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By Abhay V
A new Windows Feature Experience Pack is rolling out to Beta and Release Preview Insiders
by Abhay Venkatesh
Along with a minor cumulative update heading to Windows Insiders in the Dev channel today, the Redmond firm is also releasing Windows Feature Experience Pack 120.2212.3740.0 to the Beta and Release Preview channels, meaning that the update will head out to those testing Windows 10 version 21H1 in the Beta channel and those running 20H2 builds in the Release Preview channel. However, the Feature Experience Pack update will not be served for domain-joined accounts testing 21H1 for pre-release validation.
As for what’s new, there is just one change that relates to hyperlinks in the Input Method Editor (IME). Here’s the singular update noted by the company:
These minor changes that arrive through Windows Update are a new way for the company to introduce features to Windows 10 outside of the full-blown OS updates. While there haven’t been any significant features added via these packs yet, references to Feature Experience Packs have been found in the OS for a while and were only officially acknowledged by the firm in November 2020.
It is currently not known when these feature packs will be used as a way for the company to push features to older versions of the OS for users running production builds, since these changes are those that are developed independently of the OS and do not require full-fledged system updates. The firm does note that it currently is “starting out with a really scoped set of features and improvements” and that it aims to expand these releases in the future.
Windows Insiders in the Beta and Release Preview channels running 21H1 and 20H2 builds should be able to pull the update by checking for updates in Windows Update.
KB5001391 Cumulative Update in Windows 10 Release Preview resulting in bugchecks [Update]
by João Carrasqueira
Earlier this week, Microsoft rolled out a new cumulative update, labeled as KB5001391, to Windows Insiders in both Beta and Release Preview channels. This brought the News and Interests feature, previously exclusive to the Dev channel, to those users.
However, it seems that the update might be causing some major issues for some users, as they're experience bugchecks resulting in green screens of death (GSOD) - the equivalent of BSOD for Insiders - specifically mentioning a BAD_POOL_CALLER error. The bugcheck apparently happens soon after starting the computer, making PCs essentially unusable. Users have also reported that uninstalling the cumulative update solves the problem.
The issue doesn't appear to be very widespread, as there are only a few reports to be found in the Feedback Hub and on Reddit that we could find. We also haven't experienced any issues on our machines running Windows 10 version 21H1.
Finding some issues with Insider builds is not something that should surprise users, but a system crash like this is probably more than most are ready to handle, especially for users in the Release Preview ring, who probably expect builds that are nearly ready for general availability. If you're interested in checking out News and Interests, you may want to hold off on installing the update.
If you happen to have already installed the update and you're experiencing issues, you can head to Settings -> Update and Security, and click View update history. Then choose Uninstall updates, and find KB5001391, then uninstall it and restart. You may also want to head back into Settings and pause updates for a few days until a fix is made available.
Update: Twitter user Cristian Rodríguez seems to have found another workaround for the crashes. Uninstalling the Intel Rapid Storage Technology (RST) driver should also fix the issue for those interested in testing the newest build.
Microsoft's new Edge browser is now rolling out to Release Preview Windows Insiders
by João Carrasqueira
On January 15, Microsoft officially released the new version of the Edge browser, based on the open-source Chromium project. On that day, the company also announced its plans to make the roll out the new browser automatically to Windows 10 users.
Now, the first phase of this gradual rollout is underway, as Microsoft has announced that the new Edge browser is now starting to roll out to Windows Insiders in the Release Preview ring. The rollout will continue to expand to everyone in this ring, and at some point, it should be available to the general public. Enterprise and education users won't get the browser automatically, though, at least for now.
Of course, if you don't want to wait for it to roll out automatically, you can always download the browser from the official website, and it will still replace the legacy version. Recently, Microsoft rolled out version 80 of the browser, meaning it now runs natively on ARM64 devices like the Surface Pro X. Benchmarks have also shown that the new browser is noticeably faster than the legacy version of Edge.
The next version will naturally be number 81, which was released in the Beta channel last week. That means there are about five more weeks to go until it arrives in the stable channel.
