Windows 10 21H2 (also referred to as the “Sun Valley” update) is expected to be the twelve major update since the original release and the second semi-annual update of 2021 (after version 21H1), which Microsoft plans to ship during the second half of the year with a “sweeping visual rejuvenation of Windows” and several new features. In this guide, we will highlight all the new features and changes expected to arrive with the new update.
Usually, Microsoft releases two feature updates during the calendar year. The in the spring is typically considered the more significant, while the second update in the fall is a smaller update to service and improve the first semi-annual update. However, in 2021, the software giant is changing the approach and made the first update the minor and the second refresh major to make sure that engineers have more time to work on version 21H2.
Windows 10 version 21H2 will be an optional update available for computers running versions 21H1, 2004, and 20H2. However, the company will initially limit the availability, and placing safeguard holds to prevent potential problems for not yet fully compatible devices. When the new version becomes available for your device, you will receive a “Feature update to Windows 10, version 21H2” notification to download it manually through Windows Update.
Alternatively, you can also install the new update using the Media Creation Tool to do a clean 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 that you can use to upgrade.
This guide highlights everything new with the new version as changes appear on each test preview. Windows 10 21H2 is expected to release sometime in the fall of 2021.
Windows 10 build 21376
As part of the visual experience improvements, Windows 10 build 21376 brings a new Segoe UI Variable font family with a design that makes it possible to scale the font seamlessly from small to larger display sizes. It also includes legibility and outlines improvements for small sizes.
As part of the font update for Windows 10, Microsoft is also adding support for the “Bamum Unicode” range for the Segoe UI Historic font.
In addition, the company is improving the drag-and-drop default cursor design in scenarios like dragging and dropping into Outlook.
You will find a new modern icon for the Connect app.
This release also includes tweaks to improve the sorting of symbols in the emoji panel.
Windows 10 build 21370
Starting with build 21370, Windows 10 introduces Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) support over Bluetooth. As a result of this lossy codec addition, users will be able to choose from a broader range of Bluetooth headphones and speakers for better audio listening.
Microsoft is also making changes to unify the audio endpoint to make it easier to set up headphones and microphones. This means that the system will now only offer one option in the user interface, and Windows 10 will switch to the correct peripheral automatically.
Furthermore, you will be able to control volume directly from the headset.
Also, when focusing the mouse in the Run dialog, the touch keyboard will now show a backslash key.
Windows 10 build 21364
Windows 10 build 21364 was the preview number 71 available in the Dev Channel, and it was a significant update that introduced support for Linux GUI apps through WSL, Eco Mode in Task Manager, and a new “50-on touch keyboard” layout for the Japanese language.
Linux GUI apps on Windows 10
Windows 10 21H2 ships with an updated version of the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) that supports installing Linux GUI (graphical user interface) apps like if they were natively installed on Windows.
In other words, you can now use the favorite Linux editors, tools, and applications on Windows 10 without the need to switch devices or using a virtual machine.
The new feature is meant to develop and test your applications on Linux, but you can use this implementation for any situation. The feature even includes support for speakers and microphones, which means that if you install a media app, the peripherals will pass through and appear in the app. GPU accelerated 3D graphics are also supported to run any app that needs to do complex 3D rendering leveraging OpenGL.
When using this feature, you do not have to run an X server manually since WSL automatically starts a new “companion system distro,” which includes a Wayland, X server, pulse audio server, and all the required components. After you close the app and the WSL session, the system distro will end automatically.
Once the Linux GUI app is installed, it will register in the Start menu, which means that you can launch the app by typing the name on the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) console, or you can launch it like if it was any other application using the Start menu.
If you launch the app from the Start menu, you will find the entry in the “Recently added” list, and you can find it inside the (distro name) folder below the Linux distro entry.
You will also notice that the taskbar will show the icon with a Linux logo, indicating that you are not running a Windows 10 application.
The experience using a graphical Linux app on Windows 10 feels native, but it’s not. The app renders with all the Linux visual styles for the frame, menus, and other elements, and there is even a shadow around the frame, and every window works independently. However, it is a remote desktop connection, which Microsoft is likely leveraging with the RemoteApp feature built into the operating system.
Task Manager Eco Mode and Edge classification
This flight also introduced a new version of Task Manager that now classifies and shows all the processes from Microsoft Edge. The classification is divided into several elements, such as Tabs, Browser processes (Browser, GPU Process, Crashpad), Utility plugins (Utility: Audio Service Extensions), Dedicated & Service workers, and more.
You will also see that each process classification is described with an icon to make it easier to identify. If you are viewing a website tab in the processes, it will include the site icon.
Task Manager also adds the “Eco mode” feature in the Processes (and Details) tab. The new feature is meant to provide you a way to throttle resources manually, and it will help you determine what apps are already running in Eco mode.
This feature “is helpful when you notice an app consuming high resources and would like to limit its consumption so that the system gives priority to other apps which will lead to faster foreground responsiveness and better energy efficiency.”
If the “Eco mode” option is grayed out, then it is a parent process. In this case, you would need to expand the group to select and set the mode for each of the child processes.
You may see Eco mode enabled automatically on Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, and other supported apps. When this happens, the apps are testing with a lower priority and applying a specific set of power policies to improve performance.
