What is the difference between Windows Update and Upgrade

When it comes to Windows OS, Update and Upgrade terms may be confusing to some. Every time Microsoft rolls out a set of new features, many of us think its an upgrade while it could have been an update only.

Difference between Update & Upgrade in Windows OS

Simply speaking:

  • Update: Fix Performance issues, Security holes, fix bugs & known issue, add hardware support and introduce minor features or changes in the OS. It does not change the version of Windows.
  • Upgrade: It introduces major new features including UI changes. It changes the version of Windows.

The same applies to Windows 10 as well. Let’s get into the details.

Difference between Update & Upgrade in Windows OS

When Microsoft rolls out a major version of Windows, then its called an Upgrade. This usually happens when there a jump from one version to another. Windows 8 was an upgrade to Windows 7. The same happened with Windows 10 rollout. It became an upgrade to Windows 8.1  and Windows 8. Microsoft not only added new features but also revamped the UI and so on. Now in Windows 10, they are referred to as v 1809, v1803, and so on.

Windows Upgrades is usually rolled out through the Windows Update/Upgrade Assistant. It makes sure that your computer is compatible with the next major update.

Windows Update, on the contrary, is a minor update. It can bring small new features which were not there in the first release of a major version – but it doesn’t change anything on a larger scale. Do note that when I say “minor”, I don’t mean that update is very small; it is smaller compared to a major upgrade.

For Windows 10, Microsoft rolls out Feature Updates. They are typically released twice per year. They include new functions, capabilities as well as potential fixes and security updates. A Feature update can be further split into categories, which includes security,  service pack,  and so on.  Microsoft rolls these updates to the device through Windows Update Service.

Windows 10 v1511,  v1803, v1809, etc. are Feature Updates. In Windows 10 they can be considered as ‘Upgrades’.

Read: Different types of Windows Updates.

There will be no new ‘version’ of Windows in future

There will be no new version of Windows. That is there will be no Windows 11. Microsoft has adopted the path of a continuous update. This means that you get an improved Windows with new features every 6 months instead of waiting for 3+ years for the next version. This became possible through the Windows Insider Program. A lot of people share feedback and help in shaping Windows 10.

Microsoft is slowly moving towards Windows 10 as a Service model. While it makes existing consumers don’t have to pay for Windows anymore, and new customers just buy it once. Especially with Microsoft account tied to Windows 10 License.

However, when the time comes, Microsoft may start charging for some features, and that can become a revenue model for them. Since there is no more paying for Windows 10, once you buy it, and keep using it, you become part of the ecosystem.  This helps Microsoft in long-term as people stay onboard. Later, if the in-app purchase model rolls out, then customers will be free to buy what is useful and skip rest.

Hope this clarifies the difference between Update and Upgrade in Windows.

Posted by on , in Category Windows with Tags
Anand Khanse is the Admin of TheWindowsClub.com, a 10-year Microsoft MVP Awardee in Windows (2006-16) & a Windows Insider MVP. Please read the entire post & the comments first, create a System Restore Point before making any changes to your system & be careful about any 3rd-party offers while installing freeware.

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