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September 23, 2020

MS Merges SSU into CU for WSUS

Wow! I just *HAD* to write the title as it appears for this article. One seldom gets the chance to pile that many acronyms into a single headline. If you expand the whole thing out it actually says “Microsoft merges its servicing stack updates into its cumulative updates for Windows Server Update Services.”

This means that the “private label” version of Windows Update known as WSUS (Windows Server Update Services, used to give Windows admins control over in-house Windows update deployments on corporate and organizational networks), as well as the Microsoft Update Catalog are all included. Thus, instead of receiving (or downloading) separate updates for the update servicing stack (SSUs) and cumulative Windows updates (CUs), applicable SSUs will be incorporated into CUs going forward. All this goodness is covered in Aria Carley’s Windows 10 IT Pro blog post for September 8, entitled Simplifying on-premises deployment of servicing stack updates (worth reading).

How Things Used to Work

Before this dynamic duo was put together, admins had to make sure that Windows 10 devices had to find and deploy the right servicing stack update before (or along with) any new cumulative update that comes along. This can pose problems if the right combo isn’t selected, or if the right SSU fails to precede some specific CU. Suffice it to say that by combining the two together, MS makes things easier for those who work with WSUS or who, for whatever reason, use the Microsoft Update Catalog to grab updates for deployment through other, non-Windows means (such as SmartDeploy or the ENGL Imaging Toolkit — see this 2015 story I wrote about these excellent tools for TechTarget.) If you’ve ever seen the error message that reads “Update isn’t applicable” when SSU/CU compatibility manifests, you already know that troubleshooting this kind of problem can be tricky.

How Things Work Going Forward

When the right SSU is deployed alongside the corresponding CU, the update experience becomes seamless. As the blog post states “The update stack automatically orchestrates the installation, so both are applied correctly.” The planned changes, which should take effect before the end of September, 2020, “will ensure that the SSU and LCU [Latest Cumulative Update] are provided together under a single payload to both … WSUS .. and Microsoft [Update] Catalog.” Three cheers for MS, for recognizing a long-standing source of potential gotchas, and implementing what appears to be a foolproof fix.

Author: Ed Tittel

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran. He’s a Princeton and multiple University of Texas graduate who’s worked in IT since 1981 when he started his first programming job. Over the past three decades he’s also worked as a manager, technical evangelist, consultant, trainer, and an expert witness. See his professional bio for all the details.

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