Windows 10 version 21H1 is coming: here’s what to expect

Spring is one of the two seasons of the year when Microsoft typically releases a new feature update for Windows 10, and that means we’ll have another one soon. Microsoft has already been testing the next feature update, known as version 21H1, for a while now, and it shouldn’t be long before it’s publicly available. As such, it’s time for another summary of what’s new in this update, but before we get into that, you might want to see all the changes that have been made in previous Windows 10 updates:

Moving on to version 21H1, some background is required here. For the past two years, Microsoft has released a major feature update in the spring (see versions 1903 and 2004) and a smaller update focused on refinements and minor improvements in the fall (versions 1909 and 20H2). These updates are delivered via enablement packages, which means that the actual bits of the Fall updates are the same as those of the Spring update, but they have an enablement package that makes certain features light up. The spring and fall updates of each year even receive the exact same cumulative updates every month.

This time, however, the spring update, version 21H1, is another enablement pack update, meaning it only illuminates certain changes that are already hidden in version 2004 and 20H2. In fact, this is the smallest feature update Windows 10 has ever had, and it can hardly be considered a “feature update.” It’s only here to align with Microsoft’s usual deadline for these updates. So what exactly is new?

Windows Hello

Windows Hello interface on Windows 10 login screen

First of all, there are improvements to Windows Hello, so if you have a device with a built-in Windows Hello camera but you connect another Windows Hello compatible camera, you can now set the external camera as the default for Windows Hello authentication. This could be useful, for example, if you buy a monitor that has a built-in camera.

Windows Defender Application Protection

This update also includes performance improvements for Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG), including a fix for an issue where opening some Office documents could cause delays of more than a minute. This would happen if the file was accessed through a Universal Naming Convention (UNC) path or a Server Message Block (SMB) shared link.

Robocopy performance has also been improved when copying files larger than 400MB in size. Finally, an issue was fixed where a WDAG container could use almost 1GB of memory while idle.

Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI)

Finally, Microsoft has made some improvements to the Group Policy Service in Windows Management Instrumentation to accommodate remote work scenarios. Previously, changes to groups of users or computers might take time to propagate, which meant that the results of changes to group policies were not displayed when the administrator tried to generate a report.

Yes, that’s really all there is to this update, and you may have noticed that most of the changes have something to do with remote work. Microsoft says it won’t be releasing a major feature update this spring due to COVID-19, and the updates it made are intended to address the most urgent requests it has heard from its customers.

But another reason there aren’t any great features in this update is that Windows 10X was supposed to be released this spring, and Microsoft was ready to focus on that for now. Microsoft is said to be saving the big changes for the fall update, including a visual fix for Windows 10, codenamed Sun Valley. We’ve seen some of those visual changes in new builds for Windows Insiders recently, like new icons found in places like the Settings app, new icons in File Explorer, and a whole new experience for touch keyboards.

Screenshot of File Explorer with new icons
Some of the icons that will come with version 21H2 later this year

However, some recent reports have pointed out that Windows 10X will also be delayed, and since Microsoft has not communicated anything about it, it is not entirely clear what will happen to Windows 10 this year.

For now, Windows 10 version 21H1 should be released soon, and even if it doesn’t bring many new features, it should at least be safe to install considering that it doesn’t bring big changes. Microsoft says that version 21H1 will remove the Edge Legacy browser from the operating system, but in reality, it will also be removed from older versions of Windows 10 with a cumulative update in April.

Planning to install Windows 10 version 21H1 as soon as it is available? Let us know in the comments.

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