Windows 10: A guide to the updates

In mid-October, Microsoft announced the availability of Windows 10 version 20H2, known as the October 2020 Update. But the launch of a major Windows 10 update isn’t the end of a process — it’s really just the beginning. As soon as one of Microsoft’s twice-yearly feature updates is released, the company quickly gets to work on improving it by fixing bugs, releasing security patches, and occasionally adding new features.

Here we’ve summarized what you need to know about every Windows 10 update being released to the public. First come updates to version 20H2, with the most recent updates on top. Next come updates to version 20H1, known as the May 2020 Update; then updates to version 1909, the November 2019 Update; and so on. For each build, we’ve included the date of its initial release and a link to Microsoft’s announcement about it.

Note that Microsoft has not yet begun actively pushing Windows 10 20H2 to most users. You can seek out and install the release on your PC, but why rush things? In fact, we recommend keeping 20H2 off your machine for now to avoid any bugs that may crop up with the new release.

If you’re looking for information about Insider Program previews for upcoming feature releases of Windows 10, see “Windows 10 Insider Previews: A guide to the builds.” And if you’re still using an earlier version of Windows, see the Microsoft support site for details about updates to Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 version 1607 / Windows Server 2016.

Updates to the October 2020 Update (version 20H2)

KB4580364 (OS Build 19042.610)

Release date: October 29, 2020

This update makes it easier to connect to others in Skype, using Meet Now from the taskbar. In addition, there are a wide variety of bug fixes, including for one that displayed the incorrect CPU frequency for certain processors, another that displayed nothing on the screen for five minutes or more during a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) session, and another that caused the Docker pull operation to fail due to a Code Integrity (CI) Policy that blocks the import of a Windows container image.

There are two known issues in this update, including one in which system and user certificates might be lost when updating a device from Windows 10 version 1809 or later to a later version of Windows 10, and another in which users of the Microsoft Input Method Editor (IME) for Japanese or Chinese languages might experience issues when attempting various tasks.

(Get more info about KB4580364.)

Windows 10 October 2020 Update (version 20H2)

Release date: October 20, 2020

Version 20H2, called the Windows 10 October 2020 Update, is the most recent update to Windows 10. This is a relatively minor update but does have a few new features.

Here’s a quick summary of what’s new in 20H2:

  • The new Chromium-based version of the Microsoft Edge browser is now built directly into Windows 10.
  • The System page of Control Panel has been removed. Those settings have been moved to the Settings app.
  • The Start menu’s tiled background will match your choice of Windows themes. So the tiled background will be light if you’re using the Windows 10 light theme and dark if you’re using the Windows 10 dark theme.
  • When you use Alt-Tab, Edge will now display each tab in your browser in a different Alt-Tab window. Previously, when you used Alt-Tab, Edge would get only a single window. You can change this new behavior by going to Settings > System > Multitasking.
  • When you pin a site to the taskbar in Edge, you can click or mouse over its icon to see all your browser tabs that are open for that website.
  • When you detach a keyboard on a 2-in-1 device, the device will automatically switch to the tablet-based interface. Previously, you were asked whether you wanted to switch. You can change that setting by going to Settings > System > Tablet.
  • The Your Phone app gets a variety of new features for some Samsung devices. When using one of the devices, you can interact with the Android apps on your phone from the Your Phone app on Windows 10.

What IT needs to know: Windows 10 version 20H2 also has a variety of small changes of note for sysadmins and those in IT.

  • IT professionals who administer multiple mobile devices get a new Modern Device Management (MDM) “Local Users and Groups” settings policy that mirrors options available for devices that are managed through Group Policy.
  • Windows Autopilot, used to set up and configure devices in enterprises, has gained a variety of small enhancement, including better deployment of HoloLens devices, the addition of co-management policies, enhancements to Autopilot deployment reporting, and the ability to reuse Configuration Manager task sequences to configure devices.
  • Microsoft Defender Application Guard now supports Office. This allows untrusted Office documents from outside an enterprise to launch in an isolated container to stop potentially malicious content from compromising computers or exploiting personal information found on them.
  • Latest Cumulative Updates (LCUs) and Servicing Stack Updates (SSUs) have been combined into a single cumulative monthly update, available via Microsoft Catalog or Windows Server Update Services.
  • Biometric sign-on has been made more secure. Windows Hello now has support for virtualization-based security for certain fingerprint and face sensors, which protects, isolates, and secures a user’s biometric authentication data.

For more details, see Microsoft’s “What’s new for IT pros in Windows 10, version 20H2.”

