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System Center Configuration Manager Compatibility with Windows 10 Explained

A guide for those using System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and wanting to upgrade to Windows 10 version 1607 has been released by Microsoft.

Windows 10 version 1607, first released on Aug. 2, is known as the "anniversary update." This update delivers new capabilities to the operating system, but organizations using Microsoft's flagship SCCM product, which is now service enabled like Windows 10, have to assess if SCCM is up to the deployment task.

Specifically, Microsoft offered some guidance for IT pros as to whether their "current branch" of SCCM is capable of managing Windows 10 version 1607. Moreover, there's an explanation on whether or not to use the latest Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) for managing Windows 10. This week, Aaron Czechowski, a senior program manager for Enterprise Client and Mobility at Microsoft, offered some advice for sorting out the support dependencies.

SCCM Generations
The gist, per Czechowski's explanation, seems to be that if an organization is running an SCCM release that's two generations or more distant from the most current SCCM current branch release, then they'll have to bring SCCM up to date with a more recent update first to have access to all of SCCM's capabilities for managing Windows 10 version 1607.

The most recent current branch release of SCCM was Update 1606, which was released in July. It added management capabilities for Windows 10 version 1607. Organizations wanting a simple approach should just get to SCCM Update 1606 if they want to deploy Windows 10 version 1607. Things get more complicated if they can't do that.

Microsoft did release Update 1608 for SCCM in August, but it's just at the technical preview stage for testing purposes. SCCM version 1608 can't be used for deployments right now.

And while SCCM version 1606 is presently considered to be the current branch release of the management product, Microsoft did release an update for it this week called "Update Rollup 1." Update Rollup 1 is a bunch of software fixes. It seems to lack new capabilities, per Microsoft's KB3186654 description.

Application Compatibility
The alternative to using SCCM Update 1606 is to digest Czechowski's advice in assessing if a particular SCCM version is capable of managing Windows 10 version 1607. Microsoft uses the math-like "N - 1" phrase to represent update releases that are two generations out. At N - 1 or older, SCCM specifically will lack "application compatibility" (AppCompat) support for the newest Windows 10 release, as explained in Microsoft's SCCM FAQ.

What Microsoft appears to mean by the "AppCompat" term is the ability to manage Windows features that existed before new management capabilities were available. Here's how a Microsoft spokesperson clarified that concept back in June, when Microsoft described its SCCM service models:

Windows 10 support can be broken up into two phases: 1) appcompat and 2) mgmt of new Windows 10 features. As the FAQ notes, appcompat support covers normal mgmt features (e.g., hardware inventory, software inventory, etc.). A specific previously released ConfigMgr current branch build can offer appcompat for a new Windows 10 build. However, for the support of new Windows 10 features, a new ConfigMgr current branch build will be required. For clarity, we use the term "application compatibility" to indicate "everything that you could do before with SCCM to manage Windows."

Microsoft's previous SCCM current branch releases were Update 1602 and Update 1511. Consequently, organizations running SCCM Update 1511 are more than two generations out and have to move to a newer update version if they want to support all of Windows 10 version 1607's capabilities. Microsoft illustrated that concept in the following table:

[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 1. System Center Configuration Manager versions and support for Windows 10 versions. Source: Microsoft June blog post.

That same sort of reasoning apparently applies to the use of Windows ADK for Windows 10 version 1607. In other words, SCCM Update 1511 doesn't support Windows ADK for Windows 10 version 1607. Czechowski illustrated that concept in this table:

[Click on image for larger view.] Figure 2. System Center Configuration Manager versions and support for Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) for managing Windows 10. Source: Microsoft September blog post.

Czechowski offered plenty of other nuances in Microsoft's announcement. Likely they'll dampen IT pro enthusiasms about deploying Windows 10 version 1607 with SCCM.

In addition, the new operating system has had lots problems out of the starting gate. Microsoft's Windows 10 update history shows four updates to version 1607 released in the month of August. The last update to Windows 10 version 1607 (build 14393.105) happened on Aug. 31, addressing broken PowerShell functionality.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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