What Is Windows as a Service?

Windows as a service means you get updates faster and more regularly

Middle-aged man looking confused with a laptop while thinking about Windows as a Service.

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Windows as a service is a phrase that Microsoft uses to describe its modern approach to distributing updates to the Windows 10 operating system (OS).

By treating Windows as a service, Windows 10 operating system updates and new features roll out to users continually throughout the year as soon as they're ready to launch. Previously, Windows was treated more like a stand-alone product, and Microsoft would typically bundle updates into a significant software release or a new version of the OS.

The Windows as a service approach allows Windows 10 to evolve and grow at a faster pace than previous Windows operating systems.

Is Windows As A Service An Operating System?

Windows as a service is not an operating system. It is a method for testing and releasing Windows features at a faster rate than the traditional approach.

The phrase, Windows as a service, has been used to refer to cloud-based Windows desktops and apps. This ability to put Windows operating systems and programs in the cloud is now called Desktop as a Service or Windows Virtual Desktop to avoid confusion.

What Does Windows as a Service Mean for Users?

Windows as a service means that users won't have to update to a new operating system every few years to get the latest security updates and features.

Instead, users can continue to use the Windows 10 operating system on their computer, and it will receive regular updates that increase its functionality and security.

Windows as a service doesn't require signup. It's merely how the latest updates are developed and distributed. All Windows 10 updates are free.

Typically the Windows as a service approach results in monthly cumulative updates and bi-annual feature updates. Here's how these two update types are different.

  • Windows 10 Cumulative Updates: These Windows 10 operating system updates are usually released monthly and contain essential security updates and relatively minor software updates to fix bugs and improve functionality. Cumulative updates include all of the changes from previous cumulative updates. If a user has missed an update, they only need to download the latest update to receive all of the added security and fixes.
  • Windows 10 Feature Updates: Twice a year, Microsoft pushes out a major Windows 10 update that includes a variety of new features and first-party apps. Examples of some of the new features added to Windows 10 with previous feature updates include Windows Ink, Xbox Game Bar, Windows Timeline, and the Windows 10 Your Phone app.

How Do Windows Insiders Help Windows As A Service?

Previously, Microsoft released previews close to the launch date that companies used to test compatibility with their programs. However, this left very little time for them to check for compatibility and bugs. With the Windows as a service strategy, Microsoft first tests features and updates in house and then makes these pre-release versions available for testing fairly early on via the Windows Insiders Program.

Windows Insiders are developers and general Windows enthusiasts who opt-in to test early versions of the Windows 10 operating system and apps. They can provide detailed feedback on what they like and don't like, suggest new features, and report bugs. Microsoft sends various iterations of the operating system to different groups of Insiders. Then once all of the bugs have been squashed, it goes out to the general public.

Do You Need To Be A Windows Insider?

There is no need to join the Windows Insider Program. The program is meant primarily meant for developers to test their apps and services, though power users also sign up to get new features before everyone else.

It's important to note that the versions of the operating system that Insiders get can have rather serious bugs.

If you're interested in joining the Windows Insider Program, you can do so by opening Settings > Update & Security > Windows Insider Program.

Other Examples of the "As a Service" Model

The "as a service" support model is growing increasingly popular with companies due to its ability to keep products relevant in the competitive tech space and fix bugs at a faster rate.

Many video game companies have begun switching to the games as a service business model to improve customer loyalty and increase profits.

For example, rather than releasing numerous video games in a series, companies are now releasing one and choosing to support it with ongoing content updates. Fortnite, Star Wars Battlefront II, Overwatch, and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds are all examples of games as a service.