteristics of the Current Branch/Targeted Branch

  • Features are released to broad market
  • Customers are up to date with features as they are released after broad preview validation
  • Opportunity for enterprises to test and validate new features
  • Within the 4 month period, ability to flight these features and updates in your organization and provide feedback
  • Security updates and fixes are delivered regularly

Versions of Windows affected

  • Windows 10 Home
  • Windows 10 Pro (optional)


Previously known as Current Branch for Business, it is a more flexible branch than the Targeted Branch when it comes to choosing and scheduling updates.

Users who are running Windows on the Broad Brach have a choice of how they get these updates – whether via Windows Update for Business or Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).

Windows Update for Business is distributed along with Windows 10 to allow businesses some flexibility with how they roll out updates.

Characteristics of the Broad Branch

  • Business customers can start testing as soon as preview features are released via Windows Insider Program
  • Business customers can wait to receive feature updates for an additional period of time, testing and validating in their environment before broad deployment
  • Within the 4 month period, you can flight these features and updates in your organization and provide feedback
  • Security updates and fixes are delivered regularly

Versions of Windows affected

  • Windows 10 Pro (optional)
  • Windows 10 Education (optional)

Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB)

The Long Term Servicing Branch has the most flexibility of all. This group of users can refuse everything but security updates.

This group of customers can also move some or all of their users between branches. Simply put, if you are business on the LTSB, you can have some of your users getting updates via TB, some via BB, and some via LTSB.

This is by far the most flexible branch of all. It replaced the most expensive version of Windows – Enterprise.

Once again, this branch allows users to take only security fixes and defer taking any new features and to handle them via Windows Update for Business and/or WSUS.

Characteristics of the Long Term Servicing Branch

  • Security updates and fixes are delivered regularly
  • Users on Long Term Servicing Branch receive security and critical fixes only for ten years
  • Consumers can move from one LTSB to the next one via in-place upgrade and can skip one LTSB as well
  • Customers manage updates via WSUS
  • Available for Enterprise and Education Editions only

Versions of Windows affected

  • Windows 10 Enterprise

Servicing Tools for Windows 10

IT professional can use the following Service Tools for their Windows 10 subscription update:

Windows Update: Using this feature, IT professionals can choose which computers to update in the network. They can also specify the systems to defer the update in the Semi-Annual Branch.

Windows Update for Business: In addition to selecting devices for updates, it allows IT to manage updates using Group Policy centrally. Windows Update for Business can defer the update up to a whole year. It also works in alignment with Microsoft Intune for organizational use.

Windows Server Update Services (WSUS): It allows IT to deploy the update on demand for specific devices or a group of devices. IT professionals have to allow the deployment manually.

Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager: It allows IT professionals to have full access over the deployment of updates. Admin can defer updates, allow them, and manage bandwidth usage and deployment times.

The Bottom Line

Microsoft effectively changed its service pack system in the Widows as a Service model. Now users get repetitive updates according to their opted branch. Windows 10 Service Branches are analogous to the various premium models of Windows. Now, users get updates directly delivered to their computer instead of upgrading to a new version or install a service pack.

Enterprise customers have the most flexibility and home users have the least – BUT everyone gets security updates.

2 thoughts on “Windows 10 Service Branches or Servicing Branches Explained”

  1. Very nice article, but please make sure to include publishing dates. We all know that Microsoft changes things on a regular basis, and therefore smart folks look for an article that was written or updated recently.

  2. One of the stated characteristics of the Long Term Servicing Branch is that “Customers can move from one LTSB to the next one via in-place upgrade and can skip one LTSB as well.” What is process for performing an “in-place upgrade”?


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