As part of the notifications improvements, starting with this release, the notification that reads “We need to fix your account” has been updated to make it clear to understand. So now it reads, “Select here to sign in to your account to continue using apps between this device and your other devices.”
Start menu tweaks
Starting with build 21364, the 3D Viewer and Print 3D app shortcuts are no longer in the menu.
Night light tweaks
When turning the night light on or off manually through the Settings app or Action Center, the feature will now turn off immediately rather than using slow transition.
Japanese touch keyboard
Microsoft is also introducing the “50-on touch keyboard” layout for the Japanese language. This is a popular layout that allows you to input Japanese texts intuitively without knowing how to compose Hiragana characters.
You can use the new layout by clicking the Settings button and selecting the “50-on” option. It also provides alphabet and symbol views newly explicitly designed for the layout.
Alongside the new features and changes, build 21364 adds support for x64 out-of-process shell extensions on ARM64.
Windows 10 build 21359
In build 21359, Windows 10 didn’t introduce significant changes, but there were some important improvements.
As part of the Start menu improvements, Windows 10 build 21359 added a new “Restart apps after signing in” option in the power settings to quickly decide whether apps should restart automatically after logging in.
Although the option is new, the feature is not. When you check this option, you are actually enabling or disabling the feature from the “Sign-in options” settings, but the addition of the option in the Start menu will make it more discoverable.
In the Settings app, the “Ease of Access” category in the Settings app has been renamed to “Accessibility.”
The Ebrima font has been updated to support Bamum characters (Unicode block U+A6A0 to U+A6FF), and the Nirmala UI font family ships with an update that improves how the Chakma characters are displayed when combined.
Also, starting with build 21359, as part of the Timeline changes, Windows 10 will no longer sync activities to the cloud, but the feature will continue to work locally. As a result of this change, you will no longer see the “Send my activity history to Microsoft” in the “Activity history” settings page.
If you want to view your web history, you can find them in your web browser history, and you can view recent files using Office and OneDrive.
Windows 10 build 21354
Beginning with build 21354, Windows 10 introduces several important improvements and some new features for the Start menu, News and Interests widget, new camera, display settings, and more.
As part of the Start menu improvements, build 21354 no longer includes a Windows Tools folder. Instead, it is now an option with a new icon that opens the new Windows Tools folder in Control Panel.
In addition, the folder now combines all the options previously available in the Windows Accessories, Windows Administrative Tools, Windows PowerShell, and Windows System folders.
As a result of this change, you will no longer find these folders in Start or across the operating system, and File Explorer has its own place in the menu.
For the improvements for apps, there is a new version of the Microsoft Paint app that does not introduce any new features in this flight, but now it is an app that updates through the Microsoft Store and includes a new modern icon.
The Snipping Tool also becomes an app that receives updates through the Microsoft Store.
In addition, the company says that the app has been combined with the Snip & Sketch app, which means that they both will receive updates simultaneously.
Also, since the Windows Accessories folder has been removed, the Snipping Tool will appear in its own place in the Start menu.
News and Interests
This flight also brings some improvements for the News and Interests widget in the taskbar. Starting with this release, you will find more ways to personalize the feed with the new “Manage interest” button that appears when hovering over the weather in the taskbar.
The button opens the feature personalization experience in your Microsoft account online page. The page includes more ways to select topics of interest. You can use the search box to find more topics. You can manage the topics you follow by selecting “Followed interests” in the left navigation.
Also, the “Tune your feed” is available from the left pane on the “My interests” page. In addition, the “Followed Publishers” option in the left pane lets you manage the publishers you follow.
Finally, when you click the “X” on top of the card, you can remove it and provide feedback, including “Not interested in this story,” “Don’t like the source,” or “Report an issue.”
Content adaptive brightness control (CABC) in Display settings
In the Display settings, you will now have the ability to disable content adaptive brightness control (CABC), which is a feature that improves battery life by adjusting the contrast and brightness of the display based on the content shown in the display. However, the feature can cause distracting brightness changes that also decrease the image quality that might be something important when you need to show content with color accuracy, as such now, there is an option to disable it.
The feature is called: “Automatically adjust contrast based on the displayed content to help improve battery,” and it will be available depending on the device support.
Cameras new settings page
Starting with build 21354, Windows 10 introduces a new Cameras page in the “Devices” section of the Settings app.
The new page includes settings to add, remove, disable, and configure network cameras, built-in cameras (front and rear), and external USB webcams.
On the configuration page, you can also remove the backlight that causes shadows on your face. And you can even adjust brightness and contrast, enable Video HDR or Eye Contact, or correct the camera rotation. However, the settings available will depend on the camera you have.
This flight also enables by default the “Automatically adjust active hours for this device based on activity” option for the “Change active hours” feature to allow the system to schedule automatic updates when you are not actively using the computer.
Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL)
In WSL, the default path has been changed to
\\wsl\\ to improve reliability and performance. However, you will still be able to use the
\\wsl\\ path to access the files.
ARM-based devices changes
For ARM64 devices, it’s now possible to enable compatibility settings for x64 applications.
Although Microsoft Edge receives updates independently from Windows Update, pinned sites should now show all the open tabs across windows as of the latest release of the browser.
Windows 10 build 21343
Windows 10 build 21343 delivers a number of significant visual changes for File Explorer, introduces improvements for containers, tweaks for the Start menu, and more.
