How to Install the Windows 10 May 2021 Update (21H1) on Your PC

Microsoft has just started rolling out the Windows 10 May 2021 Update (version 21H1), gradually making its way to supported PCs and laptops. It’s the twelfth stable build of Windows 10 after the original release, with most of the changes centered around improving performance and security. It also offers several bug fixes for the Windows 10 2004 (May 2020 Update) and 20H2 (October 2020 Update) builds.

The Redmond tech giant plans to roll out the 21H1 update in small batches, starting with devices guaranteed to install the new version without issues. Once Microsoft irons out any quirks related to the update, it will be available across a wider group of people. If you have a compatible device, chances are the May 2021 Update is already available for you to install. However, given Microsoft’s track record, it may take a while for the 21H1 update to reach every Windows machine.

For PCs running the May 2020 or October 2020 build, 21H1 will be available to the users as an optional “Feature update” through the Windows Update settings. Since this minor cumulative update is pushed via an Enablement Package, the installation should be pretty quick across most devices.

PCs running an older Windows 10 version will also get this new release as an optional update. That said, users must upgrade to version 2004 before installing version 21H1. If you happen to use a discontinued version of Windows 10, your device will eventually auto-upgrade to the newest build so that you continue to receive maintenance and security patches.

We have prepared this guide for those interested in trying out the Windows 10 May 2021 Update on their computers. Fortunately, there are three ways you can install it: Windows Update, Media Creation Tool, and the Windows 10 Update Assistant.

Guide to install Windows 10 May 2021 Update via Windows Update

Among the three possible ways, installing the Windows 10 May 2021 Update via Windows Update is the easiest one. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. First, go to the Settings app from the Start menu.
  2. Next, click the Update & Security option to go to the Windows Update settings menu.
  3. After that, press the Check for updates button and wait till it scans for new updates.
  4. Once the “Feature update to Windows 10, version 21H1 message appears in the menu, click Download and Install below it.

Now your PC should start installing the May 2021 Update (version 21H1) on top of your Windows 10 May 2020 or October 2020 build as a regular cumulative patch. Thanks to the Enablement Package system, it shouldn’t take longer than a few minutes to complete the installation. However, it may vary depending on your PC hardware.

As we previously mentioned, if your machine is still running an older Windows 10 build, the May 2020 Update (version 2004) will install first, and the May 2021 Update (21H1) after that. 

If you manually checked for updates but still didn’t receive the “Feature update” prompt, chances are your PC hardware isn’t fully compatible with the May 2021 Update yet. In this case, we advise you to wait until Microsoft rolls out the stable build in the subsequent weeks.

Guide to install Windows 10 May 2021 Update using Media Creation Tool

Whether you plan to go with a fresh installation or an in-place upgrade, you can also use the Media Creation Tool to install the Windows 10 May 2021 Update on your computer.

Although you can upgrade to the latest build using a bootable media drive without deleting all your locally stored data, we highly recommend backing up important files before you proceed.

The following steps will show you the way to install the Windows 10 21H1 update using the Media Creation Tool:

  1. First, open a new browser tab and visit Microsoft’s official Windows 10 Download page.
  2. Scroll down to the “Create Windows 10 installation media” section and click Download tool now.
  1. Double-click the downloaded MediaCreationTool21H1.exe file to launch the Media Creation Tool.
  2. On the welcome screen, click the Accept button to agree to the terms and conditions.
  3. Now select the “Upgrade this PC now” option and click the Next button.
  4. Click Accept once again to agree to Microsoft’s licensing terms.
  5. Next, make sure there’s a tick next to the “Keep personal files and apps” option.
    While the following option should be ticked by default, click “Change what to keep” to confirm to keep your files, apps, and settings after the installation.
  6. Finally, click the Install button. The Media Creation Tool will begin downloading the latest Windows 10 21H1 image file.

Once the download finishes, the tool will prompt you to restart your device to finish the installation process. As promised, your PC will upgrade to the Windows 10 21H1 build without deleting your personal files, apps, and settings. Just in case the update fails to apply, you can use the Media Creation Tool to create a USB installation media and proceed to install a fresh copy of Windows 10.

Guide to install Windows 10 May 2021 Update using Update Assistant

If you haven’t received Windows 10 21H1 via Windows Update yet, you can force the upgrade manually by using the Update Assistant tool. Those willing to take the risk can follow the steps below.

Note that it can take several minutes to a few hours, depending on your computer’s hardware configuration. However, your files, apps, and settings will carry over to the new Windows 10 version.

We recommend using Update Assistant only if your PC runs an older version of Windows 10 (e.g., 1903, 1809). The tool performs a complete installation, which takes a lot of time to finish. Thus, don’t bother using it on devices running Windows 10 version 20H2 or 2004.

Finishing up

These are the ways you can install the Windows 10 May 2021 Update (version 21H1) on your PC. As we mentioned earlier, you should use the Media Creation Tool or Update Assistant only if your computer is running the November 2019 Update (1909) or an older version.

If it’s already running the May 2020 or October 2020 Update, Windows Update is the way to go. Both the Media Creation Tool and Update Assistant always perform a full installation, which is irrelevant for your current setup unless you have trouble with Windows Update or something else.

In case you encounter any problems with the new 21H1 build, you can roll back to the previous version from the Settings > Update & Security > Recovery menu. Bear in mind that the rollback window expires within the first ten days after installing the feature update.

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