Microsoft has officially released the Windows 10 November 2021 Update, and revealed that the OS will henceforth only be upgraded once a year. Redmond has also made life hard for those who like to emulate x64 apps on Windows 10 for Arm. What a day.
The November 2021 Windows 10 Update was unveiled in July 2021 and offers … not much. Headline features are improved Wi-Fi security, allowing Windows Subsystem for Linux to use GPUs, and more elegant passwordless deployment of Windows devices.
Redmond's announcement of the 21H2 update doesn't even bother detailing any new features, because there's bigger news: there won't be another major Windows 10 update for a year.
"We will transition to a new Windows 10 release cadence to align with the Windows 11 cadence, targeting annual feature update releases," wrote John Cable, Microsoft’s veep for Program Management, Windows Servicing and Delivery.
We recommend that you upgrade eligible devices to Windows 11
Windows 10 has previously offered twice-yearly upgrades. When Microsoft announced that cadence, in 2017, the software biz explained it by stating: "We've also heard our customers want more predictability and simplicity from this update servicing model to help make deployments and updates of Microsoft products easier."
The 2017 post also promised to keep seeking customer feedback on ways to ease deployment. The post announcing the change of cadence doesn't explain what if anything has changed since 2017. The upshot is most users can expect their next Windows 10 update sometime in the second half of 2022, and annual releases every year until October 2025.
This year's upgrade, and future releases, each receive 18 months of servicing and support for Windows Home and Pro. The upgrade treadmill turns at 30 months for Enterprise and Education users. Cable advised business users to "begin targeted deployments to validate that their apps, devices and infrastructure work as expected with the new release."
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But he also suggested skipping the November Update if you can and go straight to Windows 11.
"We recommend that you update your devices to the latest version of Windows 10 or upgrade eligible devices to Windows 11," he wrote. Microsoft has accelerated its rollout of the new OS to make that possible. Those of you running Windows 10 version 2004 or later, with September 2021's security update, may soon have the option to step into the <irony>bold and exciting world</irony> of Windows 11.
Those of you who fancy a spot of x64 app emulation in Windows for Arm will need that upgrade, as the OS behemoth has also announced that the feature is now generally available, but will need a PC running Windows 11 on Arm.
"When we first launched Windows 10 on Arm in late 2017, the long tail of apps customers needed were dominated by 32-bit-only x86 applications, so we focused our efforts on building an x86 emulator that could run the broad ecosystem of Windows apps seamlessly and transparently," wrote Microsoft’s Hari Pulapaka, a Windows partner group program manager.
Customer demand and the software ecosystem have since shifted towards 64-bit-only x64 apps, Pulapaka wrote. Microsoft's now built that emulation, but the company will only run it on Windows 11.
Pulapaka's post doesn't really explain the reason for that decision but does try to argue that older Arm-powered PCs running Windows 10 are still tremendously valuable and useful for whatever you need to do – with the exception of x64 emulation.
Which sounds like another signal that Microsoft really wants you on Windows 11.
Unless you have special needs. On top of everything else, the company announced a new variant form of Windows 10 – Enterprise LTSC 2021 – which comes with five years of support in "special-purpose devices and environments, such as manufacturing or healthcare systems, or other uses which require longer term device update stability." Yet another cut of the OS – Windows 10 IoT Enterprise LTSC 2021 edition – also became available today and has ten years of support. ®
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