Everything You Need to Know About Windows – February 2021

In February, Microsoft announced its plans to release Windows 10 version 21H1 and that Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC support will be cut from 10 years to 5. And Windows 10 ‘in cloud configuration’ is a new recommended device configuration that can be applied to remote devices for frontline workers and others. Plus, much more. So, let’s get started.

Windows 10 version 21H1 official announced

The big feature update for Windows 10 this year is 21H2, due for release in autumn. It is expected to come with a major UI refresh. Until recently, it wasn’t clear whether Microsoft would even bother with a 21H1 release.

But this month, Microsoft announced that 21H1 is indeed a thing and to expect it in the first half of 2021. Like Windows 10 version 20H2, 21H1 will be released using servicing technology. That means for users already running Windows 10 version 2004 or 20H2, 21H1 will be delivered as a small cumulative update.

Microsoft says that 21H1 will include updates to core experiences that its customers rely on most as more people are working remotely. The new features in 21H1 include:

  • Windows Hello multicamera support to set the default as the external camera when both external and internal Windows Hello cameras are present.
  • Windows Defender Application Guard performance improvements including optimizing document opening scenario times.
  • Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) Group Policy Service (GPSVC) updating performance improvement to support remote work scenarios.

Insiders got access to the first build, officially labelled 21H1, February 17th. More on that below.

Windows Server 2022 preview drops

The next full version of Windows Server on the Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) will be version 2022. Microsoft released Windows Server 2022 Insider Preview build 20292 to Insiders. As an LTSC release, Windows Server 2022 includes the Desktop Experience and Server Core installation options for Datacenter and Standard editions.

There isn’t much information to add, other than it will include features found in Windows Server, the version of Windows Server that gets updated more frequently in the Semi-Annual Servicing Channel. We do know that Windows Server 2022 will include the Chromium version of Edge, support for TLS 1.3, and AES-256 encryption for SMB.

Microsoft to cut Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC support to 5 years

As reported by Mary Jo Foley on ZDNet, Microsoft is planning to cut support for Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC from ten to five years. This will apply starting with the Windows 10 21H2 release that’s due later in 2021. Microsoft says that organizations needing 10 years’ support should use Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSC.

According to conversations with its customers, Microsoft found that “many who previously installed an LTSC version for information worker desktops have found that they do not require the full 10-year lifecycle.” Check out Microsoft’s blog post here for the full announcement.

It’s time to say goodbye to legacy Edge

Not news as such because we’ve known for a while, but here’s a reminder that Microsoft is ending support for legacy Edge on March 9th. Microsoft says:

“To replace this out of support application, we are announcing that the new Microsoft Edge will be available as part of an upcoming Windows 10 cumulative monthly security update. When you apply this update to your devices, the new Microsoft Edge will be installed and the out of support Microsoft Edge Legacy will be removed.”

Edge gets adaptive notification requests

After enabling quiet notification requests by default in a previous version of Edge, some customers complained that they could no longer find notification requests. Quiet notification requests appear as a bell icon in the address bar.

To address the problem, adaptive notification requests are based on a scoring system. The system provides either the full request prompt or quiet prompt based on data gathered from user choices. Microsoft says:

As our score system represents the level of annoyance of the full prompt, “Block” yields a higher score indicating a strong negative signal, “Ignore” and “Dismiss” influence the scores as a weak negative signal, and “Allow” yields the lowest score indicating a strong positive signal. Based on the collective score of users, we provide quiet requests to the websites whose scores are higher than the threshold.

Microsoft is promising to fine tune the experience as it receives more feedback. For more information, check out Microsoft’s blog post here.

Windows 10 version 2004 gets the green light for broad deployment

February 3rd, Microsoft announced that Windows 10 version 2004 (20H1) is now ready for broad deployment. That means Microsoft believes it to be reliable enough for mainstream consumption. The announcement has been a long time coming for Windows 10 version 2004. Microsoft usually deems feature updates ready for broad deployment 3-4 months after release.

Microsoft announces Windows 10 in cloud configuration

Windows 10 in cloud configuration is a new recommended device configuration that can be applied to Windows 10 computers using Intune, Microsoft’s Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution, which is part of Microsoft Endpoint Manager (MEM).

Organizations can use MEM to apply a standard configuration to devices running Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise, and Windows 10 Education. Microsoft says that the configuration is suitable for employees that use their devices for basic productivity and content consumption.

For more information, check out What is Windows 10 Cloud Configuration on Petri.

Microsoft Authenticator password management now widely available

Released in public preview at the end of 2020, password management and autofill are now widely available for Microsoft Authenticator users. Microsoft Authenticator and Edge store passwords under your Microsoft Account (MSA), which makes passwords available on all devices where you log in. Autofill also works on Chrome with the help of a browser extension. You can find more information about autofill here.

Windows Insider builds

Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 21313 brings changes to the news and interests taskbar widget. Previously, it was available in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and India. But in this build, the news, weather forecasts, sports, and finance updates are based on your location anywhere in the world. Your language and location is automatically detected to help news and interests deliver a customized experience.

Build 21313 sees legacy Edge replaced with Chromium Edge. This will be the default for Insider builds going forward. There are also some changes for Input Method Editors (IME), including a modern design that’s more aligned to Fluent Design principles, optimized font size, quick access to emojis, and better performance.

Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 21318 gets a ‘Paste as plain text’ option in clipboard history (WIN+V).

Windows Feature Experience Pack 120.2212.3030.0 was released to Insiders on the Beta Channel February 23rd and it is available to all Insiders on 20H2 and 21H1. The update includes an improvement to the reliability of the handwriting input panel.

Windows 10 21H1

Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 19043.844 (21H1) was released to Insiders on the Beta Channel February 17th. It is available to ‘seekers’, so you must actively click Check for updates in Windows Update to receive it. For more information, check out the Windows Insider Blog here.

And that is it for another month!