Windows 10’s October 2020 Update, also known as the 20H2 update, is here. This update is focused on bug and performance fixes, but it has some larger changes—like the removal of the System Control Panel.
This article is up-to-date with the latest changes as of the final version of the 20H2 update, released on October 20, 2020. It’s also known as Windows 10 version 2009, and it has a build number of 19042.572.
How to Install the Update Now
To install the update the official way, head to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update. Click “Check for Updates.” If the update is available for your PC, you’ll see “Feature update to Windows 10, version 20H2” here. Click “Download and install” to get it.
If the update isn’t available for your PC, that suggests Microsoft isn’t confident it will perform well on your PC’s hardware yet. To install the update anyway, download and run Microsoft’s Update Assistant tool. Head to the Download Windows 10 page and click “Update now” to get it.
Warning: Running this tool skips the gradual rollout process. You may encounter bugs with the update on your PC’s hardware if you use it. We recommend you wait for the update to be offered to your PC via Windows Update before you install it.
There’s Not a Lot New, and That’s Big News!
Windows 10’s October 2020 Update (version 20H2) does offer some notable changes—the classic System pane in the Control Panel is vanishing—but mostly features smaller changes. That’s very exciting.
Sure, we had a smaller update last year with 19H2 (the November 2019 Update) followed by a larger update with 20H1 (the May 2020 Update). But Microsoft insisted that there was no plan to do a small update followed by a large update each year. This time around, 20H2 easily could have been another big release packed full of features. Instead, Microsoft is taking the existing 20H1 update and polishing it even further.
This update should be plenty stable because of all that effort going into polishing and bug-fixing. That’s good news for Windows 10 users.
That’s our Microsoft-to-English translation of what’s going on, anyway. Here’s how Microsoft phrases it: “Windows 10 version 20H2 will offer a scoped set of features to improve performance and enhance quality.”
This update will be fast to install, just like 19H2 was. If you’re already running the May 2020 Update (20H1), installing it will be as fast as installing a normal monthly update—no long download or lengthy reboot required.
Microsoft Removed the System Control Panel
In this version of Windows, the classic “System” page in the Control Panel has been removed. When you try to open it, you’ll be taken to the About page in the new Settings app.
This isn’t as big a deal as it sounds. All the information found in the Settings pane in Control Panel is available in the Settings app. There’s a convenient “Copy” button to copy all the text to your clipboard, and you’ll even find buttons for opening advanced system settings like BitLocker settings and Device Manager at the bottom of the page.
This is just another step in Microsoft’s long, slow process of slowly phasing out the Control Panel. The Control Panel won’t vanish any time soon, though—it has too many useful options and Microsoft is migrating them to the new Settings app very slowly.
The New Microsoft Edge Is Now Built-In
Microsoft is proud that this is the first version of Windows 10 with the new, Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser included.
That’s not necessarily big news—Windows Update may already have installed the new Microsoft Edge on your system, anyway. The new Edge has also been available to download from the web since January 15, 2020. But, with this release, it’s official: The new Edge replaces the old Edge in the baseline version of Windows 10.
Access Your Samsung Phone’s Android Apps on Your PC
Microsoft is expanding the “Your Phone” app with more features designed for “select Samsung devices.” If you have one of these phones, you can now access your phone’s Android apps directly on your Windows 10 PC. They’ll be running on your phone but you can launch, see, and interact with them on your Windows 10 desktop.
In the future, Microsoft says it will go even further:
Later in the year, Samsung Galaxy Note20 users will experience the power and convenience of running multiple apps side by side and we will continue to work with Samsung to bring this feature to additional devices. Apps will launch in separate windows enabling you to interact with multiple apps at the same time.
Microsoft’s website offers more information about the “Apps” feature, including a full list of supported devices that can use the “Apps feature.”
