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    • By Usama Jawad96
      Closer Look: Storage settings in Windows 11
      by Usama Jawad

      It's been a few weeks since Windows 11 started rolling out generally (check out our review here), but since it's being distributed in a staggered manner, not everyone has it yet, even if they're on a supported machine. Although there are ways to skip the queue and trigger the update immediately, it's perhaps advisable to know what you're getting into before you decide to make the jump to Microsoft's latest OS. This is exactly why we have been discussing Windows 11's features in more detail in our ongoing Closer Look series.

      So far, we have taken a look at Search, Widgets, the Start menu, Snap Layouts and Snap Groups, the Taskbar, quick settings and notifications, Virtual Desktops, power and battery settings, default apps configurations, File Explorer, context menus, Teams integration, the updated Clock app in Windows 11, the Microsoft Store, the Snipping Tool, the Paint app refresh, the lock screen, the revamped Photos app, and the voice typing experience. Today, we'll be discussing storage settings in Windows 11.

      For the purpose of this hands-on, we'll be taking a look at the generally available Windows 11 build versus a publicly available and up-to-date Windows 10 (version 21H1 build 19043.1288).

      Although we usually follow a format in our Closer Look articles where we first discuss the Windows 10 offerings before comparing it to Windows 11, we'll be deviating a bit from that this time because, frankly, it's not worth it considering there are smaller enhancements here and there rather than a full revamp.

      Storage settings in Windows 11 When you launch storage settings in Windows 11, you'll notice that the landing page has been redesigned. Now, you get the most essential information - which is your drive's storage space on the top -, while other information is nested at the bottom. For some reason, Windows 10 showed Storage Sense at top, which is fortunately not the case here.

      Below the drive's storage, you'll get some more granular categories such as Apps & features and Temporary files, but if you want to see more categories, you'll be directed to a dedicated page rather than a list being populated on the same page like Windows 10.

      The nesting of information in menus that you can expand according to your liking is a very neat touch. It means that you can now view all essential data on the same page without scrolling and can dive into specific settings only if you want too. Space is utilized very smartly here, and I'm a big fan of these changes, particularly because it does not require me to scroll past or even see settings that I barely use.

      Temporary files management in Windows 11 If you click on any of the dedicated categories, you'll be taken to their respective dedicated page. I noticed that Microsoft has made some nifty changes to the color contrast here so now it's easier to read highlighted content, and there's a clear division between each list item too.

      Storage Sense in Windows 11 Apart from offering the regular configurations present in Windows 10 already, Storage Sense now integrates directly with your locally available OneDrive content too. It offers you the ability to make files online-only if your don't open them for more than a specific amount of time.

      Personally, I'm a bit paranoid about automatic deletion of files from local or cloud storage, so I don't use Storage Sense, but Microsoft offers a decent set of options for those who feel the need for this capability.

      Cleanup recommendations in Windows 11 Storage settings in Windows 11 provides a handy "Cleanup recommendations" section too, which does exactly what the name implies. It offers you recommendations about deleting temporary files, large or unused files, files synced to the cloud, and apps that you haven't used recently. I think this is a decent option to have if you want to quickly free up small amounts of storage while having manual control over what you are deleting.

      Going back to the landing page of the Storage settings menu, you'll notice that all of the capabilities from Windows 10 have been carried over and are now nested under "Advanced storage settings". That said, there are a couple of changes that I'd like to highlight.

      New Disks & volumes pages in Windows 11 There is a new dedicated page called "Disks & volumes". This shows you high-level information about your storage device, its partitions, and their respective health statuses at a glance. You can also click on any partition to view its properties such as BitLocker encryption status and also change the label. I find this to be a very useful page even though it's not part of my daily workflows.

      Backup options in Windows 11 "View backup options" from Windows 10 has been replaced by "Backup options" in Windows 11. It now redirects to the Windows Backup page, from where you can backup your content to OneDrive, and remember apps and preferences. Windows 10 also offered an option called "Backup using File History", and while that setting can still be accessed using the native UI, it's no longer directly visible inside Storage settings. I'm assuming that this was done due to low usage and to push people towards OneDrive backups, but this is just speculation on my part.

      New UI for Storage Spaces in WIndows 11 Another thing I noted was that while Windows 10 also allows you to create Storage Spaces where you can store your files redundantly across different drives via storage pools, it did so via the legacy Windows interface that opens in a dedicated window. Microsoft has changed this up significantly in Windows 11 so that you can now configure this capability directly inside the Storage settings page, complete with a native Windows 11-look. I know it doesn't make a huge difference, but I think it's a step in the right direction in terms of giving the OS a consistent look and feel.

