Windows 10 21H1 – New Features, Changes and Improvements

Windows 10 21H1 is the next major and eleventh feature update by Microsoft. As of now, Insiders can only access the new features, fixes, and improvements that appear on Windows 10 21H1 Preview Builds. Microsoft is currently working on several new features and refinements that may appear in May 2021 Update. However, since we’re many months away, we can’t surely predict what’s going to remain in the final Build release. 

In this post, we discuss almost everything that has appeared on the latest Dev Channel (Fast Ring) of Windows 10 21H1. The features explained in this guide are subject to change as the build approaches towards its final verdict. Moreover, if you want to use the recent features that appear on 21H1, learn how to download & install Windows Insider Preview.

What’s new on Windows 10 21H1

Here are the new features, changes, and improvements on Windows 10 20H2 thus far –

Changes List

1] What’s changed on the Desktop Screen for 21H1

Here are the key improvements that developers have performed so far on Windows 10 21H1 –

Windows 10 Search UI Dark Mode

With Insider Build 20215, Microsoft introduces dark theme support on the Search window as well. Since now both Start and Search support darker skin, the transition between them won’t strain the eyes. 

Windows 10 21H1 - Dark Mode New Feature

Start menu with Theme-aware tiles

The company had beautifully modified the overall look of the Start home Screen. Basically, they had replaced the idea of solid color backplates with a partially transparent background. This will provide a streamlined design to the logos of either system or third-party apps. Moreover, the new partial background fits accurately on both light and dark themes. See the Snapshot below –

Light Skin

Windows 10 21H1 New Features - Light Start Menu

Dark Skin

Windows 10 21H1 New Features - Dark Start Menu

As the title reads theme-aware, the new Start Menu consciously maintains the background-color based on the current theme pack. If you want to make your Desktop Screen look more fabulous, download and apply the Pride 2020 Flags theme to your computer. 

Apart from this, there is speculation that Windows 10 21H1 will include some other tweaks and features in upcoming build releases. 

Search Box now Available on the Default Apps page

With 21H1 Build 20211, Microsoft adds a search bar on the defaults Apps page. This new functionality enables users to look out for any application easily on the computer.

Windows 10 20H1 - Search Box under the Default Apps section

New Icons – Settings, Sticky Notes, and Snipping Tool

Microsoft is keen to change the existing icons to something new and exciting. Continuing this trend ahead, the developers have introduced a new Settings icon on this build.

Settings – New Gear Icon

New Settings Icon

Sticky Notes, Snipping Tool

Snipping Tool and Sticky Notes

Linux embedded File Explorer

Microsoft is planning to integrate the Windows Subsystem for Linux into File Explorer. They have already added a Linux icon on the left pane of the Explorer. Click this icon and you can easily manage all of the Linux distros and files. 

Note: HomeGroup remains deprecated on Windows 10 21H1 as well. Hence, you can’t see a link to this on the File Explorer. 

New Notifications Visualizer

Just like the new look of the Start Menu, the Action Center also receives an upgrade. The new notification experience looks more stunning as compared to the previous ones. 

New Notifications Visualizer

Microsoft is now disabling the Focus Assist notification and summary toast by default. However, there is an option to switch back to the earlier state via Windows Settings. 

Windows 10 21H1 Build 20161

A more personalized Taskbar

The developers are working to improve the Taskbar functionality as well. As of now, three new sets of personalized Taskbar is available to the users. With Windows 10 21H1, users will get a flexible, cloud-driven taskbar layout. This even tests the customer reception using the default Taskbar content and adjusts the layouts matching device screen size.  

20H1 Build 20161

The experts will closely look over the audience’s reception featuring individual properties, and computer diagnostic data. They will use this information to tune in the default layouts with minimum clutter and removal of bloatware. 

Task Manager

The details tab inside the Task Manager now includes two new entities. They are – Architecture and Hardware Enforced Stack Protection

Hardware Enforced Stack Protection

Improved search from the taskbar in Windows 10

Microsoft had enhanced the Search UI functionalities to make it easier for what you were looking for on the computer. After installing Windows 10 Build 20170, users may notice two-column layouts on the Start Home Screen. They are – Recent Activities and Quick Searches

Two Columns Inside the Search UI

Under the Quick Searches section, you may get information like – local weather, top news, and other useful info. In addition to this, Windows Search now supports web search for Dutch-speaking customers in the Netherlands. Users residing in the Netherlands who have set Dutch as their default language may now search anything directly pressing the Win + S hotkey. They no longer need a web browser to search for content in the Dutch language. 

If you have any queries or suggestions, send feedback to the experts by tapping over the Feedback button. 

Meet Now in the Windows 10 Taskbar

With build 20221, users may now see the Meet Now icon right on the taskbar. One may now easily set up a video call to reach friends and family clicking on its icon. Besides, there’s no need to sign-up or download any extra program to the computer. Just click on its icon available on the system tray and create a new meeting or join ongoing meetings. 

