Microsoft is allegedly planning a major visual overhaul for Windows 10 next year. The UI refresh project, known internally as ‘Sun Valley’, has been rumored for the last couple of years. Screenshots of an improved Microsoft Groove (which ages it!) leaked some time ago but amounted to nothing. Now it looks like Microsoft has Q4 2021 in its sights for an update which will form part of the wider Windows 10 ‘Cobalt’ build (21H2).

According to Windows Central, we should expect to see a change in the Start Menu (which only just got updated), Action Centre, Taskbar, and a reskinned UI for File Explorer. Since the tiled revolution in Windows 8, there haven’t been any massive changes to the look and feel of Windows, so it’s certainly overdue for what one source describes as “reinvigorating”. Expect to see more use of the WinUI throughout the Windows Shell and bundled apps, which should see the end of those last few jarring moments where the switch between UWP and Win32 is less than seamless. The challenge for the team will be finding how to successfully apply Fluent Design to the creaky old Windows desktop, parts of which still look almost identical to how they did 30 years ago.

Given Microsoft’s track record for inflicting change on users who aren’t ready or aren’t interested, it’s refreshing to hear that Sun Valley may be, to some degree, completely optional, with a toggle back to the current UI on the cards, where possible. Of course, with any project, let alone one as big as this, timings can slip, and we may not see Sun Valley until 2022, but Microsoft is apparently keen to get it out next year if it all possible. In the old days, we’d have been using Windows 11 by now, so it’s not surprising that Windows 10 is overdue a new lick of paint.

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