Windows 10’s next update could come with bigger changes including a new Start menu

Windows 10 Start menu redesign
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows 10’s next update due to land later this year (referred to as Windows 10 20H2 Update) was expected to be just a service pack-style upgrade, mirroring what happened in the second half of 2019 – but it seems that the update won’t just offer minor changes, but some bigger introductions.

This appears to be the case because Microsoft has just released a new preview version for Windows 10 (20H2) which carries the new Start menu that has previously been tested in the dev channel, among a number of other more sizeable alterations to the OS.

Build 19042.421 has been deployed to beta channel testers and it comes with the more streamlined design for the Start menu, which changes live tiles so they carry the same background color (which matches whether Windows 10 is in a light or dark theme), as opposed to the patchwork of different colors which they currently are.

The idea is a more uniform look overall, but those who are wanting a splash more in the way of colorfulness can apply an accent color if they wish.

Microsoft explains: “This refined Start design looks great in both dark and light theme, but if you’re looking for a splash of color, first make sure to turn on Windows dark theme and then toggle ‘Show accent color on the following surfaces’ for ‘Start, taskbar, and action center’ under Settings > Personalization > Color to elegantly apply your accent color to the Start frame and tiles.”

Other changes in build 19042.421 include modifying the way Alt-Tabbing works in relation to Microsoft Edge. Essentially, this lets every single tab you have open in the browser appear as a separate element when Alt-Tabbing through your running tasks.

That may be confusing or clunky if you have a whole load of tabs open, mind, and you might not like the idea of this feature anyway – so Microsoft has made it easy to turn off (or limit the number of Edge tabs that can be displayed when Alt-Tabbing).

Furthermore, websites in Microsoft Edge that you’ve pinned to the taskbar will now show all of the open tabs for that site across any active browser windows when you click them on the taskbar.

Note that to get these Edge features, you’ll need to be running either the Canary or Dev build of the browser, on at least version 83.0.475.0 for Alt-Tabbing, and 85.0.561.0 or higher for the improvement to pinned sites.

Taskbar tweak

There are various other changes as well, as Microsoft lists in its blog post, and they include tweaks for notifications and settings, as well as personalizing the taskbar when first setting up Windows 10 (something we’ve also seen before). The latter means the taskbar will be populated with icons more relevant to you based on your Microsoft account (so if you’ve previously hooked up a smartphone, you’ll have the Your Phone app already on the taskbar).

It would seem, then, that the next update for Windows 10 is going to be more than a minor affair like the November 2019 Update, although that said, the listed changes may be all that Microsoft is planning.

Even so, the new look for the Start menu is a pretty major alteration on an aesthetic level, and who knows, we could see further work being done in terms of honing the appearance of the menu, as other rumored changes have surfaced in recent times.

Interestingly, Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet has apparently heard from a source that what might be happening here – and we stress the word might – is that Windows 10 may not get an update for the first half of 2021, and so these features which were scheduled for that upgrade have been shunted forward to the 20H2 update.

Dropping one of the twice-yearly updates for Windows 10 certainly would be a big change, but at the moment, that’s just a theory based on an anonymous tip that we should treat very cautiously. Just as we needed to treat the strong rumors about Windows 10 (20H2) being only a minor service-pack style upgrade, which is seemingly now not the case.

However, we can’t help but wonder whether that potential move from Microsoft might have something to do with other speculation that the software giant is aiming for spring 2021 for the first commercial release of Windows 10X.

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).