In the updated version of File Explorer, you will find new iconography and various tweaks. The new icons are more colorful, and they include design changes using the Fluent Design style. For example, you will notice a new orientation of the folder icons, and the default file type icons have been redesigned for better consistency across Windows 10.
Microsoft has also created new icons for the profile folders, including Desktop, Documents, Downloads, Pictures, and Videos, which now have a new style and colors that should help make it easier to identify the folders at a glance.
In addition, this flight also includes an updated version of the drives and Recycle Bin icons.
Furthermore, this flight updates the support for renaming files in File Explorer to use CTRL + Left and Right arrow to move your cursor between words in the file name, and CTRL + Delete and CTRL + Backspace to delete words at a time.
In the Start menu, the “Windows Administrative Tools” folder has been renamed to “Windows Tools.”
Build 21343 also introduces a new runtime to improve the container technology for Windows Sandbox and Microsoft Defender Application Guard to make these experiences faster.
Since the Chromium version of Microsoft Edge is now the default browser for Windows 10, the Windows Sandbox container has been updated to include the latest version of the web browser.
The “Get Help” link in the touch keyboard has been renamed to “Learn more.”
This flight also updates the network icons across the experience with the new system icons introduced in build 21337.
Windows 10 build 21337
Starting with build 21337, Windows 10 is introducing changes for Virtual Desktops, File Explorer, and the Settings app. Also, this flight includes a preview of the Auto HDR for gaming and improvements for the app experience.
In Virtual Desktops, you now have the ability to reorder the desktop by dragging-and-dropping and customize the desktop background by right-clicking the desktop and selecting the Change background option.
File Explorer adds more padding between elements to improve usability with touch-enabled devices. If you prefer a more compact design, the View options include a new “Use compact” setting that you can use to enable or disable the new mode.
Auto HDR for Windows 10
Microsoft is also introducing Auto HDR (preview) for Windows 10 to improve the gaming experience. When you enable the feature, you will get HDR visuals on an additional 1000+ DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 games on supported devices.
In the Ease of Access section, the Captions settings page is getting updated with a new design that allows you to select the caption style more easily. The updated page also includes the option to create new, edit, and delete captions.
Windows 10 build 21337 is also making some changes to some of the built-in apps. For example, the Notepad app becomes an app that receives updates from the Microsoft Store and the app has a new modern icon.
The Windows Terminal app will be installed by default on new setups to run Command Prompt, PowerShell, and Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 command from a single modern interface.
Windows 10 will also bundle the Power Automate Desktop app. The Power Automate Desktop app allows automating web and desktop applications by mimicking the user interface actions like clicks and keyboard input to automate repetitive tasks.
As part of the language changes, this flight is also integrating the new IME candidate windows design for Japanese, Chinese Traditional, and Indic IMEs.
The emoji panel (Windows key + period) is getting support in more languages, including Amharic, Belarus, Cherokee, Filipino, Faroese, Icelandic, Khmer, Mongolian (Cyrillic script), Burmese, Sindhi, Serbian (Cyrillic script), Serbian (Latin script), Swahili, Thai, Turkmen, Tonga, Uzbek (Latin script), and Cantonese (Traditional).
If you use Microsoft Edge, live previews for websites pinned to the taskbar are now available for all testers.
Windows 10 build 21332
On Windows 10 build 21332, the clean installation process no longer installs the Paint 3D and 3D Viewer apps.
Also, the operating system is removing the “Math Input Panel” due to a lack of popularity. However, the input control and math recognition engine will remain available as an optional feature as the “Math Recognizer.”
Alongside the changes, based on feedback the “news and interests” taskbar widget will provide two columns of content to offer the best experience.
Windows 10 build 21327
Build 21327 ships with new system icons using the new font Segoe Fluent Icons that aligns with the Microsoft Fluent Design style. Starting with this flight, you will see the new iconography using more rounded corners and simplified design across the Settings app and Start menu.
The 64-bit version of PowerShell will be the new default architecture for ARM64 devices.
Also, there is an updated version of the “News and interests” taskbar widget that will “makes it even more delightful to scan and interact with the headlines and stories in your feed.”
Furthermore, when clicking the “See more news” button, the experience that opens in the browser has also been redesigned to make it easier to catch up with the latest headlines. In the taskbar widget and on the Microsoft News page, you will also find new ways to share and react to the stories with emojis.
Windows 10 build 21322
Starting with build 21322, File Explorer will no longer show the “3D Objects” folder as a special folder (for example, in This PC).
Windows 10 build 21318
The Windows 10 build 21318 introduces a new “paste as text” option when opening the context menu for text-based entries in the clipboard interface (Windows key + V). When using the new paste option, the content will paste as plain text without the original formatting.
As part of the notifications system, when pairing Bluetooth devices, the toast notification will stay longer, giving you more time to reach it.
The Magnifier now offers smoother motion when transitioning between mouse and keyboard focus and other scenarios.
Finally, devices with a 64-bit ARM-based processor will no longer have to install the ARM64 C++ redistributable package since it is built into the operating system.
Windows 10 build 21313
As part of the build 21313, Windows 10 introduces these new features and changes:
Microsoft Edge Chromium new default
Windows 10 is removing the legacy version of Microsoft Edge, and it is replacing it with the Chromium version of the browser. This means that you will no longer be able to use both browsers side-by-side, nor you’ll be able to bring it back.
