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Windows 10X: Everything you need to know

ZAC BOWDEN 16 Dec 2020 160

Windows 10x Mock Laptop Close

Windows 10X is a new version of Windows that has been built from the ground up for new PCs, and will begin shipping on hardware in 2021. It’s built on top of a new modern version of Windows called ‘Windows Core OS’ that guts legacy components and features in favor of contemporary user experiences and enhanced security.

This means everything from the Windows Shell to the underlying OS has been rebuilt with modern technologies. As a result, Windows 10X does not support legacy Win32 applications at launch. Windows 10X PCs in 2021 will be able to run Microsoft Edge, UWP, and web apps.

Legacy Win32 application support will arrive at a later date, however. When it does, Win32 applications will run in a secure container by default, meaning those legacy applications cannot affect system performance and battery life when closed. Windows 10X is a much more secure and stable OS as a result of this, as there’s no opportunity for legacy apps to cause bitrot.

A new user experience

Windows 10X

Source: Microsoft

Windows 10X features a new shell — the user interface — that has been built with modern technologies. It’s an adaptive user experience that can adjust depending on the “posture” of your device. For example, with a foldable PC, the user might want to use it in several different ways; as a laptop, or tablet, or in tent mode for movies. Because of this, the user interface must adapt to provide the best experience no matter which way your device is being used.

This also means that legacy shell elements, such as the Control Panel, File Explorer, and error dialogs and icons are gone on Windows 10X. As Microsoft has rebuilt the entire shell, it doesn’t include any of the legacy things that makes Windows 10 so inconsistent when it comes to UI. The Windows Shell on Windows 10X should be much more consistent.

At launch, Windows 10X will only be available on traditional clamshell PCs aimed primarily at the education and enterprise markets. The platform will eventually ship on new device form factors such as foldable PCs, but that won’t be happening in 2021.

A new Start menu

Windows 10X Start

Source: Windows Central

Microsoft is redesigning the Start menu experience on Windows 10X with a focus on productivity. It features a system-wide search bar along the top that can also search the web, and a grid of installed apps below that in place of live tiles.

It also has a “recent activities” area that dynamically updates with things the user might want to jump straight into, such as recent Office documents and visited websites. The apps list can be customized, with the ability for users to rearrange which apps show up in the first few rows.

A new Taskbar

10x Taskbar Preview

Source: Windows Central

Windows 10X also has a new adaptive Taskbar that features a centered design. The Start and Task View buttons appear in the center, with running and pinned apps appearing between the two. When you open an app, the Start and Task View buttons gently spread apart, giving the Taskbar a much more fluid appearance.

There are some new animations; the Start and Task View buttons have their own animations when clicked on, and there’s a subtle bounce to app icons when you minimize running apps to the Taskbar. In addition to the new design, there’s also up to three different Taskbar sizes: Small, medium and large. Large is great for tablets, while medium and small mimic the usual sizes we already have today on Windows 10.

On tablets, users can now swipe up anywhere on the Taskbar to access the Start menu, making it easier for touch users to access their apps list. You no longer have to hit the specific Start button to access your Start menu.

A new Action Center

Windows 10X Ac

Source: Windows Central

In addition to the new Start and Taskbar experiences, there’s also a new Action Center to compliment them. This new Action Center puts more emphasis on quick actions, with the ability to jump into specific quick actions for further control without leaving the Action Center at all.

It’s also designed in such a way that mimics a control center, with notifications housed above it in a separate box. This new Action Center includes things like volume controls, power options, and battery percentage. There’s also a new music control UI that appears in the Action Center when music is playing from a supported app.

A new set up experience

Windows 10x Oobe

Source: Windows Central

Since every part of Windows 10X has been redesigned, the out of box experience has too been updated with a modern look and feel. It still walks you through the Windows setup process, selecting your language, signing-in with a Microsoft Account, and agreeing to terms and conditions, but Cortana is no longer present throughout the set up process. It’s a more traditional setup experience, that’s been beautified on 10X.

The new File Explorer

File Explorer 10X

Source: Windows Central

Since Windows 10X has a modern core, legacy components such as the classic File Explorer are no longer present. This means Microsoft has built a new File Explorer specific to Windows 10X, and it’s built around OneDrive. Windows 10X is a web-first OS, and that includes how you store and manage files on your Windows 10X PC. By default, all your files are synced with your OneDrive account in the cloud while also being available locally on the device.

