What’s Windows 10 version 21H1, May 2021 Update?

Windows 10 21H1 (May 2021 Update) is the next major refresh of the OS, but it'll be a small update that won't include new features or require reinstallation.

Windows 10 21H1 download
Windows 10 21H1 download

Windows 10 version 21H1 (commonly referred to as “Windows 10 21H1” and as the “May 2021 Update”) is the eleventh feature update that Microsoft plans to release for its popular desktop operating system with a small set of changes and no significant new features.

In the past, we have seen the company rolling out two types of updates each year. A “major” update with new features and improvements during the first half of the year and a “minor” update to complement the previous release with fixes and small changes during the second half of the year. However, this time around, Windows 10 version 21H1 will be considered minor, and version 21H2 (the second semi-annual update) will be the major release.

Microsoft is changing the rollout approach to allow more time and free up engineers to work in the “Sun Valley” update, which is expected to be a big update with significant changes, including new features and visual improvements.

Rollout details

Windows 10 21H1 will roll out slowly to make sure only fully compatible devices will get it first. As the update proves to be more stable, the company will continue to expand availability.

When the new version becomes available for your computer, you will receive a “Feature update to Windows 10, version 21H1” notification to download it manually through Windows Update.

If you have version 20H2 or version 2004, the new version will download and apply using as a quick enablement package that should take less than five minutes to install without reinstallation. On the other hand, if the device has version 1909 or an older version, upgrading to Windows 10 21H1 will require full reinstallation.

Microsoft also plans to release the Windows 10 21H1 ISO file and Media Creation Tool to perform an in-place upgrade or clean installation. However, using these tools will require reinstallation of the operating system, no matter the version you are running. So, if you have one of the two more most recent versions, it is recommended to use Windows Update to apply the new version.

Windows 10 21H1 new features

As for new features and changes, the Windows 10 May 2021 Update does not ship with anything exciting, only under the hood improvements and fixes.

For example, Windows Hello for biometric authentication will get new multi-camera support, allowing you to set another camera the default when using high-end displays that include integrated webcams.

Windows Defender Application Guard (WDAG) fixes a delay problem when opening a Microsoft Office app. It improves file copying for files over 400MB in size when using the Robocopy command-line tool. And it addresses an issue that causes high usage of system memory when the WDAG container is idle.

The May 2021 Update also ships with better support for remote work scenarios when using Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) Group Policy Service (GPSVC), and it fixes slow membership propagation when editing a user or computer group in Active Directory (AD).

Alongside these improvements, the update will include many fixes and minor changes for Microsoft Edge, Microsoft 365, virtualization, and more.

System requirements for the May 2021 Update

Since Windows 10 21H1 is based on version 20H2 (October 2020 Update), the software and hardware requirements won’t change. In other words, this means that computers running version 20H2 will be compatible with version 21H1, and apps and drivers designed for version 2004 will be compatible with version 21H1.

Windows 10 21H1 release date

At the time of this writing, the first semi-annual update of 2021 does not have an official release date, but looking back at previous rollouts, it is likely that version 21H1 will release sometime in May 2021. If true, then the marketing name may be the “Windows 10 May 2021 Update.”

About the author

Mauro Huculak is a Windows How-To Expert who started Pureinfotech in 2010 as an independent online publication. He has also been a Windows Central contributor for nearly a decade. Mauro has over 14 years of experience writing comprehensive guides and creating professional videos about Windows and software, including Android and Linux. Before becoming a technology writer, he was an IT administrator for seven years. In total, Mauro has over 20 years of combined experience in technology. Throughout his career, he achieved different professional certifications from Microsoft (MSCA), Cisco (CCNP), VMware (VCP), and CompTIA (A+ and Network+), and he has been recognized as a Microsoft MVP for many years. You can follow him on X (Twitter), YouTube, LinkedIn and About.me. Email him at [email protected].