The Different Types of Windows 10 Updates

With Windows 10, Microsoft has introduced a new servicing model known as ‘Windows as a Service (WaaS)’, which delivers an always up-to-date experience with the latest features and security updates.

In order to facilitate this, Microsoft pushes out a variety of monthly updates that fix bugs, compatibility issues, performance enhancements, and security updates. Windows 10 is also updated twice a year with new “Feature Updates” that aim to modify the Windows 10 experience in a significant way.

In this article, we will discuss the various types of Windows 10 updates that you will routinely see being installed on your computer and what they are used for.

Windows 10 Feature Updates

The largest Windows 10 updates are Feature Updates as they introduce a new set of features and major improvements to the operating system. These feature updates are currently named after the year and month that they are released, such as the “May 2019 Update”.

These updates are released twice a year during the spring and fall and will increment the version number of Windows. For example, the October 2018 Update changed the Windows 10 version to 1809 and the May 2019 Update changed it to 1903.

As these updates bring major changes to the operating system, Microsoft will not automatically install these updates without your permission unless your current Windows version is no longer supported.

For example, Microsoft plans on automatically installing version 1903 (May 2019 Update) on computers running version 1803 in November 2019 as that version will no longer receive security updates.

Windows 10 Cumulative Updates

A Windows 10 cumulative update (monthly updates) are typically released at least twice a month and include quality improvements, bug fixes, and security fixes.

These type of updates are typically released twice in a month and installing the most recent update ensure that you receive any previous improvements you may have missed.

A quick look at monthly quality update types:

  • Windows 10 “B” release: Windows 10 “B” updates are published on the second Tuesday of each month, known as Patch Tuesday, with security improvements and sometimes quality fixes.
  • Windows 10 “C” and “D” releases: These two updates are released in the third and fourth weeks of the month respectively. These are optional and preview updates with non-security fixes. The improvements in these two updates are included in the next month’s Patch Tuesday release.

If you are running Windows 10 1903, Microsoft will prompt you first before installing any Cumulative Updates.

Windows 10 Security Updates

On the second Tuesday of every month, known as Patch Tuesday, Microsoft will release a list of security updates and the vulnerabilities that are being fixed in Windows 10.

These security updates are typically bundled with and installed by the first Windows 10 Cumulative Update of the month, but are also available as standalone packages from the Microsoft Catalog.

While most security updates are released on Patch Tuesday, if a critical vulnerability is discovered that Microsoft deems necessary to patch immediately, they will release what is called an out-of-band update that does not follow the normal Patch Tuesday schedule.

An example of a recent out-of-band update was one released in May 2019 for the remote desktop BlueKeep vulnerability that could allow the creation of wormable malware such as WannaCry. As Microsoft felt that this was an important vulnerability to fix, they did not wait for the next Patch Tuesday to release the security update.

Every month, BleepingComputer releases a Patch Tuesday article that summarizes all of the security fixes released that month, with information about certain critical vulnerabilities.

Windows 10 Servicing Stack Update (SSU)

Windows 10 Servicing Stack Updates (SSUs) are released to resolve issues related to Windows Update. For example, if there is an issue that is known to cause an update to not install properly, Microsoft may release a Servicing Stack Update to resolve that issue before other updates are released.

Windows 10 SSUs are generally released before the monthly updates to improve the reliability of the update process and mitigate potential issues.

Windows 10 Compatibility and Reliability Update

Windows 10 Compatibility and Reliability Updates are out-of-band releases that do not follow the standard release schedule.


Windows 10 Compatibility Updates make improvements to ease the installation experience when updating to a new version of Windows 10, while Windows 10 Reliability Updates include new reliability improvements to the Windows Update components in the OS.

Windows 10 Microcode updates

Microsoft releases Intel microcode updates that mitigate know vulnerabilities or hardware issues in CPUs. Microcode updates can be seen as patches for how the CPU interacts with the operating system.

These updates do not follow the standard release schedule and Microsoft keeps track of the available Microcode updates in a support bulletin.

Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool

Every month, Microsoft releases an update to their Malicious Software Removal Tool that can be used to remove known infections from a computer.  This program is not an antivirus program, but rather a post-infection removal tool.

A new version is released every month with new detections for any new malware that was discovered over the past month.

Windows users can launch the tool by typing mrt and pressing enter. This will launch the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool and walk you through using it to scan your computer.

Security Intelligence Update for Windows Defender Antivirus

Security Intelligence Updates are simply a new name for the previous “Definition Update for Windows Defender Antivirus” updates.

These updates can be released multiple times a day and are used to update the detections used by Windows Defender Antivirus or, soon to be called, Microsoft Defender Antivirus.

These updates are integral for the proper operation of Windows Defender Antivirus as they contain detections for new malware that Microsoft has discovered and determined to be malicious.

Managing Windows updates

Now that you know the different types of updates that will be installed by Windows 10, it is also important to learn how to manage them.

You can use the following guides to search for, remove, and manually install Windows updates:

  • How to Get a List of Installed Windows 10 Updates

  • How to Manually Install Windows 10 Cumulative Updates

  • How to Uninstall Windows 10 Updates Manually


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