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Microsoft Extends Support for Windows Server Update Services 3.0 SP2

Microsoft announced last week some changes coming to Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) 3.0 Service Pack 2.

The good news is that Microsoft has extended its product lifecycle, which now will end on Jan. 14, 2020. It was previously set to end next year in July 2017. When products fall out of support, Microsoft no longer issues security patches for them.

The bad news is that WSUS 3.0 SP2 isn't an optimal choice for managing Windows 10 updates. What IT pros need for Windows 10 update management is WSUS 4.0, and it can take some time get a computing environment's infrastructure updated to support WSUS 4.0.

Microsoft built things differently with WSUS 4.0. WSUS 3.0 SP2 was built as a separate product from the server, whereas WSUS 4.0 was built into Windows Server 2012/R2.

In extending the WSUS 3.0 SP2 support lifecycle, Microsoft made its product-support end date correspond with the lifecycle end date of Windows Server 2008 R2. Consequently, the idea behind this change, as announced in the WSUS team blog and the Windows for IT pros blog, seems to be that Microsoft is now permitting organizations to continue to use the two products together for the remaining three years or so of product support.

WSUS 3.0 SP2's Limitations
However, there's a catch. WSUS 3.0 SP2 (also called "WSUS 3.2") is limited when it comes to supporting the Windows 10 update process. Specifically, it can't handle updates to the operating system's features. And that's also true even with Microsoft's product lifecycle extension.

"WSUS 3.2 cannot today and will not in the future be able to fully support Windows 10 servicing (specifically feature updates), and in order to experience the true vision for Windows as a service, you'll need to use WSUS 4.0 or later," the WSUS team blog explained.

WSUS is a software solution that's used to gain finer control over Microsoft's software update releases. It's typically used by larger organizations, allowing them to delay software updates for testing purposes before broadly rolling them out to PC workstations. Its role has changed somewhat with Windows 10 because Microsoft now delivers feature updates to the client operating system, along with the usual security and nonsecurity patches, which is a major switch from its practices with Windows 8 and earlier client OS releases (although that circumstance will be changing in October). And these feature updates can be released on a monthly basis now, instead of every two or three years (the old service pack model).

Microsoft even issued an update to WSUS to permit it to handle Windows 10 updating for version 1511, also known as the "anniversary update," which was released on Aug. 2. The original KB3148812 update for WSUS was a flawed release and was subsequently replaced by KB3159706. Organizations using System Center Configuration Manager for client management, which also uses WSUS for patch management, also need to have KB3159706 installed to support Windows 10, Microsoft has previously indicated.

Move Now to WSUS 4.0
Microsoft is flat out telling organizations currently using WSUS 3.0 SP2 and wanting to use Windows 10 that they should move to WSUS 4.0 by 2020 (Windows 7 Service Pack 1, for instance, falls out of support on Jan. 14, 2020). It can take almost the whole three years to complete the move to WSUS 4.0, Microsoft's WSUS team blog suggested:

"Especially for larger businesses, migrating a WSUS hierarchy is nontrivial, and may take much of the extra time that has been granted for this operation."

To get to WSUS 4.0, Microsoft offers migration guide for IT pros. It can be found in this TechNet series of articles.

About the Author

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

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