Microsoft said in a blog post on Tuesday that it’s starting to roll out the latest twice-annual update to its Windows 10 operating system. It’s not jam-packed with major new capabilities. Rather, it gives PCs a few more quality enhancements.
The company is continuing to take a more careful approach with its Windows business, which generates about 14% of the company’s revenue. With more than 1.3 billion devices running it, Windows 10 remains the top desktop operating system, with 59% share in April, according to NetMarketShare data.
After introducing Windows 10 in 2015, Microsoft has spent the last few years bulking it up with updates, such as tools for crafting three-dimensional objects, applying photo filters and specifying parts of speech on websites. Two updates came out each year, while Apple’s MacOS and iOS and Google’s Android got just one.
Microsoft dialed back the pace of development in 2019 when it issued a normal update in the first half of the year and followed it up in the second half with an update focused on performance. In 2020, as users migrated from Windows 7, the company repeated that strategy. Now another quality-oriented update is arriving with the release of the Windows 10 May 2021 Update, also known as version 21H1, for the first half of 2021.
Panos Panay, the company’s chief product officer, announced last May — in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic that forced people to work from home and meet with colleagues through their devices — that people were spending 75% more time per month in Windows 10 than they were in the prior year. Microsoft also reported unusually fast growth in sales of Windows licenses for consumer PCs for the last four quarters. Microsoft won’t be making all those engaged Windows users learn a bunch more software functions this time around.
Here are the changes of note that come in version 21H1:
- The Windows Defender Application Guard system, which opens Office files and displays websites safely by running them in secure containers, will perform better. For example, Microsoft said it fixed an issue that caused a container to consume close to 1GB of RAM while the container was idle.
- It fixes an issue caused system administrators’ updates to Active Directory to roll out slowly to users’ PCs.
- When a PC has more than one camera that can use the Windows Hello feature to sign in securely through face recognition, Windows will now set the external one as default, rather than the internal one.
- The Edge web browser that was originally part of Windows 10 will be removed, now that there is a new version based on the Chromium engine, which Microsoft bundled in the Windows 10 update from last fall. Support for the original version ended on March 9. As a result, when you click the Start button and search for Edge, you won’t be shown two different browsers and accidentally open the old one.
Windows 10 users can check whether the update is available for their PCs by opening the Settings app, choosing the Update & Security section, navigating to Windows Update and hitting the Check for Updates button. It’s also possible to download the new version as a disc image and install it on a PC with a USB stick or DVD.