Taskbar news and interests widget
The taskbar news and interests widget is now expanding to more languages and markets, which means that “the news content, weather forecasts, sports and finance updates will be based on your location anywhere in the world.” However, at this time, this feature won’t be available in China.
Also, to make it clearer, the option to disable the widget has changed from “Hidden” to “Turn off” in the taskbar context menu.
Build 21313 comes with tweaks for the new app launch animation to make it feel faster and smoother.
Input Method Editor (IME)
To modernize the Input Method Editor, Microsoft is introducing a new version of all available IMEs that includes a new modern design using the Fluent Design System, including acrylic background, selection visual, and dark theme support.
There are some font adjustments in the candidate interface to minimize the intrusiveness while securing visibility. Also, the new design is expanding to more languages.
Other change in build 21313
This flight also begins the rollout of the five candidate maximum in a central position for the touch keyboard experience, a new voice typing experience (Windows key + H), and pinning items in the clipboard history interface.
Windows 10 build 21313 ships with search tweaks in the emoji panel, including that programming will now return the three technologist emojis, and RIP will now return the tombstone emoji. The update also updates the search in Russian to search with ё for emojis that starts with e.
And there is now a new modern icon design for the Narrator.
Finally, since preview builds in the Dev Channel are not tied to any specific version of Windows 10, Microsoft is updating the display version to “Dev” in the About page to avoid confusion.
Windows 10 build 21301 and older releases
All the new features and changes expected to arrive in 2021 with Windows 10:
Windows 10 Start menu new visual design
A new Start menu design with visual changes, which no longer focuses on Live Tiles, arrives on Windows 10.
The new menu follows the same design as previous versions, but now, it incorporates a more streamlined design that shifts from a chaotic color to something more uniform. You are still getting tiles, but the Start menu now reduces the color of blocks using transparency to match the menu color scheme and uses traditional icon designs to make it easier to scan and find an app quickly.
The new design works with the light and dark modes and a custom color from the Colors settings page.
The Start menu now includes an updated alphabet for the Vietnamese “All Apps” menu, which doesn’t include letters F, J, W, and Z. The new folder icon in the “All apps” list from the Start menu is now smaller to align with the design of the other icons. And the search box in the “Default Apps” settings pages has been improved for performance.
Also, on Windows 10 build 20185, the “3D Viewer” app now appears inside the Windows Accessories folder in the Start menu. And starting with build 21277, when an app folder only includes one item, it will display instead of the folder.
When using the Start menu in full-screen mode, the background is now slightly less transparent to prevent readability issues.
In addition, the People app no longer appears as a standalone app in Start since Windows 10 build 20221. Microsoft says that it’ll remain as an inbox app, which you can use via the Mail and Calendars apps.
When starting an app, the splash is aware of the system theme color mode instead of the system accent color. As a result, when launching a modern app (such as Settings, Windows Security, or Calculator), it will show a light or dark splash screen instead of the color scheme you may choose from the Colors settings page.
With build 21277, the animation when opening and closing a window has been updated to make the transition a little smoother.
As part of the notification improvements, you can now click the app logo in the toast to confirm where the notification is coming from, and then clicking the “X” will dismiss it. Also, Focus Assist will no longer let users know that the feature has been enabled using an automatic rule through a notification. If you prefer the previous behavior, you can change it in the Settings app.
Since build 20221, you can now receive a notification when an app requires to start at startup.
Also, the operating system includes changes for the “Set time zone automatically” feature. For instance, when a time zone is detected, you will now receive a notification. The notification will inform you of a high confidence location change and display the option to open the Date & Time settings page.
However, if a low confidence location change is detected, and there is only one administrator on the computer, the system will send a notification asking if you would like to update your time zone.
Windows 10 includes a new taskbar experience that offers a cleaner, less clutter, and more personalized content tailor to your behavior and based on device signal. For example, if you link your Android phone, you’ll see the Your Phone app will be pinned in the taskbar, and if you have an Xbox Live account, you’ll see the Xbox app.
The new experience will only be available when creating a new account or first login, and existing taskbar layouts won’t change.
The location icon (when in use) has been modified from a solid dot in a circle to a compass arrow. Also, as part of the continued effort to update the iconography, Windows 10 now includes a new icon for the Settings app.
Also, build 20175 introduces new modern icons for both Sticky Notes and the Snip & Sketch app to continue updating the iconography of Windows 10.
If you use the Chromium version of Microsoft Edge, starting with build 20175, clicking a pinned site in the taskbar will now show all the open tabs for that particular website across any of your browser windows.
Since build 21286, the taskbar includes a new widget that gives you quick access tailored to your preferences, such as current weather, trending news, sports, and more. The idea with “news and interests” is to keep you interacting on your computer instead of peeking your phone for news and other information throughout the day.
Microsoft News powers the experience, and you can always select the “More options” button to choose from “More stories like this” or “Fewer stories like this,” and over time, you will only see the content tailored to your liking. The feature appears to be enabled by default, but you can always right-click the toolbar and select the option to disable it.
As part of the taskbar experience, since build 21301, you will now see two options in the jump list, including Open and Open File Location.
