What’s new for IT pros in Windows 10, version 20H2

This post has been republished via RSS; it originally appeared at: New blog articles in Microsoft Tech Community.

Windows 10, version 20H2 is now available through Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and Windows Update for Business, and can be downloaded today from Visual Studio Subscriptions, the Software Download Center (via Update Assistant or the Media Creation Tool), and the Volume Licensing Service Center[1]. Today also marks the start of the 30-month servicing timeline for this Semi-Annual Channel release.

Just like we did for devices upgrading from Windows 10, version 1903 to version 1909, we will be delivering Windows 10, version 20H2 (also referred to as the Windows 10 October 2020 Update) to devices running Windows 10, version 2004 via the new streamlined fashion, which we call an enablement package. For those updating to Windows 10, version 20H2 from earlier versions of Windows, the process will be similar to previous updates.

For those of you that are new to “enablement packages,” Windows 10, version 2004 and Windows 10, version 20H2 share a common core operating system with an identical set of system files. As a result, the new features in version 20H2 were included in the monthly quality updates for version 2004 released on September 8, 2020, but were delivered in a disabled/dormant state. These features remain dormant until they are turned on with the Windows 10, version 20H2 enablement package: a small, quick to install “switch” that activates these features. Using an enablement package, the update to Windows 10, version 20H2 should take approximately the same amount of time as it does to install monthly quality updates.

Note: If you are running Windows 10, version 2004 and have not installed the September 8, 2020 updates, you will not see the version 20H2 enablement package offered to your device.

With today's release, we recommend IT administrators begin targeted deployments of Windows 10, version 20H2 to validate that the apps, devices, and infrastructure used by their organizations work as expected with the new features. If you will be updating devices used in remote or hybrid work scenarios, I also recommend reading Deploying a new version of Windows 10 in a remote world. For insight into our broader rollout strategy, see John Cable's post on How to get the Windows 10 October 2020 Update.

If your organization is currently running Enterprise or Education editions of Windows 10, version 2004, you have 18 months of servicing. By using the enablement package to upgrade your devices to version 20H2, you will receive 30 months of servicing. Devices running Home, Pro, Pro for Workstations, and Pro Education will receive the standard 18 months of servicing. For more information, see the Windows lifecycle FAQ.

New features

As you begin to roll out Windows 10, version 20H2 to your organization, here are some of the new features and enhancements that will allow you to benefit from intelligent security, simplified updates, flexible management, and enhanced productivity.

For the end user

  • 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. This design creates a beautiful stage for your icons, especially the Fluent Design icons for Office and Microsoft Edge, as well as the redesigned icons for built-in apps like Calculator, Mail, and Calendar.
  • ALT+TAB between tabs in Microsoft Edge – We introduced ALT+TAB (task switcher) allowing you to toggle between open windows way back in Windows 2.0! In Windows 10, version 20H2, you can now use ALT+TAB to rotate between not only your open apps but also the tabs in Microsoft Edge. Now rotating through ALT+TAB will allow you to open Microsoft Edge in the specific tab you're needing, not just the latest active tab. You can modify the ALT+TAB experience in Settings > System > Multitask.
  • 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. We've also turned off the Focus Assist notifications, which tells you when Focus Assist is enabled – whether via automatic rule or manually enabling it.
  • Settings – We continue to improve the Settings page, adding more and more classic Control Panel capabilities. In addition to added settings, we also added a [COPY] button to Settings > System > About so you can easily copy that information and paste it into a help desk ticket. Watch for even more improvements to come!
  • Tablet experience – Previously, when you detach a keyboard on a 2-in-1 device, a toast notification would appear asking if you wanted to switch into Tablet Mode. If you tapped Yes, you would switch into Tablet Mode. But selecting No would bring you the Windows desktop. In Windows 10, version 20H2, the default is changed: the toast notification no longer appears and you are instead brought into the new tablet experience. You can change this behavior in Settings > System > Tablet.
  • Refresh rate of display – Change the refresh rate of your display, giving you a smoother motion. This change can be made at Settings > System > Display > Advanced display settings. Note that this may require supported hardware.
  • Microsoft Edge (built on Chromium) – And of course, Windows 10, version 20H2 is the first version of Windows to come with Microsoft Edge browser built on the Chromium engine.