Join or Create Meet Now

2] What’s new for System Apps in Windows 10 21H1

Your Phone App

  • Pin Notification

With each coming 21H1 insider build, Microsoft is improving Your Phone app to include some advanced features. They have already introduced the notifications pinning feature using which one can easily pin the important ones. 

To do so, click the ellipse icon available right next to the notification and choose to “Pin notification“. The pinned item will remain at the top of available threads so that you can easily see or reply to this. 

  • View All Devices list 

Windows 10 users may now see all their linked devices within this application. Moreover, they can easily link a new device, remove an old one, or switch in between the active devices seamlessly. Apart from this, the company also made some cool visual improvements so as to enlist all of your connected devices to Your Phone app. 

Your Phone App - Devices List

3] What’s new in Settings UI

Storage

Microsoft introduces another interesting option inside the Storage section. This setting basically allows users to deep clean files inside the Windows directories like – Temporary, Previous Installation, Downloads, etc. Using this, you may even delete the residual files of an uninstalled program.

Deep Clean recommendation

Display 

The Graphic settings accessible inside the “Display” now allows applying custom graphics on the system or third-party apps. There’s an additional “browse” option as well that you can use to manually locate any program.

Windows 10 21H1 New Features - Graphic Settings

Your family group 

The tech giant has made slight modifications to the “Your family group” under the Accounts section. First of all, they removed the “Other users” and make this one a separate entity (discussed below).

Using this page, users may now give all family members access to sign-in to the device. In general, people use this account to create a child account so that they can restrict certain apps, games, etc. using their personal settings. 

This section now features “Add someone” instead of “Add a family member”.  

 Family Group

People on this device

There’s a new setting inside the Accounts section on Windows 10 21H1. Using this, you may add new accounts or kick out the existing accounts. Do note that this is not a part of the “Family group”, rather a functionality to add other people who can use the computer. In short, the “Other users” that exists inside the “Family & other users” page now appear as “People on this device”.

People on the device

Privacy 

As a part of the Windows 10 21H1 update, the experts are adding an additional “Downloads” folder inside the Privacy settings page. 

1. Diagnostics & feedback 

Microsoft replaced the “Basic diagnostic data” with “Required diagnostic data” and “Full diagnostic data” with “Optional diagnostic data”. 

In the Diagnostics & feedback settings page, the “Basic diagnostic data” is now known as “Required diagnostic data” and “Full diagnostic data” has changed to 

2. Screen Capture border

There’s a new feature on Windows 10 20H1 which after turned On allows apps to request disabling the screen capture border. You may configure its setting right under the Privacy category.

Screen Capture Border

3. Programmatic Screen Capture

Under this setting, users may allow apps to screen capture arbitrary windows or displays. 

Programmatic Screen Capture

Windows Update

The Windows Update settings page continues to feature the “View optional updates” link even on Windows 10 21H1. Clicking this link will take to the next screen wherein you can view and decide whether to download & install optional updates or not. 

In general, this includes the driver update for printers, cameras, BIOS, or network adapters. As its name suggests, they are not essential for Windows operations. However, we suggest downloading and installing them so as to make the Windows processes much faster and reliable. If you have done so, you no longer need to browse and update specific drivers inside the Device Manager.

Tip: Sometimes, optional updates may include feature updates or monthly patches (security or non-security). 

Optional Updates

About

Windows 10 users can’t see the Windows Security current status inside the “About” category. 

4] What’s changed inside the Ease of Access

Introducing Reset-AppxPackage

Earlier, insiders used to reset the UWP apps directly from the Settings app. With the Build 20175 onward, they may use this ability via PowerShell as well. All you need is to execute the below command –

>> Get-AppxPackage *calculator* | Reset-AppxPackage

The best part of this is you may now reset certain system components as well which were earlier not enlisted inside the Settings UI. A perfect example of this is the Start Menu. However, do note that resetting any app will delete all of the associated data as well.

Surface Pro X gets personal Eye contact connection  

The company has enabled Eye contact capabilities backed by the artificial intelligence of the Microsoft SQ1(TM) processor for Surface Pro X. Users may now do the video calls more effectively looking directly at the camera. You may activate this feature via the Surface app.

5] What’s new for the Input changes

The key input changes on Windows 10 21H1 are as follows –

Use Spacebar to drag the Mouse cursor

The company introduces new functionality to drag the mouse cursor using Spacebar on the touch keyboard. Users have desired the same for a long time and have provided feedback to this. 

Just place a finger on the space bar and start sliding your other finger to whichever direction you want to drag the mouse cursor.

Insider Build 20206 - Spacebar

Voice Typing Support in 14 Languages

Microsoft introduces Voice Typing support on Insider Build 20206 Dev Channel. This is an improved version of Windows dictation that enables users to type effortlessly using their voice. We all have experienced this feature on our Smartphones. Now, it’s time to get cozy and comfy on Windows 10. The new Voice Typing includes –

  • Modern design with optimized Touch keyboard usage.
  • Auto-punctuation allows users to put their thoughts without worrying about punctuation marks like – periods, question marks, etc.
  • An updated back end for the most reliable voice typing experience ever on Windows.

