Microsoft announced the general availability of Windows 10 November 2021, also known as version 21H2, which includes new security, management and virtualization features.
Redmond reiterated that Windows 10 will continue to be supported until October 2025 and said that the Windows 10 release cadence will join Windows 11 by reverting to only one feature update per year from now on. The vendor also published an online feature comparison between the latest version of Windows 10 21H2 and Windows 11.
The catalyst for the change to Windows 10 is its successor, Windows 11, which debuted on October 5. Windows 11, which will have its own tweaked service model – one feature upgrade per year with 36 months of support due to those running the Enterprise or Education SKUs – will replace the old Windows 10 as the repository for the new one.
For IT Professionals
Starting with security, Windows 10 21H2 makes changes to the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) VPN APIs, which include the ability to implement common web authentication schemes and reuse existing protocols.
Version 21H2 also supports Wi-Fi 6 with Wi-Fi Protected Access 3 Hash-to-Element (WPA3 H2E) protocol to provide better protection against Wi-Fi side channel attacks that could steal words from Wi-Fi pass and other sensitive information.
“In a hybrid work situation, users will now be able to keep their web traffic encrypted when connected to open networks or home networks,” Alan Meeus, Product Manager for Windows 10, wrote in a blog post. .
Windows 10 21H2 also provides security updates for the following products and features: Windows AI Platform, Windows App Platform and Frameworks, Windows Apps, Windows Cryptography, Windows Fundamentals, Windows Input and Composition, Windows Kernel, Windows Media, Windows Office Media and Windows Virtualization.
Microsoft has also upgraded Windows 10 to allow application provisioning from Azure Virtual Desktop. This allows these apps to run as local apps, including the ability to copy and paste between remote and local apps. (The feature is also available in Windows 11.)
In terms of new management features, Microsoft said it has worked to close the gap between Group Policy and mobile device management (MDM) settings. The Device Configuration Parameters Catalog has been updated to list over 1,400 parameters previously not available for configuration through MDM. New MDM policies include Administrative Model (ADMX) policies, such as App Compat, Event Forwarding, Servicing, and Task Scheduler.
The same changes were made for Windows 11 to provide a consistent policy management experience between the two platforms.
Windows 10 Enterprise
An upgrade to Windows 10 Enterprise includes universal printing, which now supports print jobs up to 1 GB or a series of individual user print jobs that add up to 1 GB over a period of 15 minutes.
Additionally, Universal Print integrates with OneDrive for the web and Excel for the web. This allows users of any browser or internet-connected device to print documents hosted in OneDrive for the web to a printer in their organization without installing printer drivers on their devices. Universal Print will also be updated by the end of 2021 to support printing from Microsoft Excel for the web.
For organizations with special-purpose devices and environments, such as manufacturing or healthcare systems, or for those with other long-term device update stability needs term, Microsoft has released a new version of the Long-Term Maintenance Channel – Long-Term Maintenance Channel: Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2021.
Windows 10 21H2 is now available through Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and Windows Update for Business. It can be downloaded from Visual Studio subscriptions, Software Download Center (via Update Assistant or Media Creation Tool) and Volume Licensing Service Center).
To support the new version, Microsoft has deployed updated versions of the following tools:
- Administrative Templates (.admx) for Windows 10 21H2 – Native
Accessible through the C: Windows PolicyDefinitions folder in Windows, the administrative template files can be downloaded separately and used to populate policy settings in the Group Policy Tools user interface, allowing you to manage registry-based policy settings.
- Group Policy Settings Reference Worksheet for Windows 10 21H2 – List of policy settings for computer and user configurations included in the ADMX files provided for Windows 10, version 21H2.
- Windows 10 Enterprise Trial – For IT professionals who want to try Windows 10 Enterprise on behalf of their organization, Microsoft is offering a free 90-day Windows 10 21H2 and Windows 10 Enterprise LTSC 2021 trial.
Microsoft also maintains resources to manage and deploy updates in an organization, including:
- Windows Versions Health Center – The fastest way to stay up to date on updates news, announcements, and best practices; important lifecycle reminders and status of known issues and backups. Windows 10 Enterprise customers can access more details from the Health menu in the Microsoft 365 admin center (see “Windows version status”) and receive important notifications and updates in the message center.
- Windows 10 Version Info – A list of current Windows 10 versions by maintenance options, along with release dates, version numbers, end of service dates, and version history.
- Windows 10 21H2 Update History – A list of all updates (monthly and out of band) released for Windows 10 21H2, sorted in reverse chronological order. These updates will be available with the first maintenance release.
- X64 emulation for Windows on Arm.
Microsoft has said that it has received questions about the status of x64 emulation in Windows 10. At this time, the x64 emulation update for Windows is generally only available in Windows 11. For those who want to use x64 emulation, a PC running Windows 11 on Arm is required.
The new Microsoft Store began rolling out to Windows 10 PCs on November 10. Microsoft said it has rebuilt the store to offer a more modern design and “an intuitive search experience to create a more open and profitable environment for developers.”
The November 2021 update is initially available for users of devices running Windows 10, version 2004 or later. All editions of Windows 10 2004 will end of service on December 14, 2021, while the Enterprise and Education editions of Windows 10 1909 will end of service on May 10, 2022.
After these dates, devices running versions 1909 and 2004 will no longer receive monthly security and quality updates that contain protections against the latest security threats.
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