      Unfortunately, this change has not carried over to "Drive optimization", which still opens a dedicated legacy UI. Yes, it has rounded corners but it's outside of the native Windows 11 Settings app, which is a bit jarring.

      Overall, I think that although Microsoft hasn't treated Storage settings to a full revamp, it has still made some notable and positive changes to the overall UI. Whitespace is utilized much better and the nested menus ensure that you can easily find what you're looking for. I welcome the tighter integration with OneDrive as it also gives a more unified feel across Microsoft products. The new pages for Disks & volumes as well as Storage Spaces are decent changes and tie in well with the overall Windows 11 design, while providing useful capabilities. Some may bemoan the absence of backup via File History but I personally never used it so I don't miss it. Eitherway, the capability hasn't been completely removed so you can still access it if you want via the legacy Windows UI.

      Take a look at the section here or select from the links below to continue exploring Windows 11 in our ongoing "Closer Look" series:

      Closer Look: Search in Windows 11 Closer Look: Widgets in Windows 11 Closer Look: Start menu in Windows 11 Closer Look: Snap Layouts and Snap Groups in Windows 11 Closer Look: Taskbar in Windows 11 Closer Look: Quick settings and notifications in Windows 11 Closer Look: Virtual Desktops in Windows 11 Closer Look: Power and battery settings in Windows 11 Closer Look: Default apps settings in Windows 11 Closer Look: File Explorer in Windows 11 Closer Look: Context menus in Windows 11 Closer Look: Microsoft Teams integration in Windows 11 Closer Look: Clock app in Windows 11 Closer Look: Microsoft Store in Windows 11 Closer Look: Snipping Tool in Windows 11 Closer Look: Paint in Windows 11 Closer Look: Lock screen in Windows 11 Closer Look: Photos app in Windows 11 Closer Look: Voice typing in Windows 11
    • By anmol112
      How to create a bootable Windows 11 installation disk
      by Anmol Mehrotra

      Earlier this month, Microsoft started offering Windows 11 to a select group of users as the company kicks off its phased rollout. The new update comes with a brand-new UI, features as well as general improvements to the operating system.

      While, Windows 11 is now available publicly, Microsoft is offering the update to a small group of users so you may not see the update right away. However, if you are impatient and want to upgrade your system to Windows 11 then you are in luck. Microsoft is allowing users to manually upgrade devices through their Windows 11 installation assistant. However, that may not be feasible for those who have to upgrade multiple devices or want to clean install Windows 11. Luckily, Microsoft is also offering Windows 11 ISO so you can create your very own installation disk and install Windows 11 on multiple devices. There are a couple of ways to create an installation disk so you can follow the one that suits your needs.

      Method 1: Using Rufus
      First, head to Microsoft's website to download the ISO. For this method, you need to scroll down to the third option on Microsoft's website- "Download Windows 11 Disk Image (ISO)". Select Windows 11 from the dropdown and click on 'Download'. Now, select your preferred language from the dropdown and click on 'confirm'. Click on '64-bit Download' to start downloading the ISO. Once the ISO is downloaded, you will need to download a free utility called Rufus and open it. Now, insert a USB drive that you want to turn into a Windows 11 bootable drive. Make sure your USB drive is selected under the device option. Now, select 'Disk or ISO image' under boot selection option and click on 'Select'. Browse to the folder where you downloaded the Windows 11 ISO and select it. Select the 'Standard Windows installation (TPM 2.0, Secure Boot, 8GB+ RAM)' under image option. Do note that you will need to select the 'Extended Windows installation (no TPM 2.0/no Secure Boot, 8GB+ RAM)' option if you are planning to use the ISO for installation on unsupported hardware. Now, select the following options to complete the setup: Partition scheme - GPT Target system - UEFI (non CSM) Volume label - Name of the bootable media File system - NTFS Cluster size - 4096 bytes Do not change the advanced format settings unless you know what you are doing.

      Once you are ready, click on 'start'. You will now get a warning informing you that all the data on the USB drive will be deleted if you proceed. You need to click on 'ok' after you have taken a backup of the USB drive. Once the process is completed, you will have a bootable Windows 11 drive that you can plug into any system and install Windows 11.