Meet Now from Skype
Starting with build 20221, Windows 10 introduces a feature known as “Meet Now,” which is part of Skype, and it allows you to connect with other people using video chat quickly, and the call can last up to 24 hours. The feature is available through the taskbar notification area. It doesn’t require sign-ups or downloads since it’s built into Windows 10, and you can join the conversation using a custom link that’s created when the caller sets up the call.
Emoji Picker with clipboard history and GIFs integration
Windows 10 build 20206 introduces a new version of its Emoji Picker that integrates the clipboard history and adds support for animated GIFs. This is in addition to support additional languages, kaomoji, and symbols.
The new picker has a modern design using Fluent Design visual elements, such as blur and transparency. And it now includes an inline search box to make it easier to discover emojis and animated GIFs.
Since the Emoji Picker is integrating the clipboard history, you can now insert emojis and copies from a single experience using the “Windows key + .” or “Windows key + ;” or “Windows key + V” keyboard shortcuts.
As part of the experience, Windows 10 now includes support for Emoji version 12.1 and 13.0, which brings over 200 new glyphs, and now there gender-neutral emoji designs. (This change appears with build 21277.)
Furthermore, since build 21296, the clipboard history interface includes options to pin, unpin, delete, and sync individual entries.
New Voice Typing optimized for touch keyboards
Starting with build 20206, Windows 10 introduces Windows Voice Typing, a new version of the Windows Dictation feature that allows you to type using your voice.
The new version has a modern design that has been optimized for touch keyboards, auto-punctuation to help you focus on writing rather than thinking about question marks and periods, and the experience has been updated to offer a more reliable experience. (You can try it using the Windows key + H keyboard shortcut.)
The Voice Typing feature is available in English (US), English (Australia), English (India), English (Canada), English (United Kingdom), French (France), French (Canada), Portuguese (Brazilian), Simplified Chinese, Spanish (Mexico), Spanish (Spanish), German, Italian, and Japanese.
Touch keyboard new design and improvements
Since the build 20206, Windows 10 ships a new touch keyboard design that includes a new fresh aesthetic and several tweaks, including updated key sizes with rounded corners and layouts to optimize for typing comfort and accuracy. Also, there are some design improvements to help users discover and use the features.
Some of these improvements include new annotations and sounds when pressing a key. Child keys have been optimized for quicker entry. You will now find the button to “undock” the keyboard in the top right corner (in the candidate bar), and you can easily move the keyboard around using the gripper region at the top of the keyboard.
All entries in the settings menu now have labels for improved clarity of available options. The touch keyboard also includes emoji and GIFs search, and there is a new option to use voice typing to the left of the space bar in supported languages.
You can now change the cursor position with the touch keyboard in any text field using gestures on the space bar. Place a finger on the space bar and slide your finger left, right, up, or down. As the finger moves, so will the cursor (one character or line at a time).
Split keyboard mode support is now available for the touch keyboard in portrait mode, starting with build 21277.
Also, starting with build 21301, it now automatically changes to the small layout when undocking the keyboard. You can move the keyboard using the gripper region at the top of the interface. The experience now has a new symbol’s view for the small and split layouts, and the menu now has a nested structure. And when you are in the password field, there is a new password feedback icon on the left of the spacebar to turn on the keyboard’s visual keypress feedback.
Furthermore, on devices with large screens (12-inches or larger), you will see a more traditional keyboard layout with the ESC, Tab, Windows key, and other tweaks.
If you do not use the Snipping Tool app, starting with the Windows 10 build 21277, you can now uninstall the tool and reinstall it again from the Optional features settings page.
Furthermore, if you use the Snip & Sketch app to take screenshots when you use the Windows key + Shift + S keyboard shortcut, the capture will now be stored in the Clipboard to paste it on any folder to save the screenshot as a .png file.
Starting with build 20190, Windows 10 introduces a new first-run experience using the Tips app to highlight the most significant changes after a major feature update installs on your device. (This feature replaces the Microsoft Edge welcome page after installing a new feature update to help users better understand the features and changes and how to use them.)
You can enable or disable this feature on Settings > System > Notifications & actions and checking the Show me the Windows welcome experience.
File Explorer changes
In addition to including a real Linux kernel on Windows 10, the software giant is now planning to fully integrate the Windows Subsystem for Linux into File Explorer by adding the ability to access Linux files with a new option in the left navigation pane.
When selecting the Linux icon, you’ll see a view of all your distros, and selecting those will place you in the root file system for that distro.
You can now remove previous searches via an option in the search experience if you right-click the entry in the dropdown.
Users who had previously used HomeGroup will no longer see a notification on upgrade about its deprecation.
Also, since build 20226, when you right-click a zipped file in OneDrive that was previously configured as online-only, you’ll now have the “Extract All” option like if the file was available locally.
Starting with build 19592, Windows 10 is updating the Windows Search Platform (Indexer) with a new logic to help find better times to index your files and avoid heavily indexing while you’re actively using the device.
Also, the operating system will limit the number of times the service indexes your files for content that doesn’t impact search experiences.
Task Manager tweaks
When setting focus to Windows Explorer in the Processes tab of Task Manager, Windows 10 is updating the keyboard shortcut for the Restart option to Alt + R. (This tweak was introduced with build 20206.)
