Until 2015, Microsoft released a brand new version of its operating system every few years. However, that all changed with the launch of Windows 10, which the company declared would be “the last version of Windows”.
That sounds dramatic, but in reality the plan was for Windows 10 to be updated gradually over time, similarly to the way new features are added to its Office 365 subscription service (now Microsoft 365).
In addition to monthly security patches, for the last five years, Microsoft has released major ‘feature’ updates twice a year. These are usually rolled out each May and November, but it looks like the next update will arrive slightly earlier than usual.
As a side note, the so-called ’20H2′ might be the last biannual Windows 10 update we see for a while. There are rumours that Microsoft will switch to annual feature updates to free up resources for the development of Windows 10X.
Nonetheless, here’s all you need to know about what is now likely to be the October update.
Windows 10 October update release date
The next feature update for Windows 10 is now expected in October 2020, although a specific release date isn’t known.
If Microsoft were to follow its regular ‘Patch Tuesday’ schedule for security updates, 13 October would be the release date, but that’s looking unlikely at this stage.
However, for many people, the official release date is irrelevant, as it takes weeks or even months before the update is available on all compatible devices. Due to the more than 1 billion devices running Windows 10, Microsoft tends to throttle up availability in order to manage demand.
Nonetheless, as Windows Latest reports, the October update is already available to members of the Windows Insider Programme. Anybody can sign up to join it, meaning you can get the Windows 10 October update now.
Looking further ahead, ZDNet is reporting that Microsoft may also switch to annual Windows 10 updates in the future, to free up resources for the development of Windows 10X. Author Mary Jo Foley has a strong reputation for Windows news, so we don’t doubt that it’s under consideration by Microsoft.
Windows 10 October update device support
The vast majority of Windows 10 devices that were eligible for the May update will still be compatible with the next version. However, support will likely vary between companies, so it’s worth checking with the manufacturer of your device if you’re unsure.
As with the May update, Microsoft is likely to throttle availability to manage ever-increasing demand. Depending on the age of your device, it could mean you have to wait several weeks after the official release date for it to be ‘ready’ to install.
Checking if the May update is available for your device (it may have been downloaded automatically) is a good indicator that the October update will also arrive.
Windows 10 October update new features
Microsoft teased a redesigned Start Menu back in April 2020. While it wasn’t expected to arrive until 2021, recent speculation has pointed to an earlier release.
Created by the @Windows design team, this animated clip illustrates a sliver of the #UX evolution and modernization of the Windows experience. Let us know what you think in the comments below! pic.twitter.com/s4SVXncLEo
— Microsoft Design (@MicrosoftDesign)
April 6, 2020
As the short clip above illustrates, the new Start Menu will be released alongside updated icons for a number of Microsoft’s stock apps. Teams, Outlook and the Microsoft Office apps all look set for a refresh.
Microsoft shed more light on this redesign in a blog post in July 2020, which included some official screenshots and the below GIF illustrating the transition.
Previously, Microsoft showed off the new Start Menu in a Facebook post to celebrate Pride month.
The new Start Menu looks like it will be much sleeker than the current version. There’s particular emphasis on the redesigned live tiles, with icons showing up over a consistent background if not displaying live information.
It’s unclear why Microsoft debuted this new design more than a year before it’s expected to arrive, although an early build of the 2021 (21H1) update has already been released to insiders.
ZDNet is also reporting on a host of new features included in the latest test run of the next feature update. Here’s a breakdown of what’s new:
Theme-aware Start Menu tiles – will adjust colour scheme according to the theme you choose
Edge tabs included in Alt + Tab switching, in addition to windows and programs
More personalised taskbar – linked to Microsoft account as opposed to the same default layout for every user
Ability to dismiss notifications as they are received
See more information in the official Microsoft blog post.
Early testers of the new software have also noticed a subtle change to Control Panel. As Windows Latest is reporting, the popular ‘System’ area will be removed, with a similar overview available via the Settings app.
It’s the latest in Microsoft’s slow phasing out of the Control Panel, which began with the release of the separate Settings app alongside Windows 8 in 2012.
Elsewhere, Windows Latest has revealed lots more features that we’re expecting to see come to Windows 10 in 2021. These include modernised volume controls, a smaller search bar and redesigned action center. The latter looks set to offer significant improvements to users’ ability to manage notifications and access quick.
Image: Windows Latest
Although months away from any expected release, there are already a few rumours about what we can expect from Windows 10’s next feature update.
Windows Latest is reporting that the ’20H2′ update will be more cumulative, without any of the headlining new features we saw in the May update. The website’s strong track record when it comes to Windows news means we have no reason to doubt them, particularly as the late 2019 update was similarly minor.
With under the hood improvements prioritised, one such area that looks to be getting some attention is storage settings. Again according to Windows Latest, the next update will add user cleanup recommendations, to help you easily clear unused files.
This is expected to work in a similar way to what we’ve seen on smartphones, recommending large, rarely used or backed up files to be deleted from your hard drive.
In an official blog post, Microsoft also said it would prevent the deletion of items in the downloads folder if it’s already saved to a cloud storage provider. Windows 10’s File Explorer can sync directly to the likes of OneDrive and Google Drive, but it means accidental deletions usually apply across all your devices.
It also looks like we’ll be getting the option to specify refresh rate, according to a recent Reddit post.
With many PCs and laptops supporting displays up to 240Hz, the ability to modify this according to what you’re doing could be an effective way to manage performance and battery life.
This is one of the features in Build 19041.423, which you can get right now via a clever workaround. That OS also looks set to bring a revamped keyboard in tablet mode. It’s widely accepted that Windows 10 is far more intuitive on a desktop, with the clunky current one of the major frustrations.
As Windows Central is reporting, the new touch keyboard looks set for a redesign, while emojis will also be directly integrated for the first time. It forms part of the fluent design aesthetic, which will cover upcoming versions of Windows 10 and Windows 10X.
Of course, the priority for Microsoft is to ensure the October 2020 update is as stable as it possibly can be. The May update has been plagued with issues since launch, leading the likes of Tom’s Guide to label it ‘a disaster’.
Changes coming in future updates
While the October update is relatively modest by way of new features, extra functionality is set to be added in 2021.
As Windows Latest reports, two new features are set to become available to members of the Windows Insider Program soon. ‘Desktop Spotlight’ will allow you to have the daily image from the Bing homepage as your desktop background, changing every day in accordance with the website. This will be easily accesible from the Settings menu.
If you haven’t been on Bing recently, these are the sorts of stunning images you can expect:
The other new feature is a theme-aware splash screen. This will mean a selection of popular apps will open with a theme that matches the system theme you’ve chosen (light or dark).
We’ll update this article as and when more is known about the next major Windows 10 update. For a bitesize version, check out Five big changes coming in Windows 10’s October 2020 update.