Windows 11 moves to an annual update model

One of my biggest complaints about Windows 10 was that it just got updated too often. I even wrote a little rant about that; two “major” updates per year were just too frequent and offered too few meaningful changes.

It turns out that Microsoft had already decided on its update approach for Windows in the future. Although the the announcement was made a few weeks ago, I thought it was worth pointing out: Windows 11 is moving to an annual update model, much like Android, iOS, and macOS.

To be clear, these are important feature updates, not smaller security updates and patches, which are sure to come more often. These annual updates, meanwhile, will arrive “in the second half of the calendar year” and provide two years of support for most users (three years for business and education).

This is a good thing. You can read more about the reasons why I think Microsoft’s old update model was broken this post, but here’s why an annual system makes so much more sense:

  • The semi-annual updates were confusing for users. Many, if not most, users weren’t sure when a major feature update occurred and likely missed out on some important new features.
  • Annual updates also give Microsoft significantly more time to implement significant changes than a 6 month period.
  • It also means Microsoft has more time to test things out and don’t break people’s computers)
  • Annual feature updates define user expectations, the same way Apple users know they expect a major update every year. It won’t be as surprising when your operating system gets a new look or new features.
  • It’s a bit more exciting for Windows fans, and Microsoft can create some hype around updates, which gets the word out to set expectations.
  • This means Microsoft can be bolder with updates, instead of trying to maintain a relatively consistent Windows 10 experience throughout updates. Trying to make Windows 10 “the latest version of Windows” limited what Microsoft could include with updates.

To be clear, I’m not sure what Microsoft will go about naming these annual updates. Maybe we’ll have a Windows 12 next time, or maybe just a Windows 11.1. But the move to an annual update cadence is undoubtedly an improvement over the messy Windows 10 model.

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