Windows 10 spring 2021 update: Everything to know

Microsoft has confirmed that its latest Windows 10 update, version 21H1, will arrive in the spring of this year, according to a company blog post Monday. This follows Microsoft's usual pattern of rolling out two major Windows 10 updates per year, with this one following the latest October 2020 update. (If you're running Windows 7, you can still download Windows 10 free to get the latest updates.)

While we can expect a few useful new features to arrive this spring, it seems likely that Microsoft is using this smaller update cycle to prepare for a larger Windows 10 UI update, reportedly codenamed Sun Valley, that will be part of Microsoft's renewed focus in Windows 10 that executives mentioned last year. We won't know exactly what that means until a larger update is confirmed, but we've collected some rumors below.

Read more: The best antivirus protection of 2020 for Windows 10

Here's what we know about Windows 10 version 21H1 so far, and what it could mean for the future of the OS.

What is Windows 10 version 21H1?

Windows 10 version 21H1 will be Microsoft's latest update to the OS, arriving sometime this spring. These updates often end up being called the April or May update.

Usually, Microsoft releases a larger feature update in the spring, and a smaller one in the fall. But version 21H1 appears to be a more minor update as well, rather than an overhaul.

Read more: Windows 10 tips: Secret Start menu, taking screenshots and more

What new features will the new update include?

Microsoft hasn't yet unveiled any new features that will be included in the spring 2021 update. In terms of hardware requirements, however, there won't be any changes over the October 2020 update, suggesting few big improvements.

According to Digital Trends, the update will include new icons, updated settings pages and some tweaks to Cortana and the search box experience.

When can I download the new update?

The Windows 10 21H1 update should start rolling out to users in May, according to a Windows Central report. This has not been confirmed by Microsoft.

Microsoft has also not yet released a 21H1 test build to the Beta or Release Preview rings, though that will likely happen soon. If you're part of the Windows Insider program, you may be able to download the test build and try it out.

When it's generally available in the spring, you'll be able to download version 21H1 by going to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, and clicking Check for Updates. If available, you'll see Feature update to Windows 10, version 21H1. Click Download and install.

What's this bigger Windows 10 update that could be coming next?

On an October 2020 earnings call, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that Microsoft is "doubling down" on Windows and PCs, and will continue to innovate.

This could take the form of a major OS update for Windows 10 later this year that would bring a major design refresh to the UI, according to a report from Windows Central. The update, reportedly codenamed Sun Valley, could bring a redesigned Start menu, Action Center and File Explorer, with a more modern look and new features. Sun Valley is expected to be released around the 2021 holiday season, Windows Central says, but that could change.

Another factor: Microsoft has said that its Windows 10X OS designed for dual-screen devices like the Surface Duo and the Surface Neo, is expected to come to single-screen devices first.

For more, check out the best three new features in the Windows 10 October 2020 update, and six simple security changes all Windows 10 users need to make.