      Method 2: Windows Media Creation tool
      If using Rufus sounds complicated, then don't worry as Microsoft has got you covered. The Redmond giant is also providing its own utility to help users create a Windows 11 bootable drive. You can follow the steps below to use Windows Media Creation tool in order to create a bootable drive:

      The first step is common for both the methods and you will need to open Microsoft's Windows 11 download page. This time you will be looking for the second option on the page- "Create Windows 11 Installation Media". Under the section, click on 'download' to get the Media Creation tool and open it. When prompted accept the Windows 11 license agreement.

      Now, you will get the language and edition options. By default, Microsoft will take the language and edition of the PC on which you are creating the installation media. However, if you want to change those options then uncheck the "Use the recommended options for this PC" option and click on 'next'.

      Now, you will get the option to create a bootable USB drive or an ISO file. Since, we are looking to create a bootable media, select the USB option. You can select the ISO option if you want to get an ISO file which can be burned onto a drive later using softwares such as Rufus. At this stage, you should plug in a USB drive that you want to use as a bootable media drive. Once done, click on 'next'. Select the USB drive that you just connected. Click on 'next' to start the download.

      Once the download and installation is finished, Windows 11 will be ready for use, and you just need to plug in the drive and start the installation process.

      You can always rollback to Windows 10 if you are unhappy with Windows 11. Alternatively, you can check out our comprehensive article on the Windows 11 update or one of the closer look articles if you want to take a deep dive into Windows 11's features.

      Looking to upgrade your own PC to Windows 11? We have a detailed guide to help you use the Microsoft Windows 11 Assistant to download and upgrade PCs from Windows 10 to Windows 11.

      Still on the fence about Windows 11? Check out our Windows 11 review to know if the update is right for you.

    • By Usama Jawad96
      Microsoft Weekly: Android on Windows, WHQL-signed malware, and 21H2 builds
      by Usama Jawad

      We're at the end of the week, which means that it's time to look at what happened in the world of Microsoft in the past few days. Windows 10 was primarily Microsoft's focus in terms of new builds, but as we know, the upcoming version 21H2 build is just enablement package so don't raise your expectations too much. More interestingly, Windows Subsystem for Android finally landed on preview builds of Windows 11. In the cybersecurity space, we also found out that Microsoft digitally signed a driver that was actually malware that can wreak havoc. Find out more about this in our weekly digest for October 17 - October 22.

      Windows builds
      After giving Windows 11 all the attention for the past few weeks, Microsoft finally decided to give some love to Windows 10 too. The company released builds 19043.1319 and 19044.1319 for Insiders running version 21H1 or 21H2, respectively, in the Release Preview ring. Both builds have identical change logs, which makes sense because 21H2 is just an enablement package for 21H1 after all. Tons of bugs were squashed including those that affected subtitles from displaying on certain streaming sites or video playing apps. Enhancements were also made in the department of memory leaks and ransomware protections. You likely won't notice any front-end enhancements if you install either of these builds though.

      If you were thinking that build 19044.1319 will be the launch version of Windows 10 version 21H2 - when it eventually rolls out -, you'd be mistaken. Microsoft finally revealed that build 19044.1288 is a candidate build for that rollout and is now available for those on the Release Preview ring. The company has released ISOs too. The improvements offered in 19044.1319 will be provided in the next Patch Tuesday update. While a firm release date wasn't disclosed, Microsoft referred to version 21H2 as the "November 2021 Update", but also stated that out of the three noteworthy features promised for the update, a new Windows Hello for Business deployment method dubbed "cloud trust" won't be ready for primetime. You can find out more about what to expect from Windows 10 November 2021 Update in our guide here.

      Windows 11 received some love in the form of build 22483 for the Dev channel too. It fixes some bugs related to Search and Settings but introduces some new ones to Search, Taskbar, and Start too. ISOs are available for install as well. Just a few hours ago, Microsoft released Windows 11 build 22483.1011 (KB5007484) to the Dev Channel, but that's just an update to test the servicing pipeline, it features no changes at all.

      Android on Windows
      Windows 11 did not feature Android app support, even though the feature was heavily touted when the OS was unveiled back in June. However, it appears that the general public will be able to get their hands on it soon as the capability was finally rolled out in the Beta channel this week. Those on 22000.xxx series Insider builds can install Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA), download the Amazon App Store, and give Android apps on Windows 11 a whirl.

      Microsoft has also released developer guidance for those who want to test how their Android apps are running on Windows 11. It is important to understand that this is a preview release so some issues are to be expected. Microsoft has already noted that you might see some odd visual artifacts with certain applications on ARM64, performance may vary with concurrent apps, and apps that come out of modern standby will encounter issues. It's also noteworthy that the Amazon App Store currently supports only a handful of apps curated by Microsoft and Amazon. It's likely that more apps will appear as they pass the two companies' validation process. There is also a workaround to install Google Play services on Windows 11 right now, but proceed at your own risk.

