LTSC products from Microsoft

Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC)

What is LTSC?

LTSC is short for Long-Term Servicing Channel and designed for Windows. LTSC is a software versioning model by Microsoft and these apply to the products Windows Office, Windows Server and Windows 10. But LTSC for Windows is the most popular. LTSC versions, like other versions, get 10 years of support by default. Compared to the other versions, LTSC only ensures that there is only one update every three years. LTSC versions are specifically designed to be installed on machines that require fully statistical functions for an extended period of time. Think of functions that do not change over time, such as medical systems (MRI and CAT scans), industrial process controllers and air traffic control equipment. These systems have characteristics of embedded systems. They are designed for a specific purpose and are developed, tested and certified before use. 

Normally, updates are good for businesses because they might create a new or better way of doing something. But systems that perform important tasks and where consistency plays a major role, these updates can be seen as disruptive. This is because some features may suddenly be deleted or there may be an entirely new user interface, for example, which may cause some problems. LTSC therefore responds to this and ensures that all updates are accumulated. The updates are then merged into a major update every three years. Each time, the business admin can decide whether these updates should be implemented or not. Furthermore, LTSC versions have less pre-installed software, making them more streamlined for certain usage scenarios.

When to use LTSC?

LTSC is not the best choice for everyone. Microsoft recommends LTSC primarily for systems or devices that are generally not suitable for consumers. Regular Microsoft versions are better suited for personal devices. This is because LTSC versions lack the latest features and improvements. As mentioned earlier, LTSC is designed for systems where stability, reliability and long-term support are key. 

Besides LTSC, there is also a SAC (Semi-Annual Channel). The main difference between these two channels is when the update rolls out. A Microsoft product in the Semi-Annual Channel receives two feature updates every year. These updates take place in spring and autumn and include new features, services and other major changes. Other minor changes or security updates do come every month. 

Semi-Annual Channel can be the solution for companies that want to innovate quickly. With the two major updates every year, new features can be used quickly and it gives companies a good overview. If a company still prefers a longer cycle and predictability, LTSC is more suitable. That way, the company only gets access to the latest features every two or three years.

LTSC: Considerations

LTSC versions are designed for devices and usage scenarios where functionality and features do not change. Furthermore, LTSC offers ten years of security maintenance for, say, a statistical Windows 10 feature set. Below are some things to consider when a company is considering LTSC:

  1. Silicon support: Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC supports the all released processors and chipsets at the time of LTSC release. It is important that companies, when choosing LTSC, consider hardware. This is because the hardware must have a long lifespan, as the LTSC versions are supported for about 10 years. 
  2. Latest peripheral support: Since the API and driver support models do not change, the LTSC release may not support new hardware or other peripherals that the organisation may need. 
  3. Application support: It is noticeable that there is a growing gap between APIs and functionality in current Windows in an LTSC release after a Semi-Annual Channel release. Many ISVs do not support LTSC versions applications, this is done so that the user gets the best experience for the applications. Consider the latest innovations and features. 
  4. Best security and stability: Windows 10 comes with the latest features and offers the latest security features, functionality and performance and stability improvements.

LTSC: Products

Microsoft offers LTSC for its Windows, Windows Server (Enterprise versions only) and Office products. Below is more about the LTSC versions for these Microsoft products.

Windows LTSC

Windows LTSC is the most commonly used form of LTSC. Windows is a group of different operating families developed by Microsoft. Currently, Windows is also the most widely used operating system in the world. However, the LTSC release is only granted with Windows Enterprise and is specifically intended for specific scenarios where stability and consistency are key. Windows LTSC comes with a number of key features:

  1. Long-term support
  2. Few major feature updates
  3. Stability and predictability
  4. Limited consumer features

Windows Server

In early September 2023, Windows Server made two primary release channels available: The LTSC version and the AC (Annual Channel). Also with Windows Server, LTSC offers a longer-term option that focuses on a long lifecycle and quality and security updates. With Windows LTSC, bigger changes only come after two or three years. With this, users are entitled to five years of regular support and then also five years of extended security support. LTSC can be installed with Server Core or Server with Desktop Experience installation options. 

Office LTSC

The Microsoft Office LTSC version is intended for commercial and government customers. It is a perpetual licence, which means the user only needs to purchase the product once. Microsoft Office only has two Office LTSC versions, which are the Office LTSC Professional Plus 2021 and Office LTSC Standard 2021. The Office LTSC Standard version features the standard applications: Word, Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint, Outlook and Publisher. The Office LTSC Professional Plus version also features these standard applications, but has two additional complementary applications available only for the Windows operating system. Professional Plus also features Microsoft Access and Teams.