Stop! Don’t Touch that OS

So, you’ve got a new digital signage media player from Visix. You unbox it, plug it in, boot it up and then you notice that the OS is Windows 10 IoT Enterprise 2019 LTSC (x64).

2019? Why the outdated OS? Shouldn’t I update or replace it?

And that’s where the trouble starts.

What is Windows 10 IoT Enterprise 2019 LTSC?

LTSC stands for Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC). This is a special Windows 10 IoT Enterprise build that was released in late 2018 and isn’t available to the general public. It is specifically made for vendors like Visix who are building embedded devices for specific applications where functionality and features need to remain stable over time.

LTSC releases have a 10-year life and support cycle. That means that Microsoft promises that those features will not change throughout that life cycle, and they’ll support the build for 10 years.

Why do Visix media players use Windows 10 IoT Enterprise 2019 LTSC?

Our digital signage software has been specifically developed to run on this platform. Our media players are all single purpose devices and standardized on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise 2019 LTSC (x64), so our clients know they’ll have consistent performance across all our devices.

There are three main reasons we’ve chosen this OS build:

  • Performance – it provides the best playback performance for our digital signage software
  • Stability – features won’t change over time and updates will not alter functionality
  • Support – Microsoft guarantees to support this build until January 9, 2029

Am I missing critical updates between 2019 and now?

The short answer is no. The longer answer requires understanding the difference between quality updates and feature updates.

  • A Windows quality update is an incremental update to Windows products that includes bug fixes, stability improvements, and security issue resolutions.
  • A Windows feature update is an update that contains new features alongside quality updates.

LTSC versions can automatically receive quality updates that address security and reliability for the life of the build (10 years) if that option is turned on at the player. They do not receive feature updates because all of the features we need are already in the original build.

Can I replace the player’s native OS with my own Windows 10 version?

Please, please, please don’t. If you read this whole article and still believe you need to use your own version, please contact us first so we can talk through it with you. Simply doing it on your own will almost certainly lead to a number of problems.

We cannot guarantee system performance.

Visix players have been rigorously tested on Windows 10 IoT Enterprise 2019 LTSC (x64). If you move to another OS, we cannot guarantee system reliability or performance. It can also limit the scope of what we can troubleshoot when you need support for your software or hardware.

It will make managing your system harder.

If you move to any version other than LTSC, you’ll get forced updates a couple times a year that include lots of junk you don’t need, like Cortana, Xbox apps, etc. that run in the background, unnecessarily eating up system resources. Feature updates interrupt playback on your screens and tend to take a lot longer than quality updates. (We’ve all been stuck staring at a blue screen while Windows pushes a feature update.) By disallowing feature updates, we’re making sure nothing comes along to break your system.

Why waste one of your own licenses when you’ve already got one from Visix?

The license fee is bundled together with our hardware, so you’ve already paid for a Windows license for each player. If you reimage your players using your own license, you’re not only risking breakage, but you’re also wasting money. And worst of all, your OS won’t be supported for 10 years. (Most likely, your OS is supported for 18 months.)

What happens if I’ve already wiped the OS?

Don’t worry. We can help get you back on track. Send us your Visix players and we’ll reimage them for you. However, these instances may incur additional fees, and we may not be able to issue replacements to keep your system up and running.

As always, we’re here to help. If you have further questions about the OS, or our hardware or software, don’t hesitate to reach out to our client services team.