      While Android is getting support on Windows, Microsoft is recommending that developers who want to take advantage of the latest features in Windows apps should migrate away from the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) and opt for Windows App SDK instead. Windows App SDK combines the capabilities of Win32 desktop apps as well as UWP.

      Microsoft-signed malware

      Something that turned heads this week was the discovery of malware that was signed by Microsoft... kind of. Basically, a driver called "FiveSys" was submitted for Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) certification, and Microsoft promptly digitally signed it. It was later discovered that Fivesys is actually malware in disguise, leading many to question the process behind Microsoft's program. The company typically verifies driver packages sent in by its various partner vendors through the Windows Hardware Compatibility Program (WHCP).

      It was revealed that the Fivesys rootkit behaves in the following way:

      In terms of other key characteristics, the associated whitepaper also mentions that the rootkit blocks registry modifications and also tries to block its competitors' access to an infected system.

      This isn't the first time that something like this has happened. A malware called "Netfilter" was also validated by Microsoft back in June, likely in a similar fashion.

      Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, and gaming galore
      There was a lot of notable gaming-related news this week. Microsoft revealed more details about the PC version of Halo Infinite. The game will ship with support for ultrawide and super ultrawide displays, and features like FOV sliders, dynamic resolution adjustment, triple key-bind options, and weapon model off-set control are also incoming.

      The developer also mentioned anti-cheat mechanisms, but implied that user privacy would be respected and it won't be implemented in a way such that it inhibits the overall gaming experience in a negative way. Integration with Steam and Discord's social features were confirmed as well, and so was binding with Razer Chroma RGB. Local dedicated server hosting will be a feature on PC too, and any other PC or console connected to the local network will be able to join in for old school LAN parties.

      Microsoft also revealed that it is partnering with AMD for raytracing support - which is not included in the launch version of the game -, and it launched a Halo Infinite-themed RX 6900 XT to celebrate this partneership. That said, the hardware is not available for sale and will likely be offered via giveaways on social media to evade scalpers.

      In other news, Forza Horizon 5 has gone gold, and the game's size is north of 100GB across all platforms. Sea of Thieves crossed the 25 million players mark and celebrated the milestone with free in-game goodies. Tons of games including Outriders, Age of Empires IV, and Dragon Ball FighterZ are heading to Xbox Game Pass soon, and gamers also have Microsoft Flight Simulator GOTY Edition to look forward to in November.

      Xbox Series X owners were treated to 4K dashboards, Night Mode, and Quick Settings changes. And if you're in the mood for gaming, Microsoft has a decent Xbox Shocktober Sale going on as well.

      Dev channel:
      Support for end-to-end encryption in Microsoft Teams calls is now in public preview

      512GB and 2TB Xbox Series X|S Storage Expansion Cards have been announced

      Cyberpunk 2077 and Witcher 3 PS5 and Xbox Series X|S upgrades have been delayed to 2022

      Visual Studio Code for the Web is now available in public preview

      Privacy Management for Microsoft 365 is now generally available

      PowerToys 0.48.1 Experimental is now out and includes Video Conference Mute utility and one fix

      Microsoft has highlighted all the UI changes coming to Visual Studio 2022

      Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub is the company's new platform for tech entrepreneurs

      Logging off:
      In this week's Closer Look, I discussed voice typing in Windows 11 and how it is a significant upgrade compared to its Windows 10 offering. Microsoft has updated the UI to follow the design language of Windows 11, but perhaps the most notable change is the fact that the feature is now powered by Azure Speech services, which means that it supports capabilities like auto-punctuation and tons of more languages.

      You can read my thoughts about voice typing in Windows 11 here and check out our ongoing Closer Look series here.

      And if you're interesting in trying out Android apps on Windows 11, check out Neowin's handy guide here.

      Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link.

      If you’d like to get a daily digest of news from Neowin, we have a Newsletter you can sign up to either via the ‘Get our newsletter’ widget in the sidebar, or through this link.

    • By Usama Jawad96
      Guide: How to install Android apps on your Windows 11 PC
      by Usama Jawad

      When Microsoft announced Windows 11 back in June, it made a big deal about support for Android apps via a partnership with the Amazon Appstore. However, this capability was not present in the October 5 launch version of the OS. That said, it appears that the functionality will be coming soon as Microsoft has started testing it in the Beta Channel.