Microsoft releases Windows 10 build 18363.385 to Release Preview with 19H2 features
by João Carrasqueira
Today, Microsoft released a new cumulative update for Windows 10 to Insiders in the Release Preview ring. As usual, there are actually two new builds, one for Insiders testing 19H1, which is 18362.285, and another for those testing 19H2, which is 18363.385. The update packages are actually the same, but the 19H2 build has an additional enablement package for new features in 19H2.
What's interesting, though, is that despite this enablement package, users in the Release Preview didn't actually get any of the new 19H2 features that are already in the Slow Ring. That is, until today, since build 18363.385 enables all of those features. As a reminder, here's the full list of new features in Windows 10 19H2:
The testing process for the WIndows 10 19H2 update has been quite confusing. At one point, there were four update paths - two in the Slow ring, and two in Release preview. Now, the Slow ring has been unified, but still, until today, those in Release Preview didn't have the new 19H2 features, even if they had 19H2 builds. Now, that's been addressed, so things are starting to come together.
Right now, everyone in the Slow ring is on build 18362.10019 with all 19H2 features enabled. Those in Release Preview can be on either build 18362.385, which is a 19H1 build without the new features, or 18363.385, which now has the 19H2 features enabled. Though only 10% of users in Release Preview are getting 19H2 builds automatically, anyone in that ring can check for updates manually to get those builds.
Microsoft Weekly: A released preview, service end of life, and deals to spring for
by Florin Bodnarescu
It's that time of the week once more, when take a look at what’s happened the previous seven days in the world of Microsoft. Edgium previews were at long last made available to the those interested, the May 2019 Update arrived in the Release Preview ring, and that's not all. You can find everything mentioned – as well as the usual little bit extra – below, in your Microsoft digest for the week of April 6-12.
A released preview
We start with what’s perhaps the most relevant bit of information that’s surfaced in the last seven days, and that’s the arrival of the May 2019 Update release candidate in the Release Preview ring. For those keeping score at home, it’s build 18362.30, and save for a couple cumulative updates between now and GA, the main build number will stay the same. The only instance in which that would change, would be the discovery of some nasty bug like the file deletion one in the October 2018 Update.
As we just mentioned the subject of cumulative updates, 18362.50 (KB4495666) was pushed to Insiders. It has no specific changelog, though there is one known issue to be aware of regarding the launch of Windows Defender Application Guard or Windows Sandbox. Folks may encounter error “0x800705b4”, which is fixed by adding "DisableClone"=dword:00000001 and "DisableSnapshot"=dword:00000001 under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Containers\CmService\Policy, and rebooting.
This past week, folks stuck in the Fast ring have gotten their first taste of 20H1 with build 18875, which brought IME improvements. At this point in development, the bulk of changes will be seen in the fixes department, with patches for the lock screen freeze upon interacting with the touch keyboard and switching layouts, plus some Settings crash-related fixes, and a resolution for the Photos tile animation which could cause unexpected battery drain due to the animation playing even when Start wasn’t open.