Optimize Drives improvements
Microsoft is also refreshing the “Optimize Drives” page (also known as the defrag tool). In this update, you’ll see more details under the “Current status” column when it’s not possible to defrag the partition, including “Partition type not supported” and “File system type not supported.” You can use the “F5” key to refresh the screen. Also, the page integrates a new Advanced View option to list all partitions, including hidden partitions. (This change was introduced with build 20241.)
Microsoft Edge and Alt + Tab
On Microsoft Edge, all your open tabs will now appear in the app switcher feature when using the Alt + Tab keyboard shortcut.
If you don’t want to see all the open tabs or prefer the classic experience, you can change the feature behavior on Settings > System > Multitasking. You can configure the Alt + Tab feature in the Settings to show all the tabs, only your last three or five tabs, or turn the feature off completely.
In Task Manager, the Details tab now has a new “Architecture” column, which can be used to determine if the app is 32-bit or 64-bit.
Also, the “Processes” tab now correctly shows a Progressive Web App (PWA) installed using Microsoft Edge under “Applications” instead of in “Background Processes.” Also, the tab will now even display the icon of the app.
The Registry is not getting significant changes, but starting with build 21277, the app now supports CTRL + Backspace to delete words at a time in the Find window, renaming a key, and other places.
Settings app on Windows 10
Beginning with build 20197, Microsoft is testing a “Web browsing” view in the Settings app header to highlight if you’re using the recommended browsing settings.
Using this new approach, if you don’t have Microsoft Edge as your default browser, you’ll see a “Restore recommended browser settings” message in the header, which you’ll have to dismiss by clicking the Skip for now option.
On Windows 10 build 20190, the “Graphics settings” page has been updated to allow you to select the default high-performance graphics processor. If you have multiple graphics cards, you can specify which of those GPUs should be the one used for high-performance uses cases on Settings > System > Display > Graphics settings or Settings > Gaming > Graphics settings.
Once configuring the settings, when an app requests for a high-performance GPU, by default, it’ll use the GPU you specified on the page. The page has also changed to allow you to pick a specific GPU on a per-application basis using the new “Specific GPU” option.
In addition, the Graphics settings page, available in the “Display” section, now will pre-populate the apps that you may want to change to run on a specific GPU. This is in addition to clicking the Browse button to locate the app.
Using the Settings app, you can now manage more sound options previously available in Control Panel. For instance, it’s now possible to see which sound device is set as default, and you can select the device you want to be the new default from Settings > System > Sound > Manage sound devices.
The volume mixer now includes a link to the per-app audio settings, which you can use to redirect audio endpoints per app.
Starting with build 21292, Windows 10 shows a notification when the microphone permissions have been disabled for the entire system or all apps on the Sounds settings page.
Storage cleanup assistant on Window 10
There’s a new User cleanup recommendations option on the Storage page that will display the amount of data that Windows 10 may be able to reclaim by deleting certain large or unused files, uninstalling apps that you do not use, and clearing copies of files already uploaded to OneDrive.
If you want to see and delete some or all of the files, you can click the See cleanup recommendation option. On the page, you’ll see a list of the items recommended for deletion.
Windows 10 can’t decide to delete files and apps, but if you’re running out of space, the settings page allows you to select and delete unused files and remove apps to make more room for other files.
Disk Management in Settings for Windows 10
Windows 10 build 20197 introduces a new Disk Management tool inside the Storage settings page. The operating system already has a tool to manage disks and volumes, but it’s an old control panel experience. The new experience was built from the ground up with modern improvements and accessibility in mind. It also features better integration with features, such as Storage Spaces and the Storage breakdown page.
Like the legacy tool (which is still available), the new tool allows you to view all the drives connected to the device, and you can create, resize, format, and change letters for partitions.
The new feature appears under Settings > System > Storage and clicking the Manage Disks and Volumes option.
On the page, the disk tool shows all the drives connected to the device with basic information, such as the disk number, media (SSD or HDD), and whether if the drive is online or offline.
You can select the drive and click the Properties button to give you additional information like name, identification, model, media, capacity, and type. You’ll also see the current status and the partition style (for example, GUID Partition Table “GPT”).
The Advanced Disk Properties option opens the properties of the drive with the Control Panel.
While on the main page, if you expand the drive, you’ll see the list of partitions with rich details, including the file system, partition type, status, and more.
You can select each drive, and clicking the Properties button will access another page where you can change the label or drive letter. You can resize the partition with the Change size button. You can add a path to the volume, and you can even enable BitLocker on the drive.
If you’re dealing with an external drive, the properties page will also include options to delete and format the partition, and you can bring the drive online or offline.
Storage Spaces on Settings
Windows 10 is also bringing Storage Spaces to the Settings app. This means that you can create and manage storage pools and storage spaces, add and remove drives, and optimize pools within the Settings app without the need to open Control Panel or PowerShell commands.
Storage health monitor
Also, starting with build 20226, the disk manager introduces a new storage health monitor feature designed to detect and alert you of any possible problems with the drive to give you enough time to back up the data.
The feature is only available for Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) Solid-State Drives (SSDs). If an anomaly is detected in the drive, you’ll get a desktop notification, which you can click to see more details and access an option to backup the files.
However, you can always see the storage health information, such as estimated remaining life, space available, and current temperature from Settings > System > Storage > Manage Disks and Volumes and on the drive properties page.
