Release date: October/November 2021
Update name: Windows 10 21H2
Codename: Sun Valley
New, softer design
Windows 10X Action Center
New Disk Management settings screen
Per-app multiple GPU management
Improved audio device settings
The big Microsoft Windows 10 update for 2021 is potentially as close as we're going to get to an actual Windows 11 OS. Having already confirmed that Windows 10 is "the last version of Windows," with Microsoft's operating system moving to a service model with twice yearly updates, there is going to be no Windows 11.
But the team is looking to completely refresh the look, feel, and usability of Windows 10 to make it seem like more than just a bunch of little bug-fixing patches. The first of 2021's updates, codenamed Sun Valley, is not going to be as big a behind-the-scenes change as the new Windows 10X release, but it will still be bringing some design elements from the newer PC OS.
Windows 10X? Don't worry, it's not something we need concern ourselves with overmuch as it's not designed for gaming PCs, and won't be an operating system you can buy and download on its own. Win10X is aimed at enterprise and education notebooks, and is a more stripped back setup, initially launching without support for a whole lot of legacy stuff, such as Win32 support. Hence, it's only coming on new machines.
But the Windows 10 Sun Valley update is aiming to breathe a little new life into the OS, as WindowsCentral's Zac Bowden noted in Microsoft job listings, the company is looking to "deliver a sweeping visual rejuvenation of Windows experiences to signal to our customers that Windows is BACK and ensure that Windows is considered the best user OS experience for customers."
So, how is Microsoft going to signal to us that Windows is, indeed, BACK?
Windows 10 Update - Sun Valley release date
Microsoft has stuck to a pretty solid release cadence for its twice yearly updates for Windows 10 recently. That being a spring and autumn update, with the first of the year coming around April or May time, and the second dropping on to our PCs in either October or November.
Given that the aforementioned job listing is pretty recent the big refresh isn't likely to be in the first flush of Windows 10 updates this year. We are then looking at the Sun Valley update to be the October/November release instead.
Microsoft has let slip the general release date for its first 2021 Windows 10 update, however, with the 21H1 update being given a June 2021 timeframe in a subsequently edited Chromium code commit. The commit originally read: "The Windows Release coming out this June 2021 has a new API that can disable KTM exploits."
Windows 10 21H1 is going to be more of a slight update, mainly bug fixes, and mild improvements, so we're going to be waiting on Sun Valley for the new features. Windows 10X is launching in the springtime, so it would make sense for Microsoft to marshal its efforts towards the desktop version once that's out in the wild.