Microsoft's Windows 10 May 2019 Update is live—here's how to get it

Microsoft's Windows 10 May 2019 Update doesn't overhaul the Windows you know. It just makes it better.

Windows Sandbox
Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

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Microsoft said Tuesday that it has begun making the Windows 10 May 2019 Update generally available, though the company said that it will take a “measured and throttled approach” toward rolling it out. 

Microsoft also implied that if your PC hasn’t already automatically upgraded to the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, PCs on that version and earlier releases will begin updating this June, as they reach what Microsoft calls the end of service date on November 12, 2019.

To receive the Windows 10 May 2019 Update now, you can go to the Windows 10 Settings menu, go to Update & Security, and click the Check for updates button at the top of the page. That will be received by Microsoft as a request for the update.

windows 10 may 2019 update check for updates Microsoft

You may see this screen when you visit the Windows Update screen and have the May 2019 Update waiting for you.

In any event, you may already see a blurb for the “Feature update to Windows 10, version 1903.” That’s the May 2019 Update. Clicking Download and install now will begin the background download. That language is a bit confusing, as only the download will occur immediately. Microsoft says that it will then allow you to pick a future time to complete the installation process.

If you don’t opt for the download, it’s a good idea to review our tutorial on how to manage Windows updates. Feature updates will download in the background, and managing Active Hours will help ensure that you’re prepared for when they do arrive.

The safest route is simply to decide upon a day when you’ll request the download manually, then schedule it for sometime when you won’t be using your PC. Make sure to save your work beforehand and close any open applications. Microsoft hasn’t said when ISO files containing the full update will be available, though a “clean install” of the update doesn’t appear to be as important as it’s been in previous feature updates.

Fortunately, one of the new features of the Windows 10 May 2019 Update is a handy Windows 10 update icon that lives in your taskbar. Its role is to provide a visual reminder of when future updates are arriving and whether they’ll require a restart. (Read our Windows 10 May 2019 Update review for more.)  The May 2019 Update will also try to deduce when you’re using your PC, and configure your Active Hours accordingly.

The May 2019 Update may not be as ambitious as previous versions, but a number of features make it worthwhile: Windows Sandbox, for example, as well as the addition of kaomoji. Dig deeper and you might find some other handy capabilities—you’ll find many gems in our rundown of the best hidden features within the May 2019 Update

Microsoft Windows 10 kaomoji index Mark Hachman / IDG

Kaomoji are one of the fun new additions to the Windows 10 May 2019 Update.

Based on my experience, the May 2019 Update should take about 20 to 30 minutes to install after download, though this will vary based upon the speed of your processor and whether you have a fast SSD or slower hard drive installed.

End of the road for older Windows 10 releases

If you haven’t kept up with your updates, be aware that there is a deadline. Because of Microsoft’s focus on providing the most up-to-date, secure experience, the April 2018 Update (version 1803) will reach end of service on November 12, 2019 for both Home and Pro editions, Microsoft said. 

“Starting this June, we will begin updating devices running the April 2018 Update, and earlier versions of Windows 10, to ensure we can continue to service these devices and provide the latest updates, security updates and improvements,” the company said in its blog post. “We are starting this machine learning (ML)-based rollout process several months in advance of the end of service date to provide adequate time for a smooth update process.”

If you’re running an older version of Windows 10, this means you should expect a fairly substantial update this summer that rolls up the October 2018 Update and the May 2019 Update. It’s not clear whether Microsoft will push both updates in succession, or just update PCs in one fell swoop. In any case, our advice holds: Pick a day to process the updates, and schedule them for a time where your PC will run unattended.

One last deadline to keep in mind: If you’re still running Windows 7, you have until January to upgrade for free. 

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