On Windows 10, the system changes the notification behavior when detaching the keyboard so that a notification will no longer show and instead will switch directly into the tablet experience, with some tweaks for touch. You can also adjust the feature on Settings > System > Tablet. (Previously, the page was called “Tablet mode.”)
To avoid confusion, Microsoft is removing the tablet mode quick action button from non-touch devices. And there’s a new logic to allow users to boot into the appropriate mode according to the mode they were using and whether the keyboard is attached.
Since build 20180, Windows 10 is changing the tablet posture logic for convertible devices to apply only when using a single screen.
About settings page
The About settings page no longer shows the current Windows Security status. Also, Microsoft continues to transfer information from the Control Panel to the Settings app. For example, links that would open the System page in Control Panel will direct you to Settings > About.
The About settings page now includes an option to make it easier to copy the device information, and it streamlines the security information shown on the page.
Also, since build 20231, the “Device specifications” show the graphics cards (dedicated and integrated) installed on the device for a complete list of specifications.
Network & Internet DNS settings
Starting with build 20185, Windows 10 makes it a little easier to change the Settings app’s network settings. For instance, editing the DNS server address is now a top-level option on the network’s properties page. Also, you can now configure the DNS traffic to be encrypted over HTTPS (DoH) in the network’s properties page to increase the privacy and security of your browsing activities.
If you have an Ethernet connection, the option will be available on Settings > Network & Internet > Status. Click the Properties button, then click the Edit button for IP assignment or DNS server assignment, and it will be available in the popup.
Otherwise, if you use a wireless connection, the option will be available on Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi. Click the adapter properties option, then click the Edit button for IP assignment or DNS server assignment, and it will be available in the popup. The options available include “Unencrypted only,” “Encrypted only (DNS over HTTPS),” “Encrypted preferred, unencrypted allowed.”
If you’re setting up DNS over HTTPS, you can add any of these IP addresses to unlock the option and choose the encryption.
After you enable the encryption, you can confirm it is working by looking at the applied DNS servers in the network properties and see them labeled as “(Encrypted)” servers.
It’s also possible to use any custom DoH address that Windows 10 doesn’t recognize, but you’ll need to use the netsh command tool to set it up.
In addition, when setting a static IP address configuration, the DNS settings now make entering a static DNS a requirement, and entering a gateway address is not a requirement. (This change was announced with build 20226.)
Microsoft is removing the separate Hotspot 2.0 setting from the Wi-Fi setting page if you use your computer with a wireless connection. According to the company, this setting was provided during the experimental phase, and having it enabled is now part of having Wi-Fi enabled.
Archive apps storage-saving feature
Windows 10 introduces a new storage-saving feature known as “Archive apps.” The feature (available since build 20201) is meant to archive apps you don’t often use to save space and internet data. The next time you try to open the app, it’ll connect to the internet and download the full version again. Of course, this is if the app is still available in the Microsoft Store.
Basically, when the feature is enabled, then Windows 10 will remove those apps you don’t frequently use automatically to free up space. Using this process, files and other data will be saved locally or in the cloud, depending on how the app works. And then, the next time you use an archived app, the app will download and install-on-demand, restoring the full version.
You can enable or disable the feature on Settings > Apps > Apps & features and turning on or off the Archive apps toggle switch.
On the Default apps page, since Windows 10 build 19608, you can now search the lists of file types, protocols, and apps when setting a new default app.
Also, starting with Windows 10 build 20231, network administrators can configure which apps will automatically open various file types or links with the new option to modify file associations on a per-user or per-device basis. For example, this new improvement makes it easy to configure Microsoft Edge as the default browser or always open PDFs with the preferred app.
Windows 10 21H1 account settings changes
Starting with Windows 10 build 20197, the Your Info settings page has been updated to show the active profile picture.
In the “Accounts” section, the Family & other users page splits the settings into two pages, including Your family group and People on this device.
Inside the Your family group page includes the option to create new accounts linked to your Microsoft account family group. Usually, you would use these settings to create a child account on Windows 10, which you can then control using the parental settings to restrict device, apps, and games screen time, configure web filtering, and much more.
The settings page also has a new Give all family members access to sign-in to the device option, and the option to add a new account has been renamed from “Add a family member” to “Add someone.”
In addition, in the Sync your settings page, Windows 10 removes the theme synchronization option, which means that themes and backgrounds will no longer sync across devices. (The change was announced with build 20226.)
People on this device new settings
The People on this device page is new to Windows 10, and it’s the page that you’ll use to add or remove new accounts, such as local accounts and accounts for anyone else that’s not part of the family group. This page replaces the “Other users” section inside the “Family & other users” page.
Since build 20197, it’s also possible to select the new Microsoft Edge as your desired app in Assigned access.
Time & Language tweaks
In the Date & time page, the “Set time zone automatically” toggle will be grayed out (disabled) when the location is disabled.
Microsoft is adding the Downloads Folder to the Privacy settings page as part of the Windows 10 previews.
Diagnostics & feedback changes
In the Diagnostics & feedback settings page, the “Basic diagnostic data” is now known as “Required diagnostic data,” and “Full diagnostic data” has changed to “Optional diagnostic data.”
Screen Capture border option
The Screen Capture border page is new on Windows 10, and it’s available to control which apps can disable the screen capture border.
