Which branch of Configuration Manager should I use?

Applies to: System Center Configuration Manager (Current Branch, Long-Term Servicing Branch, and Technical Preview)

There are three branches of System Center Configuration Manager available: current branch, long-term servicing branch, and technical preview branch. Use this topic to help choose the right branch for you.

Tip

All sites in a hierarchy must run the same branch. It isn't supported to have a hierarchy with different branches at different sites.

Current branch

This branch is licensed for use in a production environment. Use this branch to get the latest features and functionalities. If you have one of the following licenses, you can use this branch:

  • System Center Datacenter
  • System Center Standard
  • System Center Configuration Manager
  • Equivalent subscription rights

For more information about Software Assurance and licensing options, see Licensing and branches for System Center Configuration Manager and Frequently asked questions for Configuration Manager branches and licensing.

Microsoft plans to release updates for System Center Configuration Manager current branch a few times per year. For versions of Configuration Manager released prior to 1710, support is for 12 months. Beginning with the 1710 release, each update version remains in support for 18 months from its general availability (GA) release date. Technical support is provided for the entire period of support. However, our support structure is dynamic, evolving into two distinct servicing phases that depend on the availability of the latest current branch version. (For more information, review the topic titled Support for System Center Configuration Manager current branch versions. Updates to newer versions are available as in-console updates.

To install the Current Branch as a new site, use baseline media. Also use baseline media to upgrade from System Center 2012 Configuration Manager with Service Pack 2 or System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager with Service Pack 1. Access to this media depends on how your organization licensed System Center Configuration Manager.

You can also use the baseline media to install a new site that is an evaluation edition of the current branch. The evaluation edition doesn't require a license. You can use the evaluation edition for 180 days. It supports upgrade to a licensed edition of the current branch. To install only an evaluation edition, get it from the TechNet Evaluation Center.

Note

Use baseline media to install sites for a new Configuration Manager hierarchy. If you previously installed a baseline version, use in-console updates to update your sites to a new version.

Sites that are updated using in-console updates result in sites that are the same as the new site installed using the baseline media.

For more information, see Updates for System Center Configuration Manager.

Features of the current branch

  • Receives in-console updates that make new features available for use.
  • Receives in-console updates that deliver security and quality fixes to existing features.
  • Supports out-of-band updates when necessary. For more information, see Use the update registration tool or Use the hotfix installer.
  • Integrates with Microsoft Intune and other cloud-based services.
  • Supports migration of data to and from other Configuration Manager installations.
  • Supports upgrade from previous versions of Configuration Manager.
  • Supports installation as an evaluation edition, from which you can later upgrade to a fully licensed installation.

The initial release of the Current Branch was version 1511. Subsequent updates include versions 1602, 1606, and so on. Each version remains in support for one year, and Microsoft recommends that you update to the newest version soon after its release. You can wait up to one year before updating to a newer version, and you can also skip an update to install the newest version available. Because each version is cumulative, if you skip over an update and install the newest version, you still get access to all features and improvements from previous versions.

For more information, see Support for current branch versions.

Update options

  • With active Software Assurance, you can install in-console updates for current branch versions.
  • There is no option to convert the current branch to a technical preview branch. Technical preview branches are separate installations that don't require a license.
  • There is no option to convert your current branch to the long-term servicing branch (LTSB). You must uninstall the current branch and then install the LTSB as a new installation.

Long-term servicing branch

This branch is licensed for use in production for Configuration Manager customers who are using the current branch and have allowed their Configuration Manager Software Assurance (SA) or equivalent subscription rights to expire after October 1, 2016. For more about Software Assurance and licensing options, see Licensing and branches for System Center Configuration Manager and Frequently asked questions for Configuration Manager branches and licensing.

The LTSB is based on version 1606. This branch doesn't receive in-console updates that deliver new features or update existing capabilities. However, critical security fixes are provided. To install the LTSB, you must use the version 1606 baseline media that you get with System Center 2016. Later baseline versions don't support install of the LTSB.

To install the LTSB as a new site or as an upgrade from a supported Configuration Manager 2012 site, use the version 1606 baseline media that you get with System Center 2016. You can use baseline media to install a new site that runs version 1606 of the current branch, or a new site that runs the long-term servicing branch.

Tip

To learn about System Center 2016, see System Center 2016 documentation. This documentation also identifies how to get System Center 2016, which requires a Microsoft license agreement or similar rights.

To find System Center Configuration Manager version 1606 in the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC), go to the Downloads and Keys tab of the VLSC, search for System Center 2016, and then select either System Center 2016 Datacenter or System Center 2016 Standard.

You can also get an evaluation edition of System Center 2016 from the TechNet Evaluation Center.

Features of the LTSB

  • Receives in-console updates that deliver critical security fixes.
  • Provides an installation option when your SA agreement or equivalent rights to Configuration Manager have expired.
  • Supports upgrade (conversion) to the current branch when you have a current SA agreement or equivalent rights to Configuration Manager.

Limitations

The LTSB is based on the current branch version 1606 and has the following limitations:

  • The LTSB is supported for 10 years of critical security updates after its general availability (October 2016), after which, support for this branch expires. For more information about the support lifecycle, see Microsoft Lifecycle Policy.
  • Supports a limited set list of server and client operating systems and related technologies, like SQL Server versions. For more about what is supported with this branch, see Supported configurations for the long-term servicing branch.
  • Doesn't receive updates for new features
  • Doesn't support the following capabilities:
    • Adding a Microsoft Intune subscription, which prevents the use of:
      • Intune in a hybrid MDM configuration
      • On-premises MDM
    • The Windows 10 servicing dashboard, servicing plans, or Windows 10 semi-annual channel
    • Future releases of Windows 10 LTSB and Windows Server
    • Asset intelligence
    • Cloud-based distribution points
    • Exchange Online as an Exchange Connector
    • Any pre-release features

Update options

Technical preview branch

The technical preview branch is for use in a lab environment. Learn about and try out the newest features being developed for Configuration Manager. It isn't supported in a production environment, and doesn't require you to have a Software Assurance license agreement.

To install a new site that runs the technical preview branch, use the latest baseline media for the technical preview branch. After you install the technical preview branch, new versions are available as in-console updates each month.

Features of the technical preview branch

  • Based on recent baseline versions of the current branch
  • Receives in-console updates that update your installation to the latest technical preview branch version
  • Includes new features that are being developed, and for which Microsoft wants your feedback
  • Receives updates that apply only to the technical preview branch

Limitations

  • Support is limited, including only a single primary site and up to 10 clients.
  • Can't be upgraded to a current branch or LTSB.
  • Doesn't support the following behaviors:
    • Using migration to import or export data to another Configuration Manager installation
    • Upgrade from a previous version of Configuration Manager
    • Installation as an evaluation edition

Features that are first introduced in a technical preview branch are often added to the current branch in a later update. Each new technical preview branch version includes the features from previous technical preview branches, even after those features have been added to the current branch.

For more information, see the Technical preview for System Center Configuration Manager.

Update options

  • You can install any in-console update for a new technical preview branch version.
  • There is no option to convert a technical preview branch to the current branch or LTSB.

Identify your version and branch

Version

To check the version of your site, in the console go to About System Center Configuration Manager at the upper-left corner of the console. This dialog displays the Site version. For a list of site versions, see Baseline and update versions.

Branch

To confirm the branch of your site, in the console go to Administration > Site Configuration > Sites, and open Hierarchy Settings. If there is an option to convert to the current branch and it is active, the site runs the LTSB version. When the site runs the current branch, this option is grayed out.

For more information about the different versions of Configuration Manager, see Baseline and update versions.