Microsoft has just unleashed the Windows 10 May 2021 Update (version 21H1), and it is slowly making its way to compatible devices. This is the refresh number eleven after the original release, and it only includes a small set of improvements and several fixes to complement the work done with the May 2020 Update (version 2004) and October 2020 Update (version 20H2).
If you have a device running the October 2020 Update or May 2020 Update, then version 21H1 is available as an optional update through the Windows Update settings. This means quick installation like a cumulative update without a complete upgrade since the device only needs an enablement package to switch versions.
Computers still on an older release of Windows 10 will also receive this new version as an optional upgrade. However, a full upgrade to version 2004 will be required before installing version 21H1. The only exception is if the device has a version nearing the end of service. If this is the case, the computer will eventually automatically upgrade to prevent interruption of security and maintenance updates.
Microsoft plans to roll out the new version in stages, starting with computers that will have a smooth transition experience, and then once the update has been through more live testing, it will be available more broadly. Typically, compatible devices are expected to receive the option to upgrade within the first weeks of the original release. However, it will take time to reach every device since there are always issues that can occur along the way.
If you do not want to wait, it is possible to force the upgrade manually in at least three ways using the Media Creation Tool, Update Assistant, and Windows Update.
In this Windows 10 guide, we'll walk you through the steps to download and install the Windows 10 May 2021 Update on your computer.
- How to install Windows 10 May 2021 Update using Windows Update
- How to install Windows 10 May 2021 Update using Update Assistant
- How to install Windows 10 May 2021 Update using Media Creation Tool
How to install Windows 10 May 2021 Update using Windows Update
Although there are many ways to upgrade to the May 2021 Update, the recommended method is to manually trigger the installation when you see the notifications in the Windows Update settings.
To install version 21H1 using Windows Update, use these steps:
- Open Settings.
- Click on Update & Security.
- Click on Windows Update.
- Click the Check for updates button.
Under the Feature Update to Windows 10, version 21H1 section, click the Download and install now button.
- Click the Restart Now button.
Once you complete the steps, the enablement package will download and update the Windows 10 May 2020 Update or the October 2020 Update to version 21H1 as a regular cumulative update without reinstallation.
In the case the device has the November 2019 Update or an older release, the May 2020 Update will install as a regular upgrade, and then you will be able to apply the May 2021 Update.
If the computer is not seeing the option to update, there is a chance of compatibility with the current setup or hardware blocking the new version. If this is the case, you should not try to force the feature update to affect the experience negatively.
How to install Windows 10 May 2021 Update using Update Assistant
To upgrade to Windows 10 May 2021 Update using the Update Assistant tool, use these steps:
- Open this Microsoft support website.
Click the Update now button to save the tool on the computer.
- Double-click the Windows10Upgrade file to launch the assistant.
Click the Update Now button.
- Click the Next button.
- Click the Restart Now button.
After you complete the steps, the tool will download the files and install version 21H1 on the device, keeping your files, settings, and apps. If you choose this method, it could take some time, depending on the speed of the internet and hardware configuration.
Since version 21H1 is based on version 2004, the Update Assistant is only recommended for computers running an older version (such as version 1909). If you try to use the tool on devices running versions 20H2 or 2004, it will perform a full installation that will take time, and you may come across upgrade problems.
How to install Windows 10 May 2021 Update using Media Creation Tool
You can also use the Media Creation Tool to perform an in-place upgrade or clean installation of the Windows 10 May 2021 Update.
Warning: The upgrade setup uses a non-destructive process, but it is still recommended to create a temporary full backup of your PC before proceeding, in case you need to rollback.
To upgrade Windows 10 to the May 2021 Update with the Media Creation Tool, use these steps:
- Open Microsoft support website.
Click the Download tool now button to save the installer on the computer.
- Double-click the MediaCreationToolxxxx.exe file to begin the in-place upgrade process.
- Click the Accept button to agree to the terms.
Select the Upgrade this PC now option.
- Click the Accept button again to agree to the licensing terms.
Confirm the Keep personal files and apps option is selected.
Quick tip: By default, the option is selected, but if it is not, click the Change what to keep option to choose to preserve your apps, settings, and files after the upgrade.
Click the Install button.
Once you complete the steps, the Media Creation Tool will upgrade the device to Windows 10 version 21H1 from any previous releases, preserving your apps, settings, and files.
If the new version does not apply successfully, use the Media Creation Tool to create a USB bootable media and continue with a clean installation of Windows 10.
You should only use the Media Creation Tool if the computer is running the November 2019 Update or an older release. If you have the October 2020 Update or May 2020 Update, you should use the Windows Update option, as the tool will perform a full installation, which in most cases is not necessary unless you are already having issues with the current setup.
More Windows 10 resources
For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10, visit the following resources:
- Windows 10 on Windows Central – All you need to know
- Windows 10 help, tips, and tricks
- Windows 10 forums on Windows Central
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