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Windows 10 20H1 update: All the changes launching this spring

Every year, there are two major updates to Windows 10. Following the release of the November 2019 Update, the first big update for Windows 10 in 2020 will be coming later this spring.

Currently code-named 20H1 (and also known as Windows 10 version 2004), this update is set to change a couple of things in the operating system that’s now used on 1 billion devices across the world.

Be it the File Explorer, virtual desktops, and some settings and security options, this next version of Windows will look and feel a bit different. Here’s a closer look at everything you need to know.

Price and release date

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Not to be confused with the previous November 2019 Update, the Windows 10 20H1 update is scheduled for release sometime this spring. Based on coding obtained from Windows Powershell, it is also rumored to be named the May 2020 Update, after the release month, like previous versions of Windows 10. Official naming, however, isn’t confirmed as of yet.

As for how it will be delivered, you should expect to see it appear under Windows Update, as always. It will come at no additional cost, as featured updates to Windows 10 are always free.

Changes to File Explorer and Windows Ink Workspace

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At the top of the list of major improvements in 20H1 is a slightly new user interface for the File Explorer. The update enables more-rounded corners and a new search system.

What this means is that thanks to improved spell correction technology, finding your files and apps will be easier. The Windows Ink Workspace also shrinks in size with this release and will bring easier access to Microsoft’s inking and collaboration services. These include Microsoft Whiteboard and Snip and Sketch, for taking and sharing screenshots.

A bigger change to File Explorer is also in the works, though we’re not expecting to see it launch this spring.

New Cortana experience

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Cortana might have been separated from the search bar with the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, but in the 20H1 release, the digital assistant is getting a major overhaul.

Much like what you experience with the Cortana app on iPhone and Android, the assistant is now much more conversational, with an emphasis on text. You’ll be able to type out commands to ask about sports, weather, and more. You can even drag Cortana into its own window so that it can follow you everywhere.

Changes to Tablet mode


As more and more people move from traditional laptops to 2-in-1s with touchscreens, Microsoft is using the 20H1 update as a way to tweak the Windows 10 tablet mode. In this update, when you remove your keyboard from your tablet, Windows won’t prompt you to enter tablet mode. Instead, Windows will now tweak the desktop experience and change the spacing between icons in the taskbar, as well as give you a bigger touch-friendly version of File Explorer.

The search bar will also collapse into an icon, and the on-screen touch keyboard will automatically appear whenever you tap into text fields.

PowerToys makes a comeback


Alongside all the new features in 20H1, Microsoft will also be reintroducing PowerToys, an old feature from Windows 95. It’s a set of utilities for power users to tune and streamline their Windows experience for greater productivity.

You can use it to add a button to your open windows that will allow you to create a new desktop, send a specific app to that desktop, or maximize the app on that new desktop. There is also a list of keyboard shortcuts that you can use with PowerToys. The project is available on GitHub, where you can download it.

Minor tweaks to virtual desktops, calendar in taskbar

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For those who enjoy virtual desktops, 20H1 makes it possible to rename the virtual spaces and save them for when the computer reboots. There will also be tweaks to the calendar to allow you to add events from the taskbar.

There are more ways to control notification options, with a direct link for settings appearing at the top of the Action Center. That builds on new app-specific notification options available when hovering over a notification.

Settings changes


As for the settings changes in 20H1, Microsoft will continue to push its Windows Hello facial-recognition system as a method for secure logins. Windows users with a computer that has a compatible webcam will be able to sign in with just Windows Hello and remove all passwords from the login screen.

For those who use Windows in multiple languages, it will be easier to set a default language for Windows apps and services.

Cloud download


Whenever something goes wrong with your laptop or computer, you’ll typically need to download an ISO from Microsoft or use the in-built media included with your PC to reinstall Windows 10. Well, with the 20H1 update, Microsoft is making it easier to reinstall the operating system.

Similar to what’s available on MacOS, now, you can now reset Windows by choosing the option to Cloud download Windows, without having to create installation media. It will install the same build, version, and edition of Windows that you were last running on your device.

Other changes

There are some other interesting changes  coming with 20H1 in both the Task Manager and settings. Users will be able to see disk types and GPU temperatures in the task manager, and they’ll also be able to control and limit the bandwidth used by Windows Update.

Microsoft also unbundled Notepad from Windows 10, which means it could now occasionally get updated via the Microsoft Store with fresh new features.

Arif Bacchus/Digital Trends

Bigger things on the horizon

Unlike the last year’s November 2019 Update, which is more focused on minor tweaks to Windows, this 20H1 release delivers on more new features. As this update isn’t due for another few months, you can expect Microsoft to keep tweaking the experience and add more over time.

You also can expect Microsoft to begin working on the second Windows Update for 2020 once the Windows 10 20H1 Update becomes mainstream. It will be quite different from before. With the team building Windows under the leadership of Panos Panay, the person behind Microsoft’s Surface lineup, some major changes are expected. A new File Explorer, a fresher design that brings Windows 10 a modern look, and the return of Windows Sets are just a few things that are rumored to be in the Fall Windows 10 Update.

Here’s how you can sign up to be a Windows Insider if you want to get started with any of these new Windows features and preview what’s coming.

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Arif Bacchus
Arif Bacchus is a native New Yorker and a fan of all things technology. Arif works as a freelance writer at Digital Trends…
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