Windows 10's October 2020 update is rolling out now. Here's how to download it

Windows 10 version 20H2 is starting to roll out now and should take only minutes to install. Here are all of the new features it includes, and how to download it.

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Alison DeNisco Rayome
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The Windows 10 October 2020 Update will be rolling out next month.

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On Tuesday, Microsoft's Windows 10 October 2020 Update began rolling out for all Windows 10 users. Like most fall updates, this one (also known as Windows 10 version 20H2) is focused on refinements instead of major new features, but will include the new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser, and updates to the Start menu, taskbar and notifications. (If you're running Windows 7, you can still download Windows 10 free to get the update, too.)

Windows 10 is now on more than 1 billion devices worldwide, Microsoft said in March. Now that support for Windows 7 is officially over, Microsoft is encouraging people to either upgrade their PC to Windows 10 to keep it running smoothly and securely or to buy a new computer

Read more: The best antivirus protection of 2020 for Windows 10 

Major refreshes to the OS come about every six months, with the most recent before this being the May 2020 Update. If you've already installed that update, the October version should only take a few minutes to download. But if you don't have the May 2020 Update installed first, it could take about 20 to 30 minutes, or longer on older hardware, according to our sister site ZDNet

Here's what we know about the Windows 10 October 2020 Update, and how to download it to your device once it's available for you. This story is periodically updated with current information.

Read more: Windows 10: Try these 3 new features now, here's how

When will the Windows 10 October 2020 Update be available? 

Microsoft is taking a slower rollout approach to the October 2020 Update, as it did with the May 2020 Update earlier this year. The company is throttling availability over the coming weeks to ensure a more reliable download experience -- which means the update might not be available on your device right away. Some devices may have compatibility issues at the start and won't have the option to update until Microsoft is confident that it will go smoothly, according to a blog post

Before the official rollout, the October 2020 Update was available for those in the Windows Insider Program in the Release Preview Channel

How do I download the Windows 10 October 2020 Update? 

The October 2020 Update is currently available for select devices running Windows 10, version 1903 or later who want to install the new release. To check if it's available for you, go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, and click Check for Updates. If available, you'll see Feature update to Windows 10, version 20H2. Click Download and install

Once the download is complete and the update is ready to install, you'll get a notification from Microsoft so that you can choose the right time to finish the installation and reboot your computer. If you had been running the May 2020 Update, the process should only take a few minutes. 

What new features does the October 2020 Update include?

The Windows 10 October 2020 Update doesn't include a ton of massive changes from the May update, but there are a lot of smaller refinements that should make your computing experience better. According to Microsoft, these include: 

  • Microsoft Edge: The update will include the new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge browser instead of the legacy version for the first time. The new Edge browser includes a privacy feature that tries to block sites that track you online, and a feature called Collections that lets you gather information from different websites as you're doing research. 
  • Start menu: A new Start menu will feature a more streamlined design, replacing the solid color backplates behind the logos in your apps list with partially transparent backgrounds, helping the icons stand out more. You can also set an accent color if you like.
  • Tabs: Open all tabs in Edge in Alt + Tab, instead of just the active one in each browser window. You can also configure it to show only your last three or five tabs, or turn it off completely under Settings > System > Multitasking.
  • Taskbar: Personalize your Taskbar so you can find what you're looking for faster. 
  • Notifications: See where your notification is coming from by checking the app logo at the top, and dismiss it by clicking the X in the top right corner. Focus Assist notification and summary will be turned off by default. 
  • Settings: Find more Control Panel features in the Settings About page under Settings > System > About
  • 2-in-1 devices: For these device users, instead of getting a notification asking if you want to switch to tablet mode every time you detach your keyboard, it will happen by default. 

We've also explained how to use some of the best new features here.

Read more: Here's the best way to set up your new PC or laptop

Will previous versions of Windows 10 still work? 

Microsoft will end support for Windows 10 1809 (also known as the October 2018 update) for Home, Pro, Pro Education and Pro for Workstations editions in November. (Support was originally scheduled to end in May, but Microsoft delayed this due to the impact of the coronavirus.) Support for Enterprise and Education editions will last until May 2021. 

You can still use version 1809, but the loss of Microsoft support means you will no longer get important security patches or other updates. 

Version 2004 (also known as the May 2020 Update) will be supported until December 2021

Read more at TechRepublic: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (free PDF)

Do I have to update to the October 2020 version? 

Nope. Microsoft recommends that you update, of course, but it's not mandatory -- unless you're about to hit an end-of-service date for the version you're currently running. You can find out more about the update process on ZDNet.

To see which version of Windows 10 you have, go to Settings > System > About and scroll to Windows Specifications, where you'll find the edition and version number. 

If you have version 1903 (released in May 2019) and want to keep it, you have until December before support ends. If you have version 1909 (released in November 2019), you have until May 2021 to update. And if you have version 2004 (released in May 2020), you have until December 2021 to update. 

What else?

In a May blog post, Panos Panay, Microsoft's chief product officer of Windows and devices, gave an update on the Windows 10X operating system. The OS, announced last year, was designed to work with new dual-screen Surface Neo devices, which are not yet available. However, given the changes in the world and the fact that most people are sticking to more typical laptops and two-in-one devices right now, Microsoft will move the focus of Windows 10X to single-screen devices instead, Panay wrote. 

"With Windows 10X, we designed for flexibility, and that flexibility has enabled us to pivot our focus toward single-screen Windows 10X devices that leverage the power of the cloud to help our customers work, learn and play in new ways," Panay wrote in the post. "These single-screen devices will be the first expression of Windows 10X that we deliver to our customers, and we will continue to look for the right moment, in conjunction with our OEM partners, to bring dual-screen devices to market."

For more, check out Windows 10 tips and tricks and six simple security changes all Windows 10 users need to make

Watch this: Windows 10 fall 2020 update: Here's what's new

Microsoft Surface Neo and Surface Duo: Dual-screen prototypes up close

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