Windows 10 May 2021 update: Release date, new features, how to download and more
Windows 10 ($149 at Amazon) users are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the latest operating system update, version 21H1, which Microsoft confirmed will arrive this spring. 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 ($26 at Amazon), you can still download Windows 10 free to get the latest updates and avoid security issues.)
While we can expect a few useful new features to arrive with the update soon, it seems likely that Microsoft is using this smaller update cycle to prepare for a larger Windows 10 UI update, reportedly code-named 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.
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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, likely arriving sometime in May. These updates often end up being called the April or May update depending on when they get released.
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.
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What new features will the new update include?
According to a February Microsoft blog post, new Windows 10 features will include:
"The features we are releasing in this update are focused on the core experiences that customers have told us they're relying on most right now," the post said. "So, we optimized this release to support our customers' most pressing needs."
According to Digital Trends, the update will also include new icons, updated settings pages and some tweaks to Cortana and the search box experience.
When can I download the new update?
Microsoft said the Windows 10 21H1 update will be available in the first half of the year. A Windows Central report says it will arrive in May, though Microsoft did not confirm this.
In March, Microsoft began rolling out a 21H1 build to Windows Insiders in the Beta program, and then the Release Preview Channel. New features will be offered in future Windows Insider Preview builds as they are ready.
When the update is generally available, it will be the first time an H1 (first half of the calendar year) feature update will be delivered using Microsoft's servicing technology. That means it'll arrive the same way that monthly Windows 10 updates do. It's also the same way the October 2020 update was released. If you're already running either Windows 10 version 2004 or version 20H2, it'll be a fast installation process to get the newest update.
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 code-named 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. However, a May report from IT site Petri.com said that Windows 10X will not launch this year, and may never come to market, though Microsoft declined to comment on this.
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.