Programmatic screen capture option
The Programmatic screen capture page is new on Windows 10, and it’s available to control which apps can capture arbitrary windows or displays on the computer.
Windows Update changes
The Windows Update settings page includes a new “View optional updates” link that opens a new page that allows you to view and decide which optional updates to install on your device manually.
Optional updates are those updates that are not essential to the operation of Windows 10, which can include drivers (such as for printers, cameras, network adapters, etc.), feature updates, and monthly non-security quality updates.
You no longer need to browse “Device Manager” for a specific device to update for drivers. Windows Update will automatically keep your drivers up-to-date, same as before, but if you’re having a problem, one of those optional drivers might help.
The Scottish Gaelic keyboard now uses AltGr + 7 to input ⁊ (U+204A TIRONIAN SIGNET), pressing ´ will now insert the characters, and Alt Gr + ´ now acts as a dead key to add the acute accent with a subsequent letter.
Also, since build 20226, when pressing Shift + 6 will now insert ߾ (U+07FE ), and pressing Shift + 7 will now insert ߿ (U+07FF) for the N’Ko keyboard layout.
Korean IME improvements
If you type in Korean, you’ll also find a new version of the Korean IME with improvements in the typing experience.
Japanese IME improvements
On build 20190, Windows 10 updates the new Japanese IME to support switching between Hiragana and Katakana using CTRL + CAPSLOCK and ALT + CAPSLOCK (respectively), as it was supported with the previous version.
The Eye Control settings interface has been updated to span multiple pages so that options are easier to find and understand.
As part of the Narrator changes, in the new Microsoft Edge, Narrator now automatically enables scan mode and starts reading webpages.
Since build 20197, the Narrator can now distinguish candidate characters or words by providing detailed reading information when using the Microsoft Pinyin IME.
Starting with build 20206, when annotated content and linked control Narrator commands are invoked in a context that doesn’t have any linked controls available, the Narrator will now say “No linked item.”
The narrator can now read aloud high-priority notifications when they appear on the Lock screen and when you sign back into your account. (This change was introduced with build 20241.)
When using the Dismiss button or Delete key in Action Center to clear groups of notifications, the narrator will now announce that the notification group has been cleared.
Windows Subsystem for Linux 2
As part of the Dev Channel development, the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 is getting three new features, including GPU compute,
wsl --install command, and
wsl --update command.
The GPU compute is a feature that allows the Linux binaries to leverage graphics card, which makes it possible to perform more machine learning development and data science workflows directly in WSL.
wsl --install command lets you install WSL a lot faster, and the
wsl --update gives you the ability to manage the Linux kernel version used by WSL 2 distros.
The custom Linux kernel from the Windows 10 system image has been removed, and it’s now available through the Microsoft Store.
Starting with build 20211, you can now attach and mount physical drives inside the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 distros. The feature enables you to access file systems that are not natively supported (for example, ext4). This means that if you have a dual-boot system with Windows 10 and Linux and are using different drives, you can now access your Linux files from Windows 10.
Also, there is a new option to run Linux commands on the startup of a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) distro.
The new feature is available since build 21286, and if you want to use this feature, you will need to edit the
/etc/wsl.config file on the distro and adding an option named “command” under the “boot” section.
DiskUsage command-line tool
DiskUsage is a new file system tool that allows you to view and query drive space usage using Command Prompt. Using this utility, you can analyze and determine which files and folders are taking the most space to help you when you need to free up space.
It scans the entire drive or specified folder recursively with details about how much space each folder uses. Also, the command-line tool supports many filtering and output customization options.
Windows 10 x64 emulator
Windows 10 build 21277 introduces a new x64 emulator that allows ARM-based devices to install and run x64 applications from the Microsoft Store or external sources.
Reset apps with PowerShell
Since build 20175, Windows 10 includes the ability to reset Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps using a PowerShell command. This is an addition to the option to reset apps from the Settings app. For instance, this command resets the Calculator app:
Get-AppxPackage *calculator* | Reset-AppxPackage.
The benefit of this new option is to reset certain system components that are not available in Settings, for example, the Start menu.
Windows 10 is also enabling by default an experimental implementation of Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.3.
As part of the Dev Channel releases, Windows 10 build 20231 introduces a new “Customize your device” page in the out-of-box experience (OOBE) to better customize Windows 10 for the things you’re planning to do with the device.
For instance, the new page includes six ways (gaming, family, creativity, schoolwork, entertainment, and business) to customize the device. You can choose one or multiple ways, and depending on your selection, the setup experience will suggest different tools and services you can use to customize the device.
Windows 10 now has a new “Family group setup” experience, which allows you to configure multiple accounts when you’re already managing family members from your Microsoft account.
The Windows RE (Recovery Environment) no longer requires an administrator password to access recovery tools.
In addition to all the features and changes, Windows 10 is getting lesser improvements, including a new option to disable controller-to-virtual-key mapping for Universal Windows Platform apps. If you want to do this, you need to create an Enabled DWORD with the value of 0 in this path:
Editor’s note: This guide includes features and improvements that appeared until Windows 10 build 21376. It should be noted that this guide focuses on features for consumers, as Microsoft is also adding other features aimed at enterprises, which aren’t included here. Microsoft no longer ties changes available in the Dev Channel to any specific version of Windows 10, which means that not all of these changes may appear in the next feature update. (Last updated on May 2021.)