Windows 10 20H2 features
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Windows 10 20H2, October 2020 Update: new features and changes

UPDATED 11/5: Windows 10 20H2 is available starting October 20, 2020, and here are all the new features and changes that Microsoft has added to the new version.

Windows 10 20H2, October 2020 Update, is the tenth major update since the original release, and the second semi-annual update of the year, which Microsoft is slowly started rolling on October 20. 

Similar to the updates available in 2019, the company is following the same “major” and “minor” schedule. This means that in 2020, the Windows 10 2004 is the update considered “major,” and the Windows 10 20H2 is the update considered “minor” rolling out similar to a cumulative update with fixes, improvements, and a very small set of features.

The Windows 10 20H2 is an optional update (which isn’t required to install) available for devices running version 1903 and higher. However, Microsoft is limiting availability and placing safeguard holds to prevent devices from encountering problems during and after the upgrade. When the new version becomes available for your device, you’ll receive a “Feature update to Windows 10, version 20H2” notification to download it manually through Windows Update.

If you are a “seeker,” you may force the upgrade by clicking the Check for updates button in the Windows Update settings, and then clicking the Download and install button. Alternatively, you can also install the October 2020 Update using the Media Creation Tool to perform a clean install or in-place upgrade. In addition, you can use the “Update Assistant” or you can even download the ISO file to create a USB bootable media to proceed with the upgrade. You can also follow this guide to complete the installation without problems. If you are not ready to upgrade, this guide will help you to prevent Windows 10 from installing version 20H2 on your device. 

In this guide, we’ll highlight the new features and improvements available with version 20H2.

Quick note: This guide will get updated and republished with new features and improvements as they become available through the Windows Insider Program. However, depending on when you’re reading this guide, some features and changes may still be missing. If this is the case, you can check this section with the latest updates.

Windows 10 20H2 features summary

  • Windows 10 20H2 (October 2020 Update) introduces new Start menu design.
  • Taskbar comes with a more personalized layout for new accounts.
  • Notifications are now less intrusive.
  • New refresh rate settings are now available in Display.
  • Windows 10 20H2 lets you copy device info in About settings page.
  • Tablet mode no longer shows notification to select mode when detaching keyboard.
  • Microsoft Edge tabs now appears in Alt + Tab.

What’s new on Windows 10 20H2 

Here are all the new features and changes that are included as part of Windows 10 20H2:

Start menu new design

Windows 10 20H2 now includes an updated version of the Start menu with a streamlined design that removes the solid color backplates behind the icon in the apps list and applies a partially transparent background to the tiles, which matches the menu color scheme that should help to make easier to scan and find an app quickly.

Windows 10 20H2 new Start menu
Windows 10 October 2020 Update new Start menu

The new menu design works with both, the light and dark mode on Windows 10. However, if you want to use different colors, you first need to enable the dark mode, and then select the color.

Taskbar personalization on Windows 10 20H2

Using the user and device signals, Windows 10 can now offer a more personalized layout, cleaner, and less clutter taskbar experience. For instance, if you link your Android phone, you’ll now see the Your Phone app pinned in the taskbar, and if you have an Xbox Live account, then you’ll also see the Xbox app.

Taskbar personalized (source: Microsoft)
Taskbar personalized (source: Microsoft)

The experience is only available for new account creations or first logon scenarios. Microsoft is not planning to alter the Taskbar layout on existing accounts.

Notifications improvements on Windows 10 20H2

In this feature update, you’ll also see some changes to the notification experience, including an icon at the top to understand the app that generated the alert, and now the system turns off the Focus Assist notification and summary toast by default to avoid unwanted distractions. (You can always rollback the previous behavior using the Settings app.)

Advanced display settings with refresh rate

Once you install the update, you’ll also find an updated Advanced display settings page that now includes an option to change the monitor refresh rate.

Windows 10 20H2 refresh rate setting
Windows 10 version 20H2 refresh rate setting

About settings page tweaks

The About settings page now allows you to copy the device information to the clipboard, and it’s removing the Windows Security status. 

Windows 10 20H2 About settings
About settings

Also, starting with the October 2020 Update, links that would open the System page in Control Panel will now direct you to the About page in Settings.

Tablet experience changes

Starting with the Windows 10 20H2 update, the new tablet experience, introduced with the May 2020 Update, is the default mode when detaching the keyboard on convertible devices. This means that you’ll no longer see a notification asking to select a mode. Also, to prevent confusion with some users getting stuck in tablet mode on non-touch devices, Windows 10 is removing the tablet mode quick action on non-touch devices.

Furthermore, with the new version, there’s a new logic to let users boot into the appropriate mode according to the mode they were last signed in and whether the keyboard is attached or not.

Microsoft Edge

The Chromium version of Microsoft Edge now comes built into the operating system. Also, open tabs will now appear in the App Switcher (Alt + Tab) shortcut.

If you prefer to see a different number of tabs with Alt + Tab or the classic experience, Windows 10 includes some settings under Settings > System > Multitasking. You can configure the Alt + Tab shortcut to show all, the last three, the last five tabs, or you can even select the option to disable this feature completely.

Windows 10 20H2 Alt + Tab settings
Windows 10 20H2 Alt + Tab settings

In addition, you can now hover over the pinned sites to see all of the open tabs for that site across any of your browser windows.

Other changes

Microsoft is also adding a new Local Users and Groups modern device management (MDM) policy for network administrators. Also, it’s improving support for non-ASCII file paths for Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) Auto Incident Response (IR).

Since build 19042.541, when you’re using a VPN connection Windows 10 will suspend uploads and downloads automatically. In addition, the update fixes the issue that prevents Microsoft Intune from syncing on a computer using the VPNv2 configuration service provider (CSP), and Microsoft has now added support for more Windows Mixed Reality motion controllers.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Windows 10 version 20H2, October 2020 Update, is a small update that introduces a number of enhancements for existing features, such as a new fresh look for the Start menu, the ability to change the refresh rate within the Settings, deeper integration with Microsoft Edge, and more. 

This time around, you are not getting new significant features, but this new version of Windows 10 includes many small changes that should help improve the work introduced with version 2004.

If you will be upgrading from version 2004 to 20H2, the installation will only require a quick enablement package, since both versions share a common core file system, and the features and improvements have already been deployed and they’re in an inactive update on your device.

In the case that you’ll be upgrading from an older version, such as version 1909 to 20H2, then the upgrade experience won’t change and full reinstallation will be required to version 2004 before you can apply version 20H2. Also, even though, this feature update is optional, devices nearing the end of service will upgrade automatically.

In the time I spent using this update, performance and memory usage was not different from the previous or even older versions. I haven’t experienced any significant problems during or after the upgrade, but the experience will depend on your hardware configuration and apps.

As you may have noticed, in this new version, Microsoft is also changing the versioning scheme from the year and month to year and half one or two of the year scheme. For example, the October 2020 Update is version 20H2 because is releasing in the second half of 2020. Using this new versioning scheme, the next version is expected to be 21H1, since it’s expected to release during the first half of 2021.

Editor’s note: This guide includes features and improvements that appeared until Windows 10 build 19042.572. It should be noted that this guide focuses on features for consumers, as Microsoft is also adding other features aimed for enterprises, which aren’t included here. (Last updated on November, 2020.)