The Start Menu’s Theme Better Matches Windows 10’s New Icons
Previously, the Start menu used your accent color, which means the default Windows 10 theme used a variety of blue icons on a blue background. The shift to using standard theme colors means Windows 10’s new application icons look better in the Start menu.
You can still get those tiles that match your theme back, however. Just head to Settings > Personalization > Color, enable dark mode (or at least enable dark for “your default Windows mode,”) and tell Windows to show the accent color on “Start, taskbar, and action center.”
Alt+Tab Shows Edge Browser Tabs by Default
Windows 10 now shows browser tabs in your Alt+Tab switcher—if you use Edge. Instead of just showing one Edge thumbnail for each browser window, you’ll see a number of different tabs in the Alt+Tab switcher. So, if you’re using several web pages at once, you can quickly find and switch between them just with Alt+Tab.
If you don’t like this, that’s fine—it’s configurable. Head to Settings > System > Multitasking and you configure Alt+Tab to show your most recent three or five tabs—or turn it off completely and get a more classic Alt+Tab experience.
Presumably, other browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox could choose to integrate with the Alt+Tab switcher in the future and show browser tabs, too. After all, the new Edge shares its open-source Chromium codebase with Google Chrome.
Enhancements to Taskbar Pinned Sites in Edge
Microsoft has been making pinned sites on the taskbar work better, too. When you pin a website to your taskbar using Microsoft Edge, you can now click (or mouse-over) that taskbar icon to see all your browser tabs for that website.
So, if you pin Gmail to your taskbar in Edge and you have Gmail tabs open in several browser windows, you can click the Gmail icon to find them—even if they’re buried in other Edge browser windows.
No More Noisy Focus Assist Notifications
If you’ve used Windows 10’s Focus Assist feature—which automatically hides notifications while you’re playing games and using other full-screen applications, among other tasks—you’ll probably notice that it can be really noisy.
In the spirit of not bugging you with notifications, Focus Assist pops up to show you a notification that hey, it’s not going to show you any notifications! And, when you’re done with your “focused” activity, Focus Assist pops up a summary of all the notifications it didn’t show you. It’s pretty distracting.
Now, Microsoft is disabling all these Focus Assist notifications by default, although you can still re-enable them in Settings.
Refresh Rate Options in Settings
You can now change your PC’s refresh rate in the Settings app—without visiting the old Control Panel. To find this option, head to Settings > System > Display > Advanced Display Settings. You’ll see a Refresh Rate option at the bottom of the window.
If you have a monitor with a high refresh rate, you should crank it up for a smoother visual experience.
Automatic Tablet Mode Switching by Default
When you detached a keyboard on a 2-in-1 device, a notification popped up and asked you if you wanted to enable tablet mode. Now, Windows will automatically switch to the new tablet experience added in the May 2020 Update without the prompt or notification.
You can change what happens—for example, to prevent Windows 10 from entering tablet mode automatically—by heading to Settings > System > Tablet.
Most of these changes are pretty small, but some are really small. Here are a few other ones:
- Notification enhancements: Windows 10’s notifications now include an application logo so you can easily see which application generated them and an “x” button so you can quickly dismiss them.
- Default taskbar icon tweaks: In a minor change, Windows 10 will adjust the default taskbar icon layout depending on what you use your PC for. If you link an Android phone during setup, you’ll see a Your Phone icon on the taskbar. If you have an Xbox Live account and you’re using a gaming PC, you’ll see an Xbox icon on the taskbar. You can still add or remove whatever icons you like.
- Modern Device Management (MDM) improvements: For IT professionals administering multiple devices, Microsoft is extending Modern Device Management policy with new “Local Users and Groups” settings that matches the options available for devices managed through Group Policy.
As usual, Microsoft also fixed a wide variety of smaller performance and stability issues under the hood.
More features are arriving in Windows 10’s 21H1 update, arriving sometime in Spring 2021. For example, Windows 10 is getting system-wide support for DNS Over HTTPS (DoH), boosting security and privacy online.