Since earlier this year, Microsoft has been previewing Windows 10 20H1, which will launch next year. Many users have wondered what happened to Windows 10 19H2, which should arrive later this year per Microsoft’s twice annual update schedule. Well, it seems 19H2 will not be a major upgrade as the company has changed Windows 10 updates to once-yearly events.

The reason for the change is because Microsoft wants to ensure its Win10 updates arrive without significant bugs. Until now, the company has been racing to push out two major updates per year. In 2018, this schedule took its toll, with the April 2018 Update and especially the October 2018 Update arriving as disasters.

Version 1803 (April 2018 Update) was delayed by nearly a month due to an RTM bug. While that update recovered, Microsoft’s would be hit hard by the shoddy roll out of the October 2018 Update.

Microsoft launched the platform on October 2 alongside new Surface devices. However, version 1809 was quickly put on ice because the manual update tool started deleting personal user files. Before being paused, the update was reaching millions of users. After being pulled, users were affected by a ZIP extraction fault, a file association problem, and an activation downgrade flaw.

Annual Major Update

In response to this, Microsoft is making sweeping changes to the structure of Windows 10 updates moving forward. Specifically, how Windows 10 builds are delivered through preview on the Insider Program will change.

Microsoft previously pushed Windows 10 preview builds to the Fast Ring branch first. After testing and evaluation on the Fast Ring, the builds would make their way to the Slow Ring. Here they would be more stable but still pass through testing before being sent to release ready.

In a change to this system, Microsoft will be sending out Windows 10 updates to the Fast Ring and Slow Ring in sequential order. The Fast Ring will now handle major Windows 10 updates, which will be moved to once annually. For several years, Microsoft has been sending out two major upgrades for the OS per year (such as the April 2018 Update and October 2018 Update).

As for the Slow Ring, it will now be solely for testing minor updates that will arrive in the second half of the year with bug fixes and improvements for the major release. In other words, only on the Fast Ring will users receive preview builds of major Windows releases.

Insiders will know Microsoft is currently testing Windows 10 20H1 (likely to be version 2003). Once this version is launched to end users next spring, the Fast Ring will move to Windows 10 21H1 (version 2103).

Slow Ring users are currently testing Windows 10 1909 (19H2). Previously this would have been the second major Win10 update of the year. Under the new strategy it becomes a minor update, which will become annual and help to shore up issues with the major release. That means once Windows 10 1909 is rolled out, the Slow Ring will start testing for Windows 10 2009.

Changing Tactics

Through the lead up to the release of Windows 10 May 2019 Update, Microsoft has been pushing towards changing its schedule. Back in April, the company announced version 1903 would not be launching that month. Instead Microsoft held it back for a month to ensure stability, a tactic it said would be a focus of Windows updates in the future.

I reported back then that the delay was a good thing. Microsoft was committing to create a more consistent Windows Insider Program and listen more to user feedback. Part of that was merging the Skip Ahead and Fast Ring branches to create a more concise previewing channel for future OS builds. Microsoft has also started introducing more freedom in when updates are installed, helping users avoid early unstable releases.