Updates to the May 2020 Update (version 2004)

KB4580364 (OS Build 19041.610)

Release date: October 29, 2020

This update makes it easier to connect to others in Skype, using Meet Now from the taskbar. In addition, there are a wide variety of bug fixes, including for one that displayed the incorrect CPU frequency for certain processors, another that displayed nothing on the screen for five minutes or more during a Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) session, and another that caused the Docker pull operation to fail due to a Code Integrity (CI) Policy that blocks the import of a Windows container image.

There are two known issues in this update, including one in which system and user certificates might be lost when updating a device from Windows 10 version 1809 or later to a later version of Windows 10, and another in which users of the Microsoft Input Method Editor (IME) for Japanese or Chinese languages might experience issues when attempting various tasks.

(Get more info about KB4580364.)

KB4579311 (OS Build 19041.572)

Release date: October 13, 2020

This build fixes a few minor bugs and includes a variety of security updates. Among the bugs fixed are an issue with creating null ports using the user interface, and another issue with a possible elevation of privilege in win32k.

Security updates were issued for Windows App Platform and Frameworks, Microsoft Graphics Component, Windows Media, Windows Fundamentals, Windows Authentication, Windows Virtualization, and Windows Kernel. For details, see the Release Notes for October 2020 Security Updates.

There are two known issues in this build: In one, users of Microsoft Input Method Editor (IME) for Chinese and Japanese might have issues with input. In the other, when installing a third-party driver you might receive the error “Windows can’t verify the publisher of this driver software.” You might also see the error “No signature was present in the subject” when attempting to view the signature properties using Windows Explorer.

What IT needs to know: Because this is a security update, it should be applied relatively soon. Over the next few weeks, check for reports about problematic issues, and if all seems well, apply the update.

(Get more info about KB4579311.)

KB4577063 (OS Build 19041.546) Preview

Release date: October 1, 2020

This build reduces distortions and aberrations in Windows Mixed Reality head-mounted displays and fixes a wide variety of bugs, including one that caused random line breaks when you redirect PowerShell console error output, and another that that prevented the Language Bar from appearing when a user signs in to a new session.

There is one known issue in this build: Users of Microsoft Input Method Editor (IME) for Chinese and Japanese might have issues with input.

(Get more info about KB4577063.)

KB4571756 (OS Build 19041.508)

Release date: September 8, 2020

This build includes security updates for Windows App Platform and Frameworks, Microsoft Graphics Component, Windows Input and Composition, Windows Media, Windows Shell, Windows Cloud Infrastructure, Windows Fundamentals, Windows Management, Windows Kernel, Windows Virtualization, Windows Storage and Filesystems, the Microsoft Scripting Engine, and the Microsoft JET Database Engine.

For details, see the Release Notes for September 2020 Security Updates.

The build also fixes a security vulnerability issue with user proxies and HTTP-based intranet servers, and addresses an issue with a possible elevation of privileges in windowmanagement.dll.

What IT needs to know: Because this is a security update, it should be applied relatively soon. Over the next few weeks, check for reports about problematic issues, and if all seems well, apply the update.

There is one known issue in this build: Users of Microsoft Input Method Editor (IME) for Chinese and Japanese might have issues with input.

(Get more info about KB4571756.)

KB4571744 (OS Build 19041.488)

Release date: September 3, 2020

This build fixes a laundry list of minor bugs, including one that prevented apps from downloading an update or opening in certain scenarios, another that prevented users from reducing the size of windows and another that caused File Explorer to stop working when you browsed directories of RAW images and other file types.

There is one known issue in this build: Users of Microsoft Input Method Editor (IME) for Chinese and Japanese might have issues with input.

(Get more info about KB4571744.)

KB4566782 (OS Build 19041.450)

Release date: August 11, 2020

This build includes security updates for the Microsoft Scripting Engine, Internet Explorer, Windows Graphics, Microsoft Graphics Component, Windows Kernel, Windows Input and Composition, Windows Media, Windows Shell, the Windows Wallet Service, Microsoft Edge Legacy, Windows Cloud Infrastructure, Windows Authentication, the Windows AI Platform, Windows Fundamentals, Windows Storage and Filesystems, Windows Update Stack, Windows File Server and Clustering, Windows Hybrid Storage Services, Windows App Platform and Frameworks, the Microsoft JET Database Engine, and Windows SQL components.

For details, see the Release Notes for August 2020 Security Updates.

The build also fixes an issue in Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps that allows single sign-on authentication when an app does not have the Enterprise Authentication capability.

What IT needs to know: Because this is a security update, it should be applied relatively soon. Over the next few weeks, check for reports about problematic issues, and if all seems well, apply the update.

There is one known issue in this build: When using some apps, such as Microsoft Excel, users of the Microsoft Input Method Editor (IME) for Chinese and Japanese might receive an error, or the app might stop responding or close when attempting to drag using the mouse.

