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Windows 10’s May 2021 Update, also known as 21H1, was released on May 18, 2021. Like the 20H2 update, this is a smaller update that focuses on security improvements and polish. The big features originally planned for 21H1 have been delayed to 21H2 in late 2021.

How to Install Windows 10’s May 2021 Update

Windows Update will automatically install the update on your Windows 10 PC. However, you may have to wait—Microsoft gradually rolls out updates to PCs, bit by bit, watching to see if there are any problems.

To get the update immediately, you can head to Microsoft’s Download Windows 10 website, click the “Update now” button, and run Microsoft’s update tool.

Another Small Update for Windows 10

When Microsoft originally released Windows 10, the company was releasing two big updates a year packed with new features.

In recent years, Microsoft has shifted away from this. Microsoft still releases a significant update every six months. However, Microsoft has been releasing a “big” update with new features in the spring followed by a smaller update with bug and security fixes in the winter.

In 2020, for example, the May 2020 Update (20H1) was a bigger one. It was followed by a smaller October 2020 Update (20H2.)

However, Microsoft is breaking the pattern. Rather than following up the small 20H2 update with a larger 21H1 update, Microsoft is releasing a small update in the spring.

Expect a bigger update with new features in late 2021. That will likely be 21H2, which will perhaps be called the October 2021 Update.

Small Updates Mean Fewer Bugs

When it comes to Windows, small updates aren’t necessarily a bad thing. These small updates are a much smaller download and install much more quickly without that long reboot process. They’re focused on fixing bugs and improving security. Microsoft is no longer in a mad rush to cram features like My People and Paint 3D into each Windows 10 update.

Windows 10’s developers sound serious about this responsibility. Here’s how Microsoft’s John Cable, Vice President of Program Management for Windows Servicing and Delivery, explains it:

Windows 10, version 21H1 will have a scoped set of features improving security, remote access and quality. The features we are releasing in this update are focused on the core experiences that customers have told us they’re relying on most right now. So, we optimized this release to support our customers’ most pressing needs.

What’s New in Windows 10’s May 2021 Update?

Almost nothing is new in Windows 10’s 21H1 update. However, under the hood, Windows is still being fixed with important security patches and bug fixes.

Here’s what Microsoft’s John Cable says we should expect:

  • Windows Hello Multicamera Support: When you have both an external and internal Windows Hello camera on your PC, you can now set the default camera as your external camera. Windows Hello is used for signing into PCs.
  • Windows Defender Application Guard Performance: Microsoft has sped up WDAG, a feature that lets administrators configure applications to run in an isolated, virtualized container for security. Microsoft says opening documents, in particular, should be faster.
  • WMI Group Policy Performance: Microsoft has improved Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) Group Policy Service (GPSVC) and made it perform more quickly “to support remote work scenarios.”

Microsoft’s Windows Insider blog post adds a few more details on the specific scenarios that have been improved.

That’s it—a quick, fast installation that fixes some minor issues.

What Happened to All the New Features?

An older version of this article included a wide variety of new features, including secure DNS over HTTPS (HTTPS) for all Windows applications.

However, all of the features that looked like they were coming in Windows 10’s May 2021 Update have been delayed. You’ll find a look at the interesting changes coming in our guide to Windows 10’s 21H2 update.

Here’s hoping that this long development process gives Microsoft a chance to make sure these features are good and stable before unleashing them on the world.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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