The Redmond Windows-as-a-Service (WaaS) machinery continues to churn out semi-annual updates for its flagship Windows 10 operating system. Earlier this year, Version 2004 was made available as the first semi-annual feature update for 2020. Now Windows 10 Version 20H2 is ready for its debut in the October 2020 Update.
It has now been more than two years since Microsoft released the Windows 10 October 2018 Update which had to be pulled from availability due to a serious situation that resulted in the loss of user files during the upgrade process. It was offline for six weeks while Microsoft fixed the serious flaw.
Since then, the company has focused its efforts on making these semiannual rollouts smoother. This has included shifting to a major feature update in the first half of each year (H1 release) and a smaller cumulative update with limited new features in the second half of the year (H2 release).
With this update to Windows 10, Microsoft has also decided to adopt the updates codename for its versioning identity rather than a four-digit number representing the month and year of the release. Thus Windows 10 (Version 20H2) designates this release as the update made available in the second half of 2020. Next spring, the full feature update for Windows 10 will be known under the moniker Version 21H1 since it will be made available in the first half of the year. By removing the conflict between codenames and version numbers, it should be much easier for sysadmins and support pros to track what release their client devices are running throughout early testing and release to their users.
All this activity, plus the new Windows 10 Insider for Business development channels, are helping the Windows 10 team stabilize these releases over each development cycle. For instance, our Windows 10 (Version 20H2) Build Tracker shows that there have been ten testing builds shipped to Windows Insiders over the last five months for 20H2. That equates to two builds each month – plenty of time to deal with both documented bugs and under-the-hood fixes for a stable release.
The bottom line is that if an organization has been avoiding early testing of Windows 10, the time may finally be here to establish an in-house testing plan for these updates as they are developed. Microsoft has a Windows release health dashboard available to track each release cycle closely.
New Features in Windows 10 (Version 20H2)
As for new features and enhancements in the Windows 10 (Version 20H2) update, here is a rundown of the update features that IT pros will find relevant:
- Mobile Device Management (MDM): The update now supports making granular-level changes for local users and groups on devices managed by MDM.
- Windows Autopilot: The update now offer support for: deploying Microsoft HoloLens devices using Autopilot; co-management options for Autopilot workloads; task sequences to properly register devices before the device’s desktop is accessed by the user; and improved Autopilot deployment reporting through Microsoft Endpoint Manager.
- Microsoft Defender Application Guard for Office: Users can now launch untrusted documents from outside the enterprise in isolation on their device. Defender Application Guard already sandboxes unknown executables and this is an extension of that protection.
- Latest Cumulative Updates (LCU) & Servicing Stack Updates (SSU): Previously only available as individual updates, LCUs and SSUs are now available together as a single cumulative monthly update from the Microsoft Catalog & Windows Server Update Services.
Of significant note with this release, Microsoft’s new Edge browser based on Chromium is now shipping as part of a Windows 10 update for the first time. It has been in testing since last year when it was released at Microsoft Build 2019 and seems to be ready for primetime.
Windows 10 (Version 20H2) will install the new Edge on client devices, but legacy Edge and Internet Explorer will both remain in place if they are used by organizations for compatibility purposes.
However, the new Edge does have a feature called IE Mode which can be used to view legacy apps and websites that still need Internet Explorer to function. Once setup, this could replace Internet Explorer on all enterprise devices.
In addition to this news, the first release of Microsoft’s new Edge for Linux is now available for public preview testing.
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