Those who have opted to stay away from all the Insider kerfuffle got a set of updates too, as is the case when Patch Tuesday rolls around. Let’s kick off with what you need to be on the lookout for if you’re running various flavors of Windows 10:
October 2018 Update (1809): KB4493509, build 17763.437 – fixes the issues with end-user-defined characters causing blue screens, apps using MSXML6 not responding, the Group Policy editor not responding when editing an object which contains preferences for IE10 Internet settings, and the WININET.DLL authentication issues for IE11. There are also security updates for a variety of system components like the kernel, App Platform and Frameworks, Windows Virtualization, and more. Known issues: Custom URL Schemes for Application Protocol handlers may not start the correct application for local intranet and trusted sites in IE; there may be issues using the Preboot Execution Environment for a device from a WDS server which is configured with Variable Window Extension. April 2018 Update (1803): KB4493464, build 17134.706 – in addition to the fixes listed for 1809, it also includes protections for Spectre V2 and Meltdown for VIA-based computers, and patches a bug which caused a stop error when attempting to start the SSH client from the Windows Subsystem for Linux with agent forwarding. This version of Windows has the same known issues as 1809. Fall Creators Update (1709): KB4493441, build 16299.1087 – identical changelog to 1803, save for the Spectre V2 and Meltdown protections. Known issues: Custom URL Schemes for Application Protocol handlers may not start the correct application for local intranet and trusted sites in IE. Creators Update (1703): KB4493474, build 15063.1747 – identical changelog to 1809, save for the WININET.DLL fix. Known issues: Custom URL Schemes for Application Protocol handlers may not start the correct application for local intranet and trusted sites in IE. Anniversary Update (1607): KB4493470, build 14393.2906 – identical changelog to 1809, with the addition of another fix to meet GB18030 certificate requirements. Known issues: Custom URL Schemes for Application Protocol handlers may not start the correct application for local intranet and trusted sites in IE; SCVMM cannot enumerate and manage local switches; the cluster services fails to start with the “2245 (NERR_PasswordTooShort)”error; there may be issues using the Preboot Execution Environment for a device from a WDS server which is configured with Variable Window Extension. Windows 10 LTSC (1507): KB4493475, build 10240.18186 – beyond the addressed issues in 1809, it also fixes an issue which caused IE to block a sub-resource download when it was loaded over HTTP in a page hosted over HTTPS, adds a fix to comply with GB18030 certification, addresses the Custom URL Schemes bug, and provides a number of time zone-related updates. There are no known issues. Please keep in mind that after the set of updates above, Home and Pro SKUs of the Fall Creators Update (1709) are no longer supported. Also on the no longer supported list are the Enterprise and Education SKUs for the Anniversary Update (1607).
Naturally, Windows 7 and 8.1 – as well as their server equivalents – have gotten a round of patches too. These are:
Windows 7 SP1, Server 2008 R2 SP1: KB4493472 – provides Spectre V2 and Meltdown protections for VIA-based computers, fixes the WININET.DLL and Custom URL Scheme bugs, as well as fixing an issue with netdom.exe failing to run and win32k.sys accessing an invalid memory location. There are security updates to various components included too, and the patch comes with a singular known issue: authentication fails for services which rely on unconstrained delegation after Kerberos ticket expiry. The security-only update is KB4493448. Windows 8.1, Server 2012 R2: KB4493446 – nearly identical changelog to Windows 10 1809, with the addition of a fix for Custom URL Schemes, and protections for Spectre V2 and Meltdown on VIA-based PCs. The known issue relates to the Preboot Execution Environment (PXE), and is described under 1809 too. The security-only update is KB4493467. Server 2012: KB4493451 – roughly identical changelog to that for Server 2008 R2 SP1, with the exception o the Spectre V2 and netdom.exe fixes. The known issue is the same as that in Windows 8.1, and the security-only update is KB4493450. Service end of life
While last week was certainly busy in regards to cancellations and product discontinuations, worry not – or maybe do -, since we got a few this week too.
At the top of the list we’ve got HealthVault, a service that some may be hearing about for the first time, although it was launched back in 2007 and went through a number of iterations. What it was basically, was a platform where folks could securely upload and store their personal health records in order to share them with professionals. That won’t be happening anymore, at least not after November 20 when the service ceases to exist. Any data still left on there on the day of closure will be deleted.
The good news is that it supports the creation of a CCD (Continuity of Care Document), which essentially allows for easy export / import into other similar platforms.
Next up on the chopping block is the ‘safely remove hardware’ feature. While previous versions of Windows would nudge users to use this feature due to a default configuration, starting with 1809 (October 2018 Update), this is no longer an issue.
Pre-1809, Windows was configured in such a way that external devices that were connected to the PC were configured for better performance, which meant the OS could cache write operations on the device, thus requiring the safe removal of said external device. Now, devices will by default be configured for quick removal, so this particular nuisance (for some) will be no more. Of course, you may configure this option on a per device basis.
Microsoft’s flagship OS is more or less a service these days, so this info pertaining to the end of support (or end of life if you will) of a specific version does fit within this section.
