Windows 10 Dec Channel features
Version Dev

Windows 10 (21H2) Dev Channel new features history up to build 21327

UPDATED 3/5/2021: Get a closer look at all the new features and changes added to Windows 10 21H2 (Dev Channel) up to build 21327.

Windows 10 previews in the Dev Channel include new features and changes planned for future updates, but they are not tied to any specific operating system release. Anything that appears in this channel will be available only when they are ready. However, usually, many of the improvements are likely to arrive with the next major feature update. 

The Dev Channel is one of the three channels available in the Windows Insider Program that Microsoft makes available for developers and enthusiasts to get early access to new enhancements. As part of the Insider program, there is also the Beta Channel, which includes improvements tied to the next release of Windows 10, and the Release Preview Channel offers the final build of the next version, before it is available to everyone else, with advanced quality updates and certain key features.

This guide highlights everything new so far in the Dev Channel as they appear in each test preview. Windows 10 21H1 is expected to release sometime in the spring of 2021, but this update likely won’t include many of the changes in this guide. Instead, it’ll be a minor release with small changes, and then version 21H2 will be the one with most of the features and improvements. 

Quick note: This guide will update 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 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.

System icons build 21327
System icons build 21327 / source: Microsoft

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.

Windows 10 clipboard UI with Paste as text
Windows 10 clipboard UI with Paste as text

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.

System animation

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.

Windows 10 IME / source: Microsoft
Windows 10 IME / source: Microsoft

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.

Narrator new icon / source: Microsoft
Narrator new icon / source: Microsoft

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 version Dev
Windows 10 version Dev

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.

Start menu updated visual design
Start menu updated visual design

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. 

3D Viewer app in Windows Accessories
3D Viewer app in Windows Accessories

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.

Theme-aware splash / source: Microsoft
Theme-aware splash / source: Microsoft

With build 21277, the animation when opening and closing a window has been updated to make the transition a little smoother.

Notification tweaks

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.

Taskbar changes

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.

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

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.

Settings app new icon (source: Microsoft)
Settings app new icon (source: Microsoft)

Also, build 20175 introduces new modern icons for both Sticky Notes and the Snip & Sketch app to continue updating the iconography of Windows 10.

Sticky Notes and Snip & Sketch icons (source: Microsoft)
Sticky Notes and Snip & Sketch icons (source: Microsoft)

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.

News and interests widget / source: Microsoft
News and interests widget / source: Microsoft

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.

Skype Meet Now / source Microsoft
Skype Meet Now / source Microsoft

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.

Windows 10 new emoji panel
Windows 10 new emoji panel

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.

Voice Typing on Windows 10
Voice Typing on Windows 10

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.

Windows 10 on-screen keyboard with emoji, gif, clipboard
Windows 10 on-screen keyboard with emoji, gif, clipboard

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.

Windows 10 build 21310 keyboard
Windows 10 build 21310 keyboard

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.

Snipping tool

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.

First-run experience

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.

File Explorer with Linux integration
File Explorer with Linux integration

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.

Windows Search

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.)

Defrag tool on Windows 10 build 20241
Defrag tool on Windows 10 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.

Alt + Tab settings on Windows 10
Alt + Tab settings on Windows 10

Task Manager

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.

Task Manager Details tab with Architecture column
Task Manager Details tab with Architecture column

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.

Registry

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. 

Web browsing option in Settings header
Web browsing option in Settings header

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.

Restore recommended browser settings
Restore recommended browser settings

Graphics settings

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.

Set default graphics card option
Set default graphics card option (source: Microsoft)

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.

Set specific GPU for app (source: Microsoft)
Set specific GPU for the app (source: Microsoft)

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.

Graphics settings on Windows 10 21H1
Graphics settings on Windows 10

Sound

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.

Manage sound devices settings
Manage sound devices settings

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.

User cleanup recommendations settings
User cleanup recommendations settings

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.

See cleanup recommendations settings page
See cleanup recommendations settings page

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.

Manage Disks and Volumes
Manage Disks and Volumes

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.

Windows 10 disk properties option
Windows 10 disk properties option

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”).

Drive information on Windows 10
Drive information on Windows 10

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.

Windows 10 list of drive volumes
Windows 10 list of drive volumes

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.

Settings app Disk Management settings
Settings app Disk Management settings

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.

Disk Management in Settings format drive option
Disk Management in Settings format drive option

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 Spaces in Settings app / source: Microsoft
Storage Spaces in Settings app/source: Microsoft

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.

Windows 10 drive health / source: Microsoft
Windows 10 drive health / source: Microsoft

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.

Tablet experience 

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.”)

Windows 10 Tablet settings
Windows 10 Tablet settings

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.

About with graphics card and copy specs button
About with graphics card and copy specs button

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.

Windows 10 DNS settings
Windows 10 DNS settings

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.”

Windows 10 DoH settings
Windows 10 DoH settings

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.

Windows 10 DNS encryption enabled
Windows 10 DNS encryption enabled

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.)

Wi-Fi changes

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.

Archive apps on Windows 10 build 20201
Archive apps on Windows 10

You can enable or disable the feature on Settings > Apps > Apps & features and turning on or off the Archive apps toggle switch.

Default apps

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.

Default apps search
Default apps search

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.

Your Info page
Your Info page

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.

Your family group settings
Your family group settings

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.

People on this device settings
People on this device settings

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.

Date & time settings on 21H1
Date & time settings

Privacy improvements

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.”

Diagnostic & feedback settings on Windows 10 21H1
Diagnostic & feedback settings on Windows 10

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.

Screen Capture border settings
Screen Capture border settings

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.

Programmatic screen capture
Programmatic screen capture

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.

Windows Update settings with Optional updates link
Windows Update settings with Optional updates link

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.

Windows 10 Optional updates settings
Windows 10 Optional updates settings

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.

Language improvements

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.

Eye Control

The Eye Control settings interface has been updated to span multiple pages so that options are easier to find and understand.

Narrator

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.

The 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.

WSL startup commands / source: Microsoft
WSL startup commands / source: Microsoft

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.

DiskUsage
DiskUsage

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.

Experimental

Windows 10 is also enabling by default an experimental implementation of Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.3.

Setup changes

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.

Customize your device OOBE / source: Microsoft
Customize your device OOBE / source: Microsoft

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.

Family group setup on Windows 10 20H2 (sorce: Microsoft)
Family group setup on Windows 10 (source: Microsoft)

Windows Recovery

The Windows RE (Recovery Environment) no longer requires an administrator password to access recovery tools.

Other changes

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: HKLM\Software\Microsoft\Input\Settings\ControllerProcessor\ControllerToVKMapping.

Editor’s note: This guide includes features and improvements that appeared until Windows 10 build 21322. 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 March 2021.)