Windows 10 has undergone a lot of changes in the six years since its launch, but the basic look remains the same. Whether you buy a new device or a device that has not been updated for several years (the last version officially supported by Microsoft is May 2018), the experience will be largely the same.
However, it looks like that will change in 2021. It’s likely that the 21H1 update will be the minor refresh Microsoft is used to, but big changes are expected throughout the year.
Here’s everything you need to know about the 21H2 update, codenamed “Sun Valley”.
Windows 10 21H2 Update release date
At this time, we don’t have concrete information on the launch, although the timing of previous Windows 10 feature updates gives a good idea of when to expect it. The late 2019 update arrived on November 12, while a year later it was postponed to October 20.
Everything points to a similar release window for the Sun Valley update. In fact, a Windows Central article suggests that it will be presented as the “October 2021 update“.
As is often the case, members of the Windows Insider program will likely have access to early versions ahead of time. In the same January 2021 post, Zac Bowden says it could be as early as “in the next few weeks,” so stay tuned if you’re already signed up.
Otherwise, go to “Settings> Update & Security> Windows Insider Program” and click “Start”; It is open to anyone with a Windows 10 device.
A near-final version of the 21H2 update is expected to be available to Insiders in June 2021.
If you have a Windows computer, you’ll also want to know which are the best Windows antiviruses.
Will my Windows PC receive the 21H2 update?
It is very likely that your PC or laptop can download the 20H2 update, the most recent one released by Microsoft. Update 21H1 is still expected by Sun Valley, so we would be surprised if a device running version 20H2 is no longer supported.
As is often the case, you may need to install the above feature update before Sun Valley is available for download under “Settings”.
You may also need to be patient. Microsoft is known to speed up the availability of feature updates to handle demand, so it can take weeks or even months after the official release date for your PC to be eligible.
In fact, it wasn’t until February 2021 that the May 2020 update was officially cleared for all supported devices.
What’s New in Windows 10 21H2 Update
As of October 2020, we’ve got the idea that the 21H2 update might be the most important Windows 10 update yet. A ton of features were rumored back then, and many more have been rumored since. Here’s everything we know so far:
New design language
Sun Valley’s long-awaited update design overhaul is arguably the most eye-catching news we’ve ever heard. Microsoft appears to be revamping the Windows 10 user interface to more closely match its new “ Fluent UI ” design language, with rounded corners and a simpler design.
This will include system applications such as File Explorer and Settings, as well as the “File” and “Copy” dialog boxes. We expect most Microsoft applications to adopt a similar design, with Windows Central highlighting “Alarms and Clock” in particular.
The home menu, which was updated in late 2020 to automatically adapt to the theme of the device, will also benefit from these improvements.
According to Windows Latest, Microsoft is also considering a design where the Start menu and the right-click options window are “floating”, with visible space between them and the taskbar. A mockup by author Mayank Parmar shows how this might work:
On the other hand, there will also be a new center of action. It will adopt a design almost identical to that of Windows 10X, Microsoft’s new spin-off designed for dual-screen devices.
The big improvement here is a new quick settings menu, which will remove a lot of the clutter from the taskbar. There is also a dedicated music control interface and a separate notification area, all visible with a single click.
To complement this, Microsoft is expected to introduce a new dashboard style feature, which will provide an overview of your account information. This can include calendar events, recent documents, to-dos, or other relevant news.
New battery usage graph
According to the tweet below, it looks like Microsoft will be adding a new battery usage menu to the Settings app. It should include information on which apps are consuming the most, as well as tools to reduce battery consumption in the future.
Here are some new battery usage charts coming to Windows next year. Really happy to see this after getting used to such features on Android and iOS. pic.twitter.com/0io22kjrt2
– Albacore (@thebookisclosed)
December 14, 2020
Since the feature is not expected to arrive in Update 21H1, there is every indication that it will arrive in Sun Valley. However, this is the first leak we’ve seen from @thebookisclosed on Twitter, so we can’t be sure it will reach the final version.
Many new features have recently been added to Microsoft’s Edge browser and Sun Valley will include an individual tab in Windows 10’s Snap Assist multitasking tool. This should make it easier to use two or more browser tabs at the same time.
Snap Assist updates should also include the reminder of the two apps that connect when connected / disconnected from an external display. These are currently reset whenever the number of connected displays changes.
According to Windows Latest, Microsoft will now also allow separate virtual desktops for each screen used. This should allow users to separate personal tabs from business tabs, especially if the same device is used for both.
Its author, Mayank Parmar, says the company is currently testing this feature, which is reportedly available through a switch in Settings.
The same article also suggests that the feature called “Aero Shake” will be optional. Currently, quickly dragging an open window from side to side minimizes all open apps. This can be a useful way to get to the desktop quickly, but it’s definitely not for everyone.
Improved stylus and voice functionality
Windows 10 can be controlled with your voice or with a stylus, but neither experience is more intuitive. That looks set to change in Sun Valley’s update, with a cleaner voice command user interface and a dedicated context menu that appears when using a stylus that is compatible with a Windows 10 device.
Gestures in tablet mode
Windows 10 never felt fully optimized for tablets, but the introduction of gestures could help improve the touch experience. According to Windows Central, these gestures will mimic those of the trackpad, with a four or five finger swipe down to minimize an app.
Ability to uninstall system applications
Windows 10 still comes with a wide range of system apps, but many cannot be uninstalled. That looks set to change, with Zac Bowden on Windows Central suggesting that the number of apps that can be uninstalled will “increase dramatically.” However, it is not known what these applications will be.
We do not yet have official information from Microsoft on the Sun Valley update. However, product manager Panos Panay said he was “very excited” about “the next generation of Windows”. Hopefully senior executives will be excited about the next releases, but should we be excited about the prospect of Sun Valley?
Update 21H2 is expected in late 2021, although update 21H1 is still expected this spring.