In a move to offer IT professionals more flexibility, Microsoft has introduced a new policy that provides increased control over the monthly optional updates for Windows 11, encompassing both nonsecurity patches and fresh features.
Microsoft's latest policy, dubbed “Enable optional updates,” is tailored specifically for Windows 11 version 22H2 and its successors. Since the previous November, Microsoft has adopted a fresh strategy, rolling out new features for Windows 11 via the Windows Update service each month. This innovative approach ensures that new OS features are initially available as optional updates within a specific month. Furthermore, Microsoft employs the Windows Update service to disseminate both security and nonsecurity patches, which are also initially presented as optional updates.
The tech giant has recently been using a variety of terms to describe these novel monthly OS feature releases for Windows 11. Phrases such as “Windows configuration updates,” “controlled feature rollouts” (CFR), and “gradual feature rollouts” have been in circulation, all of which essentially refer to the same concept. Interestingly, while there are whispers suggesting that Microsoft might internally label these Windows 11 releases as “moments” releases, this terminology is conspicuously absent from their public announcements.
While both Windows 11 and its predecessor, Windows 10, continue to receive annual “feature updates” (or new OS versions) in the fall, it's exclusively Windows 11 that benefits from these CFRs or monthly feature releases. Microsoft offers a sneak peek of these CFRs in the C or D week, subsequently delivering them through the Windows Update service on the second Tuesday of every month, known as “update Tuesdays.” Features dispatched during this B week in the “latest cumulative update” (LCU) releases are stamped by Microsoft as production-ready.
Community Reactions and Feedback
In the comments for the announcement, users responded to these changes. One observant reader highlighted that the “Enable optional updates” policy was brought to life with the release of a Windows patch on August 22, as elucidated in Knowledge Base article KB5029351. Another reader, drawing from past experiences, opined that IT departments should consider disabling the feature that permits users to instantly download the latest Windows 11 updates.
This cautionary note was sounded in the wake of a glitch-ridden preview release associated with the KB5029351 patch, where users were greeted with an “unsupported processor” error message, an issue Microsoft acknowledged in their August patch release.
Microsoft's approach to the monthly delivery of new features to Windows 11 is encapsulated in the term “continuous innovation.” These features are rolled out to Windows 11 as and when Microsoft deems them fit for release, with the conclusive releases transpiring during B week as part of LCU dispatches. In a bid to ensure organizational stability, Microsoft has instituted a mechanism to deactivate features delivered via LCUs that might be potentially disruptive. This deactivation process is eloquently termed “commercial control” by the company.