With the October 2020 update now available for almost all eligible devices, attention has shifted to the next 'feature' update. Here's what to expect from what we expect to be known as 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.

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.

That has led to some speculation that Microsoft will skip the 21H1 update altogether, but that doesn't appear to be the case. Windows Latest is suggesting the update will be made available to members of the Windows Insider Program in February or March, before rolling out to consumers a few months later.

That might be June 2021, if the latest leak is to be believed. A subsequent Windows Latest article reports on a new line of Chromium code which reads as follows:

Windows 10 Chromium code
Image: Windows Latest

It's since been updated to remove mention of June 2021, but it's unlikely to have been referring to any other 'Windows Release'.

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. Based on an early build from February 2021, How-To Geek has gone into more detail on the changes you can expect, and all are relatively minor:

  • 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

The article above also refers to a Windows blog post from February 2021, which revealed some additional features aimed at improving the remote working experience. These include the ability to use an external webcam for Windows Hello, as well as performance improvements in management and antivirus software. It will also download in the same way as a monthly security update, making it much quicker to install on your device than a typical feature update. Read more about it here.

The Spring update is typically when we see most of the new features, with the Autumn update reserved for bug fixes and performance updates. That schedule looks set to be flipped this year, with a major redesign expected in the 21H2 update, codenamed 'Sun Valley'. We'll have more details as we approach its potential October release.