Leaked early Windows 11 build reveals UNUSED Windows 10 hero wallpaper variant

Windows 11 pre-release build
(Image credit: Xeno on Twitter)

What you need to know 

  • A leaked build of Windows 11 (codenamed Sun Valley) appeared online over the weekend. 
  • The build is from before Windows 11 was unveiled, compiled in May 2021.
  • It includes unused variants of Windows 10's and Windows 11's default wallpaper.

A freshly leaked Windows 11 pre-release build made its way online over the weekend, revealing some interesting tidbits about how Microsoft might have been thinking about the Windows 11 release as it was in development. The build that leaked is 21380 and was compiled in May 2021, over one month before Windows 11 was unveiled.

While the build is very similar to the 21996 build that leaked in June 2021, just a week or so before the official Windows 11 unveiling, it does include a couple of extras that weren't known before. The biggest inclusion is an unused Windows 10 hero wallpaper variant that was seemingly designed to go along with Windows 11's new dark theme.

Windows 10 featured a handful of different variants of the hero wallpaper that shipped over the six years that the OS was updated. The first shipped in 2015 as the default dark Windows 10 wallpaper, and it was last updated in 2020 with the launch of Windows 365.

The unused variant spotted in the pre-release Windows 11 build looks to be a slightly less contrasty rendition of the 2015 wallpaper, which was likely designed to go along with Windows 11's new dark theme. You can compare it with the other Windows 10 hero wallpapers above.

The existence of this wallpaper variant might suggest that Microsoft was considering shipping the Windows 11 release as an update for Windows 10 in the early days of development, before deciding the changes to things like the Start menu and Taskbar were too drastic to ship as an update.

Windows Central understands that early Windows 11 pre-release builds even included the ability to switch back to the Windows 10 Start menu, which had been updated with round corners on live tiles to match the rest of Windows 11's design language, further implying that Microsoft once considered shipping Sun Valley as a Windows 10 update. 

The unused wallpaper was spotted in the Get Started app. (Image credit: Xeno on Twitter)

In addition to the unused Windows 10 wallpaper, an unused variant of the Windows 11 "bloom" wallpaper was spotted by user Xeno on Twitter, which can be found in the Get Started app and gives us a unique look into the design process Microsoft partook to get to what actually shipped. 

Microsoft had started planning and developing Windows 11, codenamed Sun Valley, during 2020 shortly after Corporate Vice President, Panos Panay, took charge of the Windows Client in February 2020. It's interesting to see just how fast Windows 11 came together from inception to shipping, announced in June 2021 as an almost complete product.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter and Threads