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Windows 10 leak shows 21H1 update is a minor one – and could arrive sooner than expected

Windows 10
(Image credit: Future)

Windows 10’s next feature update will be a minor affair (once again), as the rumor mill has previously suggested, except this time we’ve glimpsed some hard evidence in a new (preview) patch for the OS. Although even so, we should be careful not to get carried away and take this for granted, until Microsoft actually confirms that this is the case.

The evidence in question was found by Deskmodder.de (as highlighted by Bleeping Computer), after installing the January 2021 KB4598291 cumulative update preview (in other words, it’s in testing – this hit the Windows Insider ‘release’ channel last week).

Prodding around inside the build (version 19042.782), in the Registry, Deskmodder found what’s called an enablement package, with the name: ‘Microsoft-Windows-21H1Enablement-Package~31bf3856ad364e35~amd64~~0.0.0.0’.

This seemingly confirms that the 21H1 update, meaning the update due to land in the first half of 2021, will be triggered by an enablement switch, just like the previous October 2020 Update.

In other words, the changes in the update – which will only be minor ones – are preloaded to the PC, and when the time comes for the update to go live, it’s just a simple matter of flicking that enablement switch. There’s no big download or fuss, the update is basically just straight there.

Unprecedented move

It’s unusual – in fact, unprecedented – for Microsoft to make back-to-back updates minor ones like this. Previously, we have seen a pattern of a major feature update, followed by a minor one, but it seems that’s changing this year; theoretically because the huge alterations happening to Windows 10 (including a major interface revamp) won’t be ready until later in 2021.

As the most recent update was just a minor one, folks upgrading from the May 2020 Update before that will have a lightweight enablement update process, as well. But if you’re running a version of Windows 10 prior to 2020, the 21H1 update will require a full download process to upgrade (as the groundwork won’t be in place with those versions).

As Bleeping Computer points out, the appearance of KB4598291 and the enablement switch in testing now raises the possibility that we could see the 21H1 update rolling out in the near future – maybe in April, or even in March potentially, so theoretically in not much more than a month.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).