In the past, Microsoft released a brand new version of Windows every few years. Following that timeline, a successor to Windows 10 is long overdue, and ‘Windows 11’ continues to be a popular search term.
However, Microsoft has made it clear that Windows 10 will be the last version of the operating system. That’s not to say it won’t be getting new features, though – quite the opposite. In addition to monthly security patches, Windows 10 has received significant updates twice a year since it launched.
With the October update now available for many people, attention has shifted to the next ‘feature’ update. Here’s what to expect from the 21H1 update.
Windows 10 21H1 update release date
While nothing has been confirmed so far, it’s generally expected that Windows 10’s next feature update will arrive sometime in the first half of 2021. Judging from previous years, a late May release date looks likely.
However, the upcoming release of Windows 10X complicates matters. Microsoft’s new stripped-back Windows 10 spin-off is expected to make its debut on single-screen devices early next year. That’s despite it being primarily designed for dual screens like the Surface Neo, but that device now isn’t likely to arrive until 2022.
Microsoft’s focus on Windows 10X in the first half of 2020 might mean it skips the 21H1 update altogether. However, rumours suggesting it will primarily focus on bug fixes suggest the company will stick with the schedule for 2021 at least.
Windows 10 21H1 device compatibility
The vast majority of Windows 10 devices that were eligible for the 20H2 (October 2020) update will still be compatible with the next feature update. Support may vary between companies though, so it’s worth checking with the manufacturer of your device if you’re unsure.
Checking if the October update (20H2) is available for your device (it may have been downloaded automatically) is a good indicator that the 21H1 update will also arrive.
Windows 10 21H1 feature news
Despite the next Windows 10 feature update not being expected for many months, we already have plenty of insight into what it might bring.
The short answer? Not much. Windows Latest is suggesting that the 21H1 will be another minor update, should it even arrive at all. Author Mayank Parmar says “it’s likely to be another enablement package or service pack style small update”. Windows Latest is regularly among the first to report on new versions of Windows 10, so we have no reason to doubt what he’s saying here.
Based on an Insider build from December 2020, How-To Geek has gone into more detail on what these might include:
System-wide DNS over HTTPS – DNS generally improves privacy and provides greater security by encrypting DNS lookups, which happen each and every time you launch a website. Currently, this is only available in browsers like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Mozilla Firefox
DNS options moved from Control Panel to Settings – The continued phasing out of Control Panel will see these options moved to the regular Settings menu
Startup app notifications – Each time you start up your PC (from off), you’ll receive a notification telling you which apps are set to launch each time you boot. You can disable this by heading to Settings > Apps > Startup, while there will still be options here to turn off any apps you don’t want to automatically launch
New emoji picker – Now with updated emoji design, searchable GIF library and integration with clipboard history (this will still also be available via the Windows Key + V shortcut)
Windows Dictation rebranded to Windows Voice Typing – This is said to be “optimised for use with touch keyboards”, and will offer automatic punctuation and a more reliable typing experience
New icons – The Settings app, Windows Security, Snip & Sketch and Sticky Notes are all set for updated icons
Storage health notifications – If your device has an NVMe SSD, Windows 10 will now be able to notify you when it thinks they “may be at risk of failure”
Disk Management options in Settings – Previously only accessible via a separate utility, Disk Management will now also be available under System > Storage > Manage Disks and Volumes
Linux improvements – Developers will be pleased to hear that Linux software on Windows 10 will now have full GPU support. The Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) will also be easier to install and update, while Linux files will now be accessible from within File Explorer
Improved graphics settings for multiple GPUs – If you have more than one graphics card on your PC, Windows 10 will allow you to set a default high-performance GPU. You’ll also be able to set which graphics card will be used for specific applications
It’s worth noting that this is an early build, and there’s no guarantee all these features will make it into the final version. Nonetheless, it gives a good overview of the sort of changes you can expect.
The Spring update is typically when we see most of the new features, with the Autumn update reserved for bug fixes and performance updates. However, that schedule could be flipped this year, with reports suggesting Windows 10 could get a major redesign in late 2021, codenamed ‘Sun Valley’. We’ll have more details as we approach its potential release window.