To keep up the latest improvements for end users, follow the Windows Insider Program Blog.

For the IT professional

  • Mobile device management (MDM) – Like you've been doing with Group Policy for 20 years, 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 – There have been many enhancements to Windows Autopilot since version 2004, including Windows Autopilot for HoloLens, Windows Autopilot and co-management, and enhancements to Autopilot reporting. For details on all of these and more, see Managing Windows Devices with Microsoft Endpoint Manager. Here's a summary of some of the enhancements:
    • Windows Autopilot for HoloLens – You know HoloLens as that untethered, holographic device. HoloLens 2 devices are commercial-ready, support Azure AD, MDM, kiosk mode, BitLocker, Windows Store for Business, and Windows Update for Business. As adoption increases, setting up your HoloLens 2 devices just got easier, with a Windows Autopilot for HoloLens 2 self-deploying mode.
    • Windows Autopilot with 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 devices. The task sequence can integrate right into the Enrollment Status Page (ESP), 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: endpoint.microsoft.com. From there, select Devices > Monitor and scroll down to the Enrollment section. Click Autopilot deployment (preview). As this section grows, you will soon be able to see ESP duration broken down at a device and user targeted ESP and app installation status, policy status, and other enhancements. So stay tuned!
  • Microsoft Defender Application Guard for Office – Microsoft Defender Application Guard, designed for Windows 10, now supports 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 – Many of you have asked us for many years to simplify the deployment of Latest Cumulative Updates (LCUs) and Servicing Stack Updates (SSUs). Starting with Windows 10, version 20H2, LCUs and SSUs have been combined into a single cumulative monthly update, available via Microsoft Catalog or Windows Server Update Services.
  • More secure biometric sign on – With enhanced sign-in security[2], Windows Hello now offers added support for virtualization-based security for certain fingerprint and face sensors, which protects, isolates, and secures a user's biometric authentication data.
  • Microsoft Edge on Chromium – Even more important for the IT pro, we're adding this feature here as well! Windows 10, version 20H2 is the first version of Windows to come with Microsoft Edge on Chromium. Need a reason why you should care? I'll give you five! I also invite you to learn more about the security features in Microsoft Edge.

What else have we been up to?

Aside from Windows 10, version 20H2, we've been busy with other new, exciting products and features that you may have heard about! Note that some of these may require additional licensing or services. Check out the links for details.

  • Cortana – We continue to make investments in Cortana, adding a daily briefing email from Cortana, play my emails from Outlook, Cortana availability within the Microsoft Teams mobile app (available in English today, more languages coming!), and of course the updated and improved features of Cortana in Windows 10 itself.
  • Universal Print – Universal Print provides cloud-managed print services built on Azure. Universal Print ensures that customers can print from anywhere, anytime, with secure identity credentials. And, it is integrated right into Microsoft Endpoint Manager making it easy to get started and join the thousands of Preview customers who have moved millions of print jobs to the cloud.
  • Windows Virtual Desktop – Windows Virtual Desktop is a desktop and app virtualization service that runs on Microsoft Azure. It lets end users connect securely to a full desktop from any device. And now with Microsoft Endpoint Manager, you can secure and manage your Windows Virtual Desktop VMs with policy and apps at scale, after they're enrolled.
  • Microsoft Tunnel Gateway – Microsoft Tunnel Gateway allows Microsoft Intune-enrolled iOS and Android devices to access on-premises apps and resources, with single sign-on Azure AD authentication, integrated Conditional Access policies, and is flexible enough to meet the needs of all organizations. (Questions about Microsoft Tunnel? Join our Microsoft Tunnel AMA  Thursday, October 22, 2020 - 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Pacific Time.)
  • Endpoint analytics – Endpoint analytics aims to improve user productivity and reduce IT support costs by providing insights into the user experience. The insights enable IT to optimize the end-user experience with proactive support and to detect regressions to the user experience by assessing user impact of configuration changes. Enroll devices into Endpoint analytics while enabling tenant attach in Configuration Manager.
  • Productivity Score – Productivity Score provides visibility into how your organization works, helping you understand the employee experience, including how collaborative your people are. It also gives visibility into their technology experience, focusing on their endpoints, network connectivity, and Microsoft 365 apps.
  • Microsoft 365 apps – Office 365 ProPlus is the version of Microsoft Office that comes with several enterprise, government, and education subscription plans. Earlier this year we announced a name change to Microsoft 365 apps. If you have internal wikis, packages used by Configuration Manager – specifically any automatic deployment rules (ADRs), or product flows, you may need to update references to Office 365 ProPlus to this new name.
  • Microsoft Defender for Endpoint – Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (Microsoft Defender ATP) recently went through a name change as well – to Microsoft Defender for Endpoint. Explore the latest features or functionality and find information on the new name and the products affected in the Microsoft Defender for Endpoint blog.
  • Developers! Developers! Developers! – For information on what's new for developers, including Project Reunion and new PowerToys. see Windows Dev Center. (And if you don't know why I introduce this bullet in this way, check out any of the videos here!)
  • Test Base for Microsoft 365 – Test Base provides intelligent application testing from an Azure environment, making it easier for your ISVs (software vendors) to make support statements for a new version of Windows.