That particular Windows 10 version I’m referring to is the Fall Creators Update, or 1709. It’s not entirely dead, as just the Home, Pro, Pro for Workstations, and IoT SKUs are being sunsetted. Enterprise and Education variants get another year of support, though the Redmond giant obviously would rather you moved on to newer iterations.
On a related note, 1709 isn’t the only one affected. For example, those on the even older Anniversary Update (1607) Enterprise and Education SKUs will no longer receive support.
In terms of EOL there’s also System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2008, 2008 R2, and Windows Embedded POSReady 2009. Mainstream support is no more for Deployment Agent 2013, Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset 8.1, User Experience Virtualization 2.0, Visual Studio 2013, Team Foundation Server 2013, Release Management Server for Team Foundation Server 2013, Test Agent, and Test Controller.
Deals to spring for
One could say game-related news didn’t have as strong a presence this week, but some interesting tidbits did surface.
First off, we found out about a number of titles coming to Xbox Games Pass this month, including Prey and The Golf Club 2 which are already playable. In addition to those, there’s Monster Hunter: World and The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, both of which will be added on April 18, plus Life is Strange 2: Episode 2 on April 24, and Resident Evil 5 on April 25.
Since we touched on this particular subject, we might as well talk about Wednesday, which brought to the fore the idea of Microsoft offering three months of Game Pass for just $1, which is a great deal in comparison to the service’s $9.99/month regular price tag.
As it turned out, the idea wasn’t quite as ludicrous as initially expected, because on Friday, Microsoft kicked off its Spring Sale with deals across console and PC, with discounts of up to 65% (75% in some cases) and various amounts knocked off console bundles, custom controllers, other peripherals, and even HMDs, movies, and certain Xbox apps.
Yes, the Game Pass deal is valid in supported territories, and if you’re feeling particularly interested in Microsoft services, you can also grab your first month of Xbox Live Gold for only $1. A Gold membership shaves a further 10% off the games that are discounted.
The Fast ring
A new Blush Blend Signature Type Cover is now available for the Surface Pro 6. Microsoft Launcher 5.3 is now available with a new Weather widget, as well as improvements to the Tasks card, News tab, Home Screen, and more. The schedule for Build 2019 is now live. You can now connect Slack to Outlook calendar, OneDrive, and more. Microsoft will offer technical skills programs in partnership with five U.S. and UK schools. A beta of Firefox now supports native ARM64 on Windows 10. Skype Insiders on iOS and Android (v 126.96.36.199) can share their phone’s screen on a call. Hot corner
Hot corner is a section of The Fast ring dedicated to highlighting five Microsoft-related stories that haven’t been covered over here, but might be of interest.
Windows Admin Center 1904 GA is now available. A five-year power purchase agreement between Microsoft and Chelan PUD in Washington state will provide the former with hydropower for its Puget Sound campuses. Azure Security Center has exposed a crypto mining operation that was using the resources of Azure customers. There’s now an App Service Migration Assistant for ASP.NET applications. The Azure IoT certification service has been expanded to support Azure IoT Edge devices. Logging off
To end this entire wall of text, we’re focusing on the elusive Chromium-powered Edge, which this week became elusive no more.
Though it was announced, and then pictures leaked, followed by a full build, Microsoft has just now taken the wraps off of Edgium. Or Chredge. Or Chredgium. Or whatever other name this thing will end up being called.
Regardless, there are three channels available, Beta, Developer, and Canary, out of which just the last two can be installed for now. On the subject of limitations, the preview builds currently only work on 64-bit versions of Windows 10, so folks on Windows 8.1, 7, and macOS still have a bit more to wait before checking this one out.
In case you were quite interested in exactly what changes have been made to the browser under the hood to Microsoft-ify it, there’s a slide outlining more than 50 features which were either replaced or taken out completely. Things like Google-specific services such as Google Now, Chrome OS device management, and so on, are sensible tweaks, since they can be replaced with Microsoft-specific ones.
The most likely point in time when we’ll find out the full of extent of the changes is probably Build, which takes place May 6-8.
Missed any of the previous columns? Be sure to have a look right here.