Microsoft just made Windows 10 updates a little easier to understand

Microsoft once again changes definitions of Windows 10 updates, but it should make life simpler.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Microsoft says in the upcoming release of Windows 10 version 1903 it will get rid of the 'Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)' SAC-T label, making life a little less confusing for admins.

The SAC-T label was part of the replacement for the Current Branch label (CB) that told businesses a particular version of Windows 10 was ready to deploy. 

The move should simplify things for IT pros and users who may have been confused by Microsoft's terminology and what it meant for deploying Windows 10 to devices. 

Until recently, businesses could rely on the 'Current Branch for Business' (CBB) status to indicate that a version of Windows 10 was soon safe to roll out. But then Microsoft changed the nomenclature to align better with Office 365 updates. For this reason, CBB then became Semi-Annual Channel or SAC. 

The CB and CBB definitions were introduced to help businesses handle Microsoft's twice-yearly feature updates for Windows 10. Admins using Windows Update for Business could set devices to CB or CBB to decide how long feature and security updates could be deferred. 

SAC-T is, effectively, Microsoft's name for the day the update is released. But under Microsoft's definitions, SAC-T is also meant to refer to the initial phase of a release, when a corporate IT team makes the release available only to specific, 'targeted' devices for the purpose of validating and generating data to get to a broad deployment decision. 

But, as Microsoft's John Wilcox highlighted in a May blogpost flagging the disappearance of the 'targeted' definition, there never really was an SAC-T release of the software itself. It was just a marker for some businesses using Windows Update for Business. And that was the only reason it used the SAC-T definition.  

"SAC-T merely reflected a milestone for the semi-annual release. Unless you were using Windows Update for Business, the SAC and SAC-T designations had no impact on when your devices would be updated," he noted in a blogpost on Thursday

SEE: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (free PDF)

While for releases before version 1903, Windows Update for Business customers had two settings they could choose to designate when feature updates should be installed on their devices. 

The first was the branch readiness level, SAC or SAC-T, and the second was the deferral period, which specified the number of days after the branch readiness level-based date before an update was offered to a device.

So as of Windows 10, version 1903, due out around March or April, Windows 10 will only display SAC as an option, plus the deferral value.

"Beginning with Windows 10, version 1903 (the next feature update for Windows 10), the Windows 10 release information page will no longer list SAC-T information for version 1903 and future feature updates," explains Wilcox. 

"Instead, you will find a single entry for each new SAC release. In addition, if you are using Windows Update for Business, you will see new UI and behavior to reflect that there is only one release date for each SAC release. If you use System Center Configuration Manager, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), or other management tools, there will now only be one feature update published to WSUS, and this will occur at the time of release."

In Windows 10 version 1903's Advanced options UI, the existing menu to select between SAC-T and SAC is gone. Admins will now only need to decide how long feature and quality updates should be deferred.

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