Windows 10 up to V1803: Details for Upgrade to V1903 – Part 2

[German]Part 1 covers the topic that Windows 10 users who are still using older Windows 10 builds up to version 1803 have to expect a forced upgrade to Windows 10 May 2019 update. I have now run my own tests and would like to add some more insights and thoughts in part 2.


Some preliminary remarks

Background for this article are two things. First, I wrote an article for German news magazine heise, where I came about some insights. And I also took the the opportunity, to boot an old test machine, that hasn't been online with Window 10 for months, and see what happens.

The test machine is a Sony Vaio VGN-SZ2M_B, which was originally shipped with Windows XP, and then ran with Windows 7. I had run also Linux tests on the system before. And in March 2016, when I was still having fun with Windows 10, there was also an attempt to install this operating system (version 1511) on that system.

It was quite a struggling task, installing Windows 10 (I remember that it was an Enterprise edition), because I ended up in a BlueScreen. By the end of the day, I had successfully installed Windows 10 Pro V1511 (32 bit) and even set up the system to work. But I never really used the notebook practically, because its fan is constantly running at full speed and the body of the notebook gets 'too warm'.

For occasional tests the system is still good – and I had it updated to Windows 10 Anniversary Update (V1607) once. Later I switched to Windows 10 V1703 – but I didn't check during my last test, if it was really complete.

How does the forced upgrade exactly look like?

First of all, I will outline a few things that result from my experiments above. Yes, Microsoft is planning to upgrade Windows 10 systems to Windows 10 version 1903, which has been run out of support or its support will expire in November 2019. But the exciting question is: If I get a feature update, can I still choose when to install the feature update, and what else should I know?


Who is affected by this?

First of all, the forced update mechanism described below only applies to Windows 10 systems for consumer that are supplied with feature updates via Windows Update. In concrete terms, these are systems with Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro, which work in private hands or in small companies. They are no longer supported 18 months after release and then do not receive updates anymore.

Windows 10: End of Life-Daten
(Windows 10: End of Life-Data)

The table shown above gives an overview of the data and can be found on this Microsoft page. There you can see that all home user versions from Windows 10 up to version 1709 have already dropped out of support. Only version 1803 is still in support until November 2019.

All systems with Windows 10 Enterprise that are used in the corporate environment are treated completely different. There are two reasons for this:

  • While Windows 10 Home and Pro only gets 18 months support, Enterprise environments receives between 18 months (for spring editions) and 30 months support (for autumn editions, see my article Windows 10 Support extended to 30 months (sometimes)).
  • Second, in this environment, update management takes place via Windows Update for Business (WUfB) or via WSUS, SCCM, or other management software, so that the administrator controls whether updates are sent to the clients.

I have re-read the original Microsoft quotes again in my article Windows 10 V1803 threatens a forced update as of July 2019. It confirms that everything refers to Windows 10 Home and Pro.

Whether Microsoft uses the AI-supported update distribution in the enterprise environment outlined below at all, is beyond my knowledge.

Windows 10 up to version 1709

For Windows 10 up to version 1709, support for the home/pro variants has therefore expired as described above. Microsoft pushes the feature update to higher versions of Windows 10 on that machine via Windows Update – except the machine has known compatibility issues.

I mentioned it in the blog post Windows 10 V1803: Force update to V1903 – Part 1. My test system with Windows 10 V1703 was not updated to Windows 10 May 2019 Update (V1903). Rather, the machine has been upgraded to version 1803 via feature update. Version 1709 was skipped because an installation error (something 0x8024 xxxx) was reported for this feature update. I can not say whether this is always the case.

Windows 10 Version 1803

It's exiting to see, what's with Windows 10 version 1803 and a 'forced update'. Microsoft has released only for Windows 10 version 1809 and 1803 Microsoft the updates required to support an install control (see screenshot below) for feature updates.

Funktionsupdates ab Windows 10 Mai 2019 Update
(Feature Update to Windows 10 May 2019 Update, Click to zoom)

Specifically, this took place with the updates released on May 20/21 (see Windows 10 Updates KB4497934, KB4499183 (May 21, 2019)). I cannot say how this Windows Update window looks with version 1803, if a feature update arrives – because on my test system, which now has version 1803, the following window is displayed:

Windows 10 V1803: Warning of end of support

So there is no feature update available for my machine yet. Microsoft still has time until November 2019, before the machine is out of support..