Quick Note: To start voice typing on Windows 10, use the Win + H shortcut. Alternatively, one may also tap the microphone button to start typing.

As of now, this feature is available in the following languages – 

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.

  • Voice typing automatically uses the pre-defined keyboard language.
  • The Japanese language doesn’t support the auto-punctuation feature.

Language 

The company added a new feature inside the Scottish Gaelic keyboard i.e. “AltGr + 7“. Users may use this hotkey to input “⁊ (U+204A TIRONIAN SIGN ET)“. Moreover, you can insert characters by pressing (´) without brackets. Furthermore, Alt Gr + ´ now acts as a dead key, and using this won’t add the acute accent with a subsequent letter.

Eye Control

The Eye Control Settings page now includes multiple pages making it easier to locate different options. 

Improved Sound Settings

As mentioned in the last build, experts tried bringing some more Control Panel capabilities into Settings. They have improved the sound settings experience on build 20170. Users may now manage sound devices by navigating to the path – Settings > System > Sound. Additionally, they have also updated the Volume Mixer to include a link to the per-app audio settings. Windows 10 users may now use this to redirect audio endpoints per app.

As per Microsoft, there’s more yet to come in this area, so stay tuned.

Narrator

The narrator can now automatically enable the scan mode and start reading webpages. 

6] Other Changes

Microsoft is working to improve several other areas on Windows 10 21H1 as well. Some of these are –

Storage health monitoring to protect user data

With Build 20226, Microsoft introduces another functionality with the intent to protect user data. This new feature can easily detect any abnormalities in the hardware like NVMe SSDs and notify users to act accordingly in a given time period. If you too have received such notification, make sure to back up your personal data immediately. 

DriveHealth Notification

All you require is to click this notification and this will take you to the following location –

Settings > System > Storage > Manage Disks and Volumes > Properties

After reaching the above path, you may see the additional details available there. 

Drive Health Properties

Emoji Picker and Support for more Emoji

The company introduces an emoji picker (evolving in nature) and support for more emoji. Moreover, they now support a few additional languages including kaomoji and symbols. 

Microsoft will enhance the capabilities of emoji picker as time passes by. For now, this offers the following new experiences –

  • An updated design: Fluent Design principles featuring a new acrylic background.
  • Emoji search: Improved emoji search ability in new as well as existing languages (inline search box).
  • Animated GIF support, including search: Use WIN + [.] or WIN + [;] to quickly access the animated GIFs. The pre-selected gif will change as per current trends and #hashtags.
  • Converging Input experiences across emoji and clipboard history: Input and Clipboard history will now co-exist. To access the clipboard history, use Win + V shortcut.

Insider Build 20206 - Emoji Picker

Windows Subsystem for Linux 2

Windows Subsystem for Linux 2 is going to receive three new features on Windows 10 21H1. They are wsl- install command, wsl -update command and GPU compute. 

  • GPU: Allows the Linux binaries to leverage graphics card. This lets users perform data science workflows and machine learning development directly in WSL.
  • wsl -install: Use this command to install WSL a lot faster.
  • wsl -update: Allows managing the Linux kernel version; already in use by WSL 2 distros. 

ALT + TAB between apps and sites

The company is continuously trying to improvise and simplify the usage of Microsoft Edge. They have enabled an option to change what ALT+TAB hotkey can do on Windows 10. Contrary to the previous concept of toggling between different apps on Windows 10, you can now switch in between tabs on the Microsoft Edge. 

So, it’s basically your choice whether you want to go for the new functionality or keep on using the classic Alt+Tab experience. All you need is to browse to the below path and choose what this hotkey can do –

Settings > System > Multitasking

The experts are rolling this feature only to a subset of Insiders today inside the Dev Channel. Again, for this to function properly, you must be having Canary or Dev build of Microsoft Edge (version 83.0.475.0 or higher).

Access to new Microsoft Launcher v6

The company finally releases the Microsoft Launcher v6 for the general public. If you were eagerly waiting for this, get a copy by visiting here. The new launcher brings several new features like Personalized News, Bing-Supported Wallpaper, Dark Theme, Landscape Mode, Customizable App icons, etc. In addition to this, the launcher makes sure to optimize battery, utilize less memory, load fast, and boost performance. 

Windows 10 21H1 Build 20170

Microsoft Launcher requirements

  • Android version – 7.0 or higher.
  • Download the Microsoft Launcher from the Google Play Store

Windows 10 Welcome Screen

After installing Windows 10 21H1, the welcome screen displays a new “Family group setup” setting. One can use this to allow all family members to sign-in to the device.  

Windows Recovery

Windows users can now easily access the recovery tools inside the WinRE folder. 

Note: This post presents all the new features, changes, and improvements that appear on Windows 10 21H1. Since Microsoft is continually adding new features, we will keep updating this article regularly. 

Last Update: Oct 2020

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