Windows 10 Feature Update vs Cumulative Update (Differences)

Windows 10 Feature Update provides new features where Quality Update provides security improvements and bug fixes. Here the exact difference between Windows 10 Feature Update and Cumulative Update.


Microsoft regularly releases security updates, also known as cumulative updates to patch security holes created by third-party apps, they contain security improvements and bug fixes to make your device safe and secure. And the latest Windows 10 automatically downloads and installs update to make sure your device is secure and up to date. This means you receive the latest fixes and security updates, helping your device run efficiently and stay protected.

Also with Windows 10, Microsoft made a number of changes to the whole operating system, Now Windows 10 is served as a service, every 6 months the OS introduces new functionality and is known as the Feature Update. Here in this post, we discuss more details on Windows 10 Cumulative updates and Windows Feature updates, And what exactly the difference is between Windows 10 Feature Updates and Cumulative Updates.

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Windows 10 Cumulative Update vs Feature Update

Here is a Quick Difference between Windows 10 Cumulative Updates and Feature Updates

Windows 10 Feature Update and Cumulative Updates

Quality Update Feature Update
Type A collection of hotfixes that address security and performance issues in the OS These are, technically, completely new versions of Windows 10
Purpose Maintenance to keep Windows 10 free from vulnerabilities and reliability issues To add in new features in the operating system, and retire rarely used ones
Release cycle Every month Every six months
Release window The second Tuesday of every month, Also known as Patch Tuesday Update Spring and fall of each year, around April and October
Availability Windows Update, Microsoft Update Catalog Windows Update, ISOs
Download size As low as 150MB A minimum of 2GB
Defer window Between 7 to 35 days From 18 to 30 months

Windows 10 Cumulative updates

windows 10 KB5016616

Cumulative Updates (CU) also known as quality updates are mandatory updates that provide security and reliability fixes and Your device downloads and installs automatically every month via Windows Update. Usually, Cumulative updates are rolled out every second Tuesday of each month — also known as Patch Tuesday. But you may also occasionally see out-of-band releases that are distributed outside the monthly schedule.

These types of updates do not include new features, visual changes, or significant improvements. Instead, they are maintenance updates meant to fix bugs and errors, patch security vulnerabilities and improve reliability with the current version of Windows 10.

They also increase in size each month, as their nature of being cumulative means that each update includes the changes available in the previous updates. To help you reduce the burden on your network bandwidth yet still receive the same equivalent update, Microsoft designed three different update types:

  • Full updates have all the necessary components and files that have changed since the last feature update. We refer to this as the latest cumulative update or LCU. It can quickly grow to a little over 1 GB in size but typically stays that size for the lifetime of that supported version of Windows 10.
  • Express updates generate differential downloads for every component in the full update based on several historical bases. For example, the latest May LCU contains tcpip.sys. We will generate a differential for all tcpip.sys file changes from April to May, March to May, and from the original feature release to May. A device leveraging express updates will use network protocol to determine optimal differentials, then download only what is needed, which is typically around 150-200 MB in size each month. Ultimately, the more up to date a device is, the smaller the size of the differential download. Devices connected directly to Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), System Center Configuration Manager, or a third-party update manager that supports express updates will receive these smaller payloads.
  • Delta updates include only the components that changed in the most recent quality update. Delta updates will only install if a device already has the previous month’s update installed. For example, assume in May that we changed tcpip.sys and ntfs.sys, but did not change notepad.exe. A device that downloads the delta update will get the latest version of tcpip.sys and ntfs.sys, but not notepad.exe. Delta updates include the full component (not just the individual files) that changed. As a result, they are larger than express updates, often around 300-500 MB in size.

Microsoft allows Windows 10 Home and Pro users to delay the quality updates for up to 7 and 35 days respectively.

Windows 10 Feature Updates

Windows 10 version 21H2

Windows 10 Feature update also known as the Semi-Annual Channel (SAC) update is a major update similar to Windows 7 to Windows 8 upgrade. Microsoft releases two (2) feature updates in a year to refresh Windows 10 with new features and improvements.

Before releasing, these feature updates, Microsoft first release Windows 10 preview builds for Insider uses to collect user feedback, Once an update is proven to be reliable, the company roll out the same First to consumers and then to business customers.

Windows 10 feature updates also download and install automatically on compatible devices. You are able to acquire these major updates via Windows Update, or as a manual install. ISO files are also provided to users that want to do a clean install on their systems.

Windows 10 Feature update vs Cumulative update

A Feature Update (FU) typically includes new features, visual improvements, and performance enhancements.  changes and improves the overall user experience of the operating system.

Where cumulative updates do not bring along features, visual changes or even significant improvements to Windows 10 — they are simply maintenance updates. Therefore the Quality Update provides fixes but not new functionality while the Feature Update provides new features.

In terms of size, feature updates are much bigger than quality updates. Download sizes can range anywhere from 2GB for the 32-bit variants to 3GB for the 64-bit versions, and even 4GB if you use an installation media. Where Cumulative updates increase size with every release.

Windows 10 Pro users can defer feature updates for up to 18 months after their original release. Your device will continue to receive cumulative and quality updates, but newer versions of the OS will not be installed. Where Microsoft allows Windows 10 Home and Pro users to delay the quality updates for up to 7 and 35 days respectively.

Starting with Windows 10, version 2004, feature updates for Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions with a targeted release month of September will be serviced for 30 months from their release date (more information can be found here).

Quality updates download and install faster than feature updates because they’re smaller packages, and they don’t require a complete reinstallation of the OS.

Installing Windows 10 feature update changes the OS version (for example Windows 10 November 2021 Update version 21H2, and installing a quality update changes the Build number only such as (OS build 19044.1706).

Also read:

Steve Ballmer
Steve Ballmer
With over 7 years of experience in the IT industry, I have experience in IT support, helpdesk, sysadmin, network admin, and cloud computing. Certified in Microsoft Technologies (MCTS and MCSA) and also Cisco Certified Professional in Routing and Switching.

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