      If you're on a device enrolled in the Beta Channel, you might want to give Android apps on Windows 11 a whirl, here's how to do it:

      Make sure you're on a 22000.xxx series build, and that your PC is enrolled in the Beta Channel of the Windows Insider Program, has at least 8GB of RAM and a supported processor (Intel Core i3 8th Generation, AMD Ryzen 3000, Qualcomm Snapdragon 8c, or above). Verify your build number by pressing Win + R, and then typing winver in the textbox. This will open a window showing you your machine's build number. If it's lower than the aforementioned build number, go to Settings > Windows Update to update your PC. In our case, we had to install build 22000.282 in order to proceed. Your PC's region must be set to the U.S. Validate that this is so by heading over to Settings > Time & language > Language & region on your Windows PC. Make sure that virtualization is enabled on your machine. This process can involve booting into your PC's BIOS, depending on your hardware vendor, and Microsoft recommends that users follow this guide. You can check whether virtualization is enabled on your machine by going to Task Manager > Performance. Ensure that you are running Microsoft Store version 22110.1402.6.0 or higher. Check to see if this is the case by heading over to the Microsoft Store's App settings, where you'll see the version number listed near the bottom. If it's lower than the aforementioned version, go to Library > Get updates to trigger an update for the Microsoft Store Visit the Amazon Appstore listing on the Microsoft Store using this link. Click on Install. You will be asked to provide Microsoft diagnostics so it can further enhance its products, but you can opt out if you want. Click on Download. Wait for the download to complete, this may take a few minutes depending upon your internet connection. Once the download is complete, you'll see an "Open Appstore" button in the same window. Click on it. You will see a small dialog box saying "Starting Windows Subsystem for Android...", this will disappear after a couple of seconds. Next, you will be asked to create a new Amazon account or sign-in into an existing one. Make sure that whichever account you use is U.S.-based. If you sign in with a non-U.S. account, you'll be shown a message that "The Amazon Appstore is not currently available in your country". Once you have signed in with a supported Amazon account, you'll be greeted with the landing page. You'll also be shown a handful of apps and games that you can download. It is important to note that the Amazon Appstore currently only supports a few dozen apps curated by Microsoft and Amazon. Click on any app, which will open a dedicated store listing. Click on "Get" to install the app. Once the app has finished downloading, click on "Open" to download the app. You can also open it from Windows Search, or the taskbar or the Start menu, if you decide to pin it. The app you launch will open in a dedicated window, as can be seen in the screenshot above. Lastly, you'll want to know that there is a dedicated Windows Subsystem for Android app silently installed in the background along with the Amazon Appstore too. You can utilize this to configure the behavior of applications and the subsystem according to your needs and can also completely turn it off to conserve system resources. That's pretty much all there is to it if you want to follow Microsoft's textbook method of installing Android apps on Windows 11 Beta Channel. There are workarounds if you want to install Windows Subsystem for Android on the Dev Channel, other unsupported devices, or even download Google Play services. However, these workarounds are outside the scope of this article and they require you to take responsibility if anything goes awry.

      We'll likely see more apps trickle to the Appstore with the passage of time, and Microsoft has also published guidance for developers to ensure that their Android apps work as they expect on Windows 11.

      What do you think about the capability to install Android apps on Windows 11? Have you given it a go yet? Let us know in the comments section below!

    • By hellowalkman
      Developer creates hack to run Google Play Store on Windows 11
      by Sayan Sen

      Back in June, Microsoft promised to bring Android Apps on Windows 11, and a few days ago, it finally released the feature to Windows 11 Beta channel insiders. It also published a developer guidance for the underlying Windows Subsystem for Android (WSA). However, Android apps on Windows 11, at least for now, will only be delivered through the Amazon Appstore (available via the Microsoft Store), meaning that users would be missing out on a ton of more applications that are available on Google's Play store. Even on the Amazon App Store, there is only a curated selection of apps available right now.

      To tackle this, a developer with the username ADeltaX has designed a script that will now allow users to take advantage of Google Play services on WSA. It is available on GitHub with the name WSAGAScript.

      To install the script, you need to follow the instructions provided by the developer:

      Lastly, the developer has noted that this is still a work in progress, so bugs and issues should be expected. The readme section will also be updated with simpler instructions and more details.

      For those interested, WSAGAScript is available on GitHub. Bear in mind that this is a third-party tool that is still under active testing so you need to proceed at your own risk.