Frequently asked questions

Is there also a Windows Server release with this release?

Yes. The next Windows Server semi-annual channel (SAC) release is also available today. The Windows Server semi-annual channel is designed for customers who wish to take advantage of new operating system capabilities at a faster pace. Windows Server, version 20H2 is focused on reliability, performance, and other general improvements. It is also available on Azure Marketplace or the Volume Licensing Service Center.

Will there be a Long-Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) release with this release?

No. Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2019 is the current LTSC option, and was released with Windows 10, version 1809 in November 2018. The next LTSC release can be expected toward the end of 2021. Customers currently using Long-Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) 2015 for special-purpose devices should start working to upgrade those devices to Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2019, as mainstream support for LTSB 2015 ended on Oct. 13, 2020, and it entered into extended support. See the lifecycle policy here.

Can I upgrade our devices from Windows 7 directly to Windows 10, version 20H2?

Yes. You can directly upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10, version 20H2. We strongly encourage you to begin your upgrade process immediately as Windows 7 is no longer supported.

How can I preview versions of Windows 10 before they become available? I want to start testing these new features early so I can deploy them when they are released!

The Windows Insider Program for Business team has focused on enabling IT administrators to view and provide feedback on upcoming security, management, and productivity features ahead of release. And you can manage the installation of Windows 10 Insider Preview Builds across multiple devices in your organization! Read the Windows Insider Program for Business documentation for more information.

Where can I ask specific questions about rolling out Windows 10, version 20H2 and managing updates in general?

We hold monthly "office hours" in the Windows 10 servicing community on Tech Community with a broad group of servicing, deployment, endpoint management, and security experts. Submit your questions live during the one-hour event—or post them in advance by adding a label for "Office Hours"—and we'll do our best to help! Visit https://aka.ms/windows/officehours for more information and calendar links for upcoming events. Or click here to save the date for our November 19th session!

office-hours_11-19-2020.png

Tools and resources

To support the release of Windows 10, version 20H2, we have released updated versions of the following resources:


Also, if you haven't seen it yet, the Windows release health dashboard (introduced with the release of Windows 10, version 1903) provides you with timely information on the status of the Windows 10, version 20H2 rollout, details on any safeguard holds or known issues (including the status of those issues, workarounds, and resolutions), and other important announcements, such as those related to lifecycle updates, upcoming events, and best practices.

For help with configuring and deploying updates, please see the following resources:

To see a summary of the latest documentation updates, see What's new in Windows 10, version 20H2 IT pro content on Docs.

And finally, for a list of features and functionality that have been removed from Windows 10, or might be removed in future releases, see Features and functionality removed in Windows 10.

For the latest updates on new releases, tools, resources, AMAs, Ask the Experts, or Windows Office Hours, stay tuned to this blog and follow us @MSWindowsITPro on Twitter. You can also follow me on Twitter @LURIE_MSFT for the latest on Microsoft Endpoint Manager, Windows, and other exciting news and events for IT pros.


[1] It may take a day for downloads to be fully available in the VLSC across all products, markets, and languages.

[2] Enhanced sign-in security requires specialized hardware and software components that can be leveraged starting on devices shipping with Windows 10 October 2020 Update configured out of factory. Documentation will be available later this year.

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