(Get more info about KB4566782.)

KB4568831 (OS Build 19041.423)

Release date: July 31, 2020

This minor build addresses a wide variety of bugs and issues, including one that caused the Settings page to close unexpectedly, which prevented default applications from being set up properly, and another that prevented some applications from printing to network printers.

There is one known issue in this build, in which when using some apps such as Excel, users of the Microsoft Input Method Editor (IME) for Chinese and Japanese might receive an error, or the app might stop responding or close when users attempt to drag using the mouse.

(Get more info about KB4568831.)

KB4565503 (OS Build 19041.388)

Release date: July 14, 2020

This build fixes several bugs, including one that might prevent you from connecting to OneDrive using the OneDrive app. It also has security updates for the Microsoft Scripting Engine, Windows App Platform and Frameworks, the Microsoft Store, Windows Graphics, Windows Input and Composition, Windows Media, Windows Shell, Windows Fundamentals, Windows Management, Windows Kernel, Windows Hybrid Cloud Networking, Windows Storage and Filesystems, Windows Update Stack, Windows MSXML, Windows File Server and Clustering, Windows Remote Desktop, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge Legacy, and the Microsoft JET Database Engine. For details, see the Release notes for the July 2020 Security Updates.

There is one known issue in this build, in which when using some apps, such as Microsoft Excel, users of the Microsoft Input Method Editor (IME) for Chinese and Japanese might receive an error, or the app might stop responding or close when attempting to drag using the mouse.

What IT needs to know: Because this is a security update, it should be applied relatively soon. Over the next few weeks, check for reports about problematic issues, and if all seems well, apply the update.

(Get more info about KB4565503.)

KB4567523 (OS Build 19041.331)

Release date: June 18, 2020

This minor build fixes a single issue, in which certain printers could not print, generated print errors, or caused apps and print spoolers to close unexpectedly.

There is one known issue in this build, which affects the ImeMode property to control the Input Method Editor (IME) mode for individual text entry fields to increase typing efficiency. Some IMEs in this build might have issues using the ImeMode property with certain apps, for example the input mode will not switch automatically to Kanji or Hiragana.

(Get more info about KB4567523.)

KB4557957 (OS Build 19041.329)

Release date: June 9, 2020

This build improves the reliability of voice assistants that use keywords and has security updates for the Microsoft Scripting Engine, Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Windows App Platform and Frameworks, Windows Media, Windows Kernel, Microsoft Graphics Component, Windows Input and Composition, Windows Shell, Windows Silicon Platform, Microsoft Xbox, the Microsoft Store, Windows Cloud Infrastructure, Windows Fundamentals, Windows Management, Windows Authentication, Windows Cryptography, Microsoft HoloLens, Windows Virtualization, Windows Peripherals, Windows Storage and Filesystems, Windows File Server and Clustering, Windows Hybrid Storage Services, the Microsoft JET Database Engine, and the Windows Update Stack. For details, see the Release Notes for June 2020 Security Updates.

There are no known issues in this build.

What IT needs to know: Because this is a security update, it should be applied relatively soon. Over the next few weeks, check for reports about problematic issues, and if all seems well, apply the update.

(Get more info about KB4557957.)

Windows 10 May 2020 Update (version 2004)

Release date: May 27, 2020

Version 2004, called the Windows 10 May 2020 Update, is the most recent update to Windows 10. This is a relatively minor update but does have a variety of new features for both users and system administrators. For more details, see: “Review: Windows 10 May 2020 Update delivers little tweaks that add up to… well, not a lot.”

Here’s a quick summary of what’s new in 2004:

  • Cortana now runs as a standalone app in a resizable window. It also loses a variety of capabilities, such as playing music, controlling home devices, and working on the lock screen.
  • Task Manager now displays new information, including the temperature of your GPU and your disk type.
  • Settings gets many small tweaks, including adding a header with account information, and a redone network status page that combines information that used to be found on multiple pages, such as your IP address, current connection properties and data usage.
  • The Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) gets more features. It now uses a real Linux kernel, and is faster than previously.
  • IT can now take advantage of Windows Hello biometrics logins rather than passwords, by setting that up as the default on enterprise devices.
  • Installing and setting up Windows for others has been made easier thanks to new controls added to Dynamic Update, which can lead to less downtime during installation for users.
  • A variety of new commands have been given to PowerShell for Delivery Optimization, a Windows networking service that reduces bandwidth consumption by sharing the work of downloading update and upgrade packages among multiple devices in business deployments.
  • The security of the Chromium version of Edge has been improved, thanks to porting Application Guard to it.