Microsoft began rolling out the latest Windows 10 feature upgrade this week.
Although this was the fourth upgrade since the mid-2015 debut of the operating system, and the process has much more structure around it than it did in November 2015 when the first update was released, it's still not treated with the metronome certainty of, say, death and taxes. Customers - particularly corporate customers - are still feeling their way.
For one thing, they face a jumble of option-rich upgrade methods, like so much else associated with Microsoft's OS for decades.
The easy download: Be lazy and wait for it
Microsoft again will stagger delivery via Windows Update over a period of several months, as it has with previous feature upgrades. So, while every unmanaged PC should eventually receive 1709, not all will immediately be seeded with the new code.
"You don't have to do anything to get the update," said John Cable, director of program management in the group responsible for Windows servicing, in a Tuesday post to a company blog. "It will roll out automatically to you through Windows Update if you've chosen to have updates installed automatically on your device."
Microsoft has been coy about the criteria used to identify early-adopting personal computers, but the assumption has been that they're the newest and/or those thought to have the best chance of a problem-free upgrade. The company uses the data generated by Windows 10's baked-in, and intensive, telemetry to peg problematic systems based on how well similar systems processed the upgrade.
The wait for a PC's turn may be long: As late as August, users reported on Microsoft's support forums that they still had not seen 1703, the upgrade that debuted April 5.
The corporate volume download
Microsoft immediately added Windows 10 1709 to its Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC), the portal where product downloads are available to corporate customers who have volume licensing agreements in place, including an Enterprise Agreement.
That was a change from this spring, when the company issued 1703, aka Creators Update. Although 1703 began hitting Windows Update on April 5, it wasn't until May 1 that the upgrade made it to VLSC.
Microsoft Products and Services Agreement (MPSA) customers should instead head to the Business Center to download Windows 10 Enterprise 1709, Microsoft advised.
The disk image - in .iso format - available on VLSC and the Business Center were also different than predecessors, Microsoft made clear on Monday. "Each of the editions (Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 10 Education) will point to the exact same .iso, so you only need to download [it] once," said Michael Niehaus, director of product marketing for Windows.
IT professionals using System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit, and the disk image, must "make sure [to] select the appropriate image index in any task sequences that you create or update," Niehaus warned, referring to the multiple versions within the single .iso.
The Windows Server Update Service option
Let's put it this way: For corporate customers WSUS doesn't WSUX. Windows 10 1709 landed Tuesday on Windows Server Update Service (WSUS), still corporate's most widely-used patch and update platform. That means IT using WSUS can begin pushing 1709 to selected users - as Microsoft suggests - or even all users (which few recommend).
The Windows Update for Business option
Windows Update for Business (WUfB), the spin-off from Windows Update that Microsoft launched almost two years ago, can also be used to deliver 1709 to employees.
However, as with the consumer-grade Windows Update, the timing of that delivery is largely in Microsoft's hands (WUfB relies on the same service and mechanisms as Windows Update). For previous upgrades - say, 1703 - Microsoft didn't cut them loose and begin serving them through WUfB until about four months had passed from the date of original release. (That stretch, previously known as "Current Branch," was used to gather feedback from users, identify bugs and then patch them.) At that mark, Microsoft gave the all-clear by declaring the upgrade business ready.
Microsoft told customers in late July that 1703 was "ready for broad deployment," its new phraseology for what had been a promotion to the "Current Branch for Business" release track.
At the time, the company said it would continue to declare the acceptable-for-business milepost for each edition; expect 1709 to make that mark between mid- and late February 2018. That's when WUfB will swing into action in most instances, and start shoving 1709 to end users.
There are several reasons for using WUfB - simplicity for one - but the prime one has to be its ability to defer upgrades, something Windows Update cannot do. As of Windows 10 1703, those deferments were set as 365 days maximum, a doubling from the prior 180 days. The latest that 1709 can be postponed through WUfB, then, is Oct. 17, 2018.
The quick option: Just download it
For the impatient, the alternative to Windows Update, or WUfB for that matter, is the Software Download page where Windows 10 resides.
From a PC already running Windows 10, an upgrade to 1709 starts with a click of the "Update Now" button.