Microsoft today started rolling out the free Windows 10 October 2020 Update. Among the new features, this is the first Windows 10 release to ship with Chromium Edge. Business users are getting Mobile Device Management, Windows Autopilot, Microsoft Defender Application Guard, update deployment, and Windows Hello improvements. End users can expect improvements to Start, notifications, Settings, display, and the tablet experience.

Windows 10 is developed as a service, meaning it receives two feature updates every year. Microsoft has released nine free updates so far for the over 1 billion devices running Windows 10, which first debuted in July 2015. Now the tenth update for the world’s most popular desktop operating system is here.

Microsoft has changed how it names Windows 10 versions to coincide with the calendar year. Windows 10 October 2020 Update updates the Windows 10 version to 20H2 (denoting the second half of the year 2020). You can try to download it manually or check Windows Update if it is available to you (Settings => Update & Security => Windows Update => Check for updates). If you are running Windows 10 version 1903 or later, you should be able to download it and pick a time to finish the installation and reboot your device. That said, Microsoft is “throttling availability over the coming weeks to ensure a reliable download experience” and because “some devices might have a compatibility issue for which a safeguard hold is in place.”

That’s on the consumer side. On the business side, Windows 10 version 20H2 is now available through Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), Windows Update for Business, and the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC). Windows 10 version 20H2 Enterprise and Education editions will receive 30 months of servicing and support beginning today.


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Chromium Edge now included

Microsoft launched Chromium Edge for Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 10, and macOS in January 2020. The browser has since been installed on “hundreds of millions of devices and climbing,” and is now the second most popular desktop browser, after Chrome, according to Net Applications. Microsoft wants Edge to be “the browser for business,” although the company has been ramping up new features for consumers as well.

Since January, Microsoft has been updating Edge every six weeks or so — Edge 86 arrived earlier this month. That’s the version that ships with this new Windows 10 release. But today’s update also brings exclusive Windows 10 features:

  • Alt + Tab: This keyboard shortcut now not only lets you access the apps you have open on your desktop, but also your open tabs in Edge. This will be either incredibly useful or annoying to users, depending on their workflows (change the setting in Settings => System => Multitask).
  • If you pin websites to the taskbar, when you hover over the website icon, you will see all the open tabs of that site. Again, either useful or annoying depending on your preferences.

While Chromium Edge has long been available for Windows 10 users, you could avoid downloading it and installing it. Now, nine months after the browser’s launch, if you’re on the latest version of Windows 10, you’ve also got Chromium Edge.

Windows 10 version 20H2 business features

Windows 10 20H2 commercial

Chromium Edge is arguably the biggest feature that businesses and IT Pros need to be aware of. But there are plenty others included in Windows 10 version 20H2 as well:

  • Mobile Device Management (MDM) — Like with Group Policy, you can now make granular changes to Local Users and Groups on an MDM managed Windows 10 device, by using the Local Users and Groups MDM policy.
  • Windows Autopilot for HoloLens — Setting up your HoloLens 2 devices just got easier, with a Windows Autopilot for HoloLens 2 self-deploying mode.
  • Windows Autopilot into co-management — Co-management policy can be set during Autopilot deployment to ensure workloads are managed from the appropriate source.
  • Windows Autopilot ESP + task sequences — Using a task sequence as part of Windows Autopilot allows you to take advantage of your Configuration Manager investments, and reuse those task sequences to configure the devices. The task sequence can integrate right into ESP (the Enrollment Status Page) blocking access to the desktop until the task sequence completes.
  • Enhancements to Windows Autopilot deployment reporting — Currently in preview, you can monitor the status of Autopilot deployments in the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center. From there, select Devices > Monitor and scroll down to the Enrollment section. Click Autopilot deployment (preview).
  • Microsoft Defender Application Guard for Office — With this support, you can launch untrusted Office documents (those that come from outside the Enterprise) in an isolated container to prevent potentially malicious content from compromising the user’s computer or exploiting their personal contents.
  • LCU + SSU=single payload — Simplified deployment of LCU (Latest Cumulative Updates) and SSU (Servicing Stack Updates). LCU+SSU have been combined into a single cumulative monthly update, available via Microsoft Catalog or Windows Server Update Services.
  • Windows Hello has added support for new enhanced sign-in security options, like virtualization-based protection for fingerprint and face sensors. This requires new hardware, which is scheduled to be available late in 2020.

Windows 10 version 20H2 end user features

Windows 10 version 20H2 start menu

In addition to the above, here are the user-facing features you can expect in Windows 10 version 20H2:

  • Theme-aware tiles in Start — The redesigned Start menu has a more streamlined design that removes the solid color backplates behind the logos in the apps list and applies a uniform, partially transparent background to the tiles.
  • Improved Notifications — Toast notifications now have the app’s logo in the top left corner of the notification, so you can immediately see where the notification is coming from. Focus Assist notifications, which tells you when Focus Assist is enabled, are also now off.
  • Settings — More classic Control Panel capabilities have been added to the Settings page. There’s also now a Copy button in About so you can easily copy that information and paste it into a help desk ticket.
  • Tablet experience — When you detach a keyboard on a 2-in-1 device, you are automatically brought into the new tablet experience. You can change this behavior (Settings => System => Tablet).
  • Refresh rate of display — If you have the supported hardware, you can now change the refresh rate of your display (Settings => System => Display => Advanced display settings).

For most users, Windows 10 October 2020 Update is about personalizing your taskbar, notifications, and other settings.

Small but mighty

Last year, Microsoft shifted away from issuing two major Windows 10 updates to a major update in the first half of the year and a minor update in the second half of the year. That means the Windows 10 October 2020 Update (version 20H2) shares the same Cumulative Update packages as the Windows 10 May 2020 Update (version 2004). As a result, version 20H2 will be delivered more quickly to version 2004 users — it will install like a monthly security update.

The build number will also barely change: from build 19041 to build 19042. For developers, this means a new Windows SDK will not be issued either (there aren’t any new APIs). Still, while Windows 10 version 20H2 is not a major release, as you can see above, there is enough in here to warrant an update.

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