Microsoft removes manual deferrals from Windows Update by IT pros 'to prevent confusion'

Microsoft has made a change, acknowledged publicly this week, in how manual deferral of Windows 10 feature updates will be handled by business users starting with the May 2020/2004 update.

Microsoft is removing the ability for business users to defer manually Windows 10 feature updates using Windows Update settings starting with the Windows 10 2004/May Update. Microsoft seemingly made this change public with a change in its Windows 10 2004 for IT Pros documentation on June 23.

Microsoft officials say this change is happening in the name of reducing confusion. Here's the explanation from the Microsoft page (which I saw thanks to WindowsTimes.com), and which I had heard about from a reader last week. (Last week, I assumed this was a bug, but now it seems like it's actually a "feature.")

"Last year, we changed update installation policies for Windows 10 to only target devices running a feature update version that is nearing the end of service. As a result, many devices are only updating once a year. To enable all devices to make the most of this policy change, and to prevent confusion, we have removed deferrals from the Windows Update settings Advanced Options page starting on Windows 10, version 2004." 

Before the release of the May 2020/2004 update, Pro, Education and Enterprise users could manually defer updates for 365 days using the Windows Update settings Advanced Options page. (For more, see this post on how to manage Windows 10 feature updates.)

Going forward, for users who want to retain the ability to defer feature updates manually, Microsoft offers this guidance

"If you wish to continue leveraging deferrals, you can use local Group Policy (Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update > Windows Update for Business > Select when Preview builds and Feature Updates are received or Select when Quality Updates are received)."

Microsoft has been continually tweaking the way the Windows 10 updating process works based on "user feedback," which seems to be, in large part, complaints. Microsoft makes available two Windows 10 feature updates per year. Business users have had the right to defer those updates for up to 365 days unless their devices are running a Windows 10 feature update that is nearing the end of support. Windows 10 Home users last year got the right to pause feature updates for up to 35 days.

A number of Enterprise and Education users only care about the Windows 10 feature update released in the fall because they get 30  months of support (as opposed to 18 months of support for the spring feature update). Consequently, some of those users only update their Windows 10 devices every other year using the fall update. (See my ZDNet colleague Ed Bott's post for a full run-down of how Windows 10 feature updates work.)

Microsoft began rolling out the May 2020/2004 update on May 27. I asked Microsoft if the company had anything to say as to why users weren't notified in advance about this change but received no word back.