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How can IT assign PCs to Windows 10 servicing channels?

Microsoft offers different tools to assign Windows 10 PCs to servicing channels. Learn how to assign desktops to servicing channels using a multi-tiered strategy.

Microsoft has been talking about Windows as a service since the introduction of Windows 10. The company provides tools to let admins delegate PCs to specific Windows 10 servicing channels.

Administrators can designate how frequently they want to update devices with these servicing channels. There are three Windows 10 servicing channels: Semi-Annual, Long-Term and Windows Insider.

Assigning PCs to Windows 10 servicing channels

IT can set up test machines on various Insider Preview rings. They can use Insider Preview rings such as Skip Ahead, Fast, Slow and Release Preview to test out compatibility issues with feature updates. IT should keep production machines one major release behind.

IT should also assign highly sensitive or mission-critical devices to the Long-Term Servicing Channel. They should enlist some additional end-user volunteers to assign their devices to the Semi-Annual Channel, formerly called the Current Branch. PCs in this servicing channel will receive feature updates as soon as Microsoft releases them.

Admins can use a tool such as Windows Server Update Services, System Center Configuration Manager or a third-party equivalent such as Altiris, PolicyPak or SmartDeploy to assign PCs to specific servicing channels. Pay closest attention to PCs that update frequently to look for, identify and resolve potential compatibility or runtime problems before permitting production PCs to partake in any Windows updates.

This multi-tiered strategy lets IT pros keep an eye on where Microsoft is going, while also keeping their production environment up and running. Be sure to keep tabs on production PCs to make sure they're stable, operational and ready to handle day-to-day processing needs.

This was last published in March 2019

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What other Windows tools do you use for OS updates?
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