Why — and how — I’m moving Win10 production machines to version 1903

As a card-carrying member of the Ain’t-Broke-Don’t-Fix Society, I’ve been keeping my production machines on Win10 1809. It’s now time to move on — but not all the way to Win10 version 1909, which continues to have a major Search bug.

Microsoft Windows update cycle arrows with overlay a laptop and mobile phone.
Microsoft / IDG

Movin' on up.

Back in the not-so-good old days, Microsoft gave us some sort of broad hint when new versions of Win10 had finally been thoroughly tested: “Current Branch for Business” and “Semi-Annual Channel” were nonsense code words signaling that paying customers could finally rely on some stability with the latest version. 

Notably, Microsoft declared version 1809 “Semi-Annual Channel,” and thus worthy of broad deployment, in March 2019. Odd, considering that Microsoft stated unequivocally in February that it wouldn’t be using the term “Semi-Annual Channel” anymore.

We don't have CBB or SAC anymore, but I'll stick my neck out and recommend that everyone move to Win10 version 1903.

Win10 version 1903 seems ready

In late September, Microsoft assured us that Win10 version 1903 was “ready for broad deployment.” That was quite an assertion, considering the problems we subsequently saw with audio and other driver bugs, antivirus incompatibilities, and the Keystone Kops episode with four separate patches for the CVE-2019-1367 Internet Explorer “0day” patch that extended into October.

Bygones, bygones. It’s been three months since that debacle, and I figure most of the problems with 1903 have finally been ironed out.

Thus, I’m moving my production Win10 machines over to 1903, and recommend that you do, as well.

Many of you are already on version 1909, but to my way of thinking, it’s way, way too early to jump on the 1909 bandwagon. Microsoft has shown no outward signs of fixing the widespread File Explorer Search bug in 1909. Until that bug’s been squashed, and we’ve had a few months to make sure it stays squashed, I strongly recommend that you avoid 1909. 

Better to be a stick-in-the-mud

Those of you who love trying the latest and greatest will no doubt decry my slow-moving upgrade schedule. How could anyone wait six months before upgrading Windows? Think of all the great stuff you’re missing — and it’s free!

I get it. Go, boomer. Some folks really want to have the bleeding-edge “best” whether it’s better or not. Just ask anyone who installed iOS 13.0, 13.1, 13.1.1, 13.1.2, 13.1.3, 13.2, 13.2.1, 13.2.2, 13.2.3 and 13.3 in the span of three months. 

In Win10’s case, the upgrade tradeoff juggles between highly questionable new features and a demonstrable history of very poor rollouts. 

We’ve had very few useful feature improvements in Win10 since the early days. Yes, Microsoft brought back the OneDrive “Files on Demand” (which worked fine in Win 8.1), beefed up Linux (oh boy!), extended Notepad (wowza!), added Dark Mode to File Explorer and similarly dull developments. Unless you include 3D drawing and HoloLens support in Win10's new feature hit list, the improvements have been slight.

On the other hand, upgrade meltdowns run a dime a dozen. Pick any Win10 version upgrade, and I can list (and have published) dozens of big bugs, some of them debilitating. 

Your mileage may vary, but in the almost-five years since Win10 shipped, I’ve only seen one new feature that’s been worth the pain of upgrading, and it appears in Win10 version 1903 and 1909. That’s the ability for everybody — Home, Pro, Enterprise, Education — to easily pause updating. With pause updates, you can free yourself from the unpaid beta-tester karmic wheel. (Those attached to update servers face a different master.)

I think the benefit of pause updates now justifies the potential pain of upgrading.

How to move to 1903

Moving from Win10 version 1803 or 1809 to version 1903 is pretty straightforward. I have the details in my November article Running Win10 version 1803 or 1809? You have options. Here’s how to control your upgrade. In a nutshell, if you’re running Win10 Home, you need to use a Win10 1903 ISO file. If you’re running Win10 Pro, Enterprise or Education, a judicious choice of Update Advanced Options “feature update deferral days” will land in 1903. The deferral settings in that article are still valid today.

When you move to Win10 version 1903, you’ll likely be nudged, or pushed, to the latest build, number 18362.535. That’s fine. I’ll have detailed instructions tomorrow for navigating the few problems with December’s Win10 1903 Cumulative Update.

If you find yourself on version 1909, don’t panic. The File Explorer Search bug may prove very annoying, but you can live with it for a while. After all, Win10 1909 inductees have been putting up with the bug for months already.

Need help? Drop by AskWoody.com and tell us all about it.

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