Machine learning based rollout of Windows 10 V1903

While writing some German articles some other things around the rollout of Windows 10 version 1903 on older machines became obvious to me.

No upgrade for incompatible machines

If a Windows 10 machine is definitely known to be incompatible, Microsoft will use its machine learning (ML) based update distribution mechanism to lock the feature update. The user will then be shown the information about a problem already mentioned in Part 1 on the Windows Update page.

Update-Benachrichtigung inkompatible Maschine
(Update notification on non compatible machines, Source: Microsoft/Bleeping Computer, Click to zoom)

Machine based learning model for older Windows 10 builds

Interesting are also the machines that receive the above notification, that the feature update has been blocked due to compatibility issues. It'is interesting what Microsoft writes about their machine learning process (ML).

We are now beginning to build and train the machine learning (ML) based rollout process to update devices running the April 2018 Update, and earlier versions of Windows 10, to ensure we can continue to service these devices and provide the latest updates, security updates and improvements.

In other words, the ML model was only put into learning mode for the Windows 10 versions up to 1803 – it does not seem to refer to newer versions such as version 1809.

Machine Learning Process (ML) in Training Mode

On the other hand, the training mode of the model has just begun. Therefore many machines, where it is not clear, if they are compatible for an upgrade to Windows 10 version 1903, probably are simply blocked from the rollout of the feature update. The rule-based model collects more data via telemetry and evaluates the configurations of individual Windows 10 machines that request updates.

If the machine learning (ML) model concludes that a machine is 'likely' compatible, it will (in my estimation) work with probabilities. These probabilities give an indication of how high the risk of issues is. Machines of a class with the lowest probability value for issues will receive the feature update.

Then individual machines of a device class without known compatibility issues are updated on a trial base. Telemetry data are then collected again for a few days to find out if there are any issues. During this time, the other machines seeking updates should not receive a feature update. Thus, the machine learning model slowly 'searches' its way along the rollout process.

This is actually a rather clever approach, since such models react very quickly to the telemetry data and can also stop or force a rollout for certain machine types. Microsoft had stated that they had already had good experiences with this approach (I think with version 1803). The rollout was faster than with earlier versions, where human decisions were made for the rollout.

Can I find out what is blocking?

Users keep asking if they can find out exactly what is blocking or preventing the feature update from being offered at all. Because users who receive the subsequent notification will only be directed to the Windows 10 status page via the Learn more button.

Update- notification on incompatible machiemes
(Update notification on non compatible machines, Source: Microsoft/Bleeping Computer, Click to zoom)

However, there are only general information about known upgrade blockers are provided. The user knows his machine is not compatible, but not why. About the question: "How do I find out more", two final thoughts.

  • You could download the Windows 10 Update Wizard from the Microsoft website and run it on Windows 10. At best, the wizard will give you an idea of what is blocking the feature update. But what, if that approach doesn't delivers a result?
  • If you have made an install attempt, that has failed, you can use the diagnose tool SetupDiag to analyze the log files (see also my blog post Windows 10: Diagnose tool SetupDiag

.If no feature update is offered and update notifications blocked by group policies or registry hacks are excluded, and the update wizard doesn't say what's wrong, it becomes difficult. Because I postulate (I don't know exactly) that detailed information about why a feature update for a specific machine has been blocked can only be found in Microsoft's learning models.

This learning model makes the decision about a release dynamically by working through various rules. But that model is constantly changing due to the telemetry data from other machines. So it can be possible, that a manual upgrade using an an ISO file created with the Media Creation Tool will work flawless.

Perhaps the information and thoughts given above will help you to find your way around the complex topic of Windows 10 feature updates.

Windows 10 V1803: Force update to V1903 – Part 1
Windows 10 up to V1803: Details for Upgrade to V1903  – Part 2

Similar articles:
Windows 10 May 2019 Update brings back Update control
Windows 10 V1803 threatens a forced update as of July 2019
News from Windows 10 V1903: Images, Rollout, Show-Stopper

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One Response to Windows 10 up to V1803: Details for Upgrade to V1903 – Part 2

  1. EP says:

    read this recent ZDNet article on 1903, guenni:

    the automatic or forced 1903 upgrade from 1803 & earlier will not occur for those using Windows Update for Business.

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