Improved Windows Update

Windows Update

Source: Windows Central

Microsoft is also improving Windows Update in a way that makes it much faster on Windows 10X. Feature updates will not take as long to install as they do on Windows 10 as those feature updates are now installed in the background without requiring a reboot until the update is done. So, just like on Android and Chrome OS, when the update is ready to restart your PC, it’ll just restart like normal, and won’t take 15 minutes to finish installing before you’re back up and running.

This should result in updates that take less than 90 seconds to reboot. Internal testing suggests it’s even faster than that. This is a huge improvement over how Windows 10 does updates today, which can take anywhere between 5 minutes and 20 minutes to reboot, depending on the device.

Secure by default

10x Windows Defender

Source: Windows Central

Unlike Windows 10, Windows 10X features something called “state separation” which is how the OS lays itself out on a drive. Windows 10 today installs everything into a single partition, which means the user can access system files, as can apps and potential attackers. On Windows 10X, everything goes into its own read-only partition. So OS files are locked away, as are app files, as are drivers, and the registry. The only thing the user and applications can access are the user partition.

This means that malware or viruses can’t get in and affect the system, because those programs are only able to operate in a single partition, and that assumes they’re able to get outside of the app container system Microsoft has built. All apps on Windows 10X run in a container, and need explicit permissions to access things that are outside that container. This is already how UWP apps work on Windows 10, and Microsoft will be extending that to Win32 apps on Windows 10X when support for Win32 apps arrives.

Dynamic wallpapers

Live Wallpaper

Source: Windows Central

I understand that Windows 10X features dynamic wallpapers that change content depending on different factors. For example, internal Windows 10X builds feature a mountain-view wallpaper that has morning, afternoon, evening, and night variants that appear based on your device’s actual time. This wallpaper also seemingly has dynamic clouds and birds that appear every so often.

I don’t know how many of these dynamic wallpapers will be present on Windows 10X, and I don’t know how complex they can be either. It’s nice to see more customization options for users, however.

Coming Spring 2021

Windows 10X will launch this spring first for commercial markets. Commercial markets include education and enterprise industries looking for sub-$600 PCs for students in the classroom or first line workers. Windows 10X won’t be launching on consumer PCs in 2021, meaning you won’t find it on a flagship Dell or HP device. It’s also only for clamshell PCs, with foldables, tablets, and other form factor support coming in 2022 and beyond.

Windows 10X will launch without an in-box Mail and Calendar app. It’s been removed from the first version of Windows 10X because the platform is aimed at commercial markets who will likely use Outlook Web or stream Outlook via Windows Virtual Desktop. Users can opt to reinstall the Mail and Calendar apps from the Microsoft Store if they wish.

Windows 10X for mainstream markets won’t happen until 2022, when Win32 app support among other features come to the OS as part of the Windows 10 “Nickel” release scheduled for the first half of 2022.

Because Windows 10X is a new operating system, it will not be released as an update for existing Windows 10 PCs. Users won’t be able to install Windows 10X on a device that didn’t come with Windows 10X to begin with. There won’t be any official ISO media and you won’t be able to buy Windows 10X on its own to install on your existing device. It’s for new PCs only.

Check back later

We’ll continue to update this post with new information as it becomes available. In the meantime, what are you most looking forward to with Windows 10X? Let us know in the comments.

Windows 10’s New Start Menu May Kill Live Tiles Forever

The new Start menu in Windows 10X on a foldable device.

Microsoft hasn’t officially announced it yet, but the writing is on the wall: Windows 10’s live tiles are going away. Windows 10X has a new Start menu without live tiles, and we expect it to arrive on all versions of Windows 10.

Windows 10X Has a Start Menu Without Live Tiles

Windows 10X in Microsoft's new emulator

Windows 10X is the canary in the coal mine. This new version of Windows 10 is designed for dual-screen devices, but that’s not all it is. Windows 10X is a modern version of Windows 10 that runs applications in containers. Beyond that, it includes a new, simplified interface.

That simplified interface includes a new Start menu. Rather than featuring live tiles, it provides a simplified list of your installed applications. It’s a grid-based view with icons rather than tiles.

Windows 10X is still in development and hasn’t been released yet. Microsoft is clearly using it as a test platform for a simplified desktop interface, and the new Start menu is a part of that.

Really, let’s be honest: Microsoft is creating a new Windows 10 interface for folding tablets. Live tiles are clearly more useful on a tablet than a desktop PC. If Microsoft doesn’t think live tiles are a good fit for a modern tablet, why would it keep using live tiles on the standard desktop version of Windows 10?

Windows 10’s New Icons Aren’t Designed for Live Tiles

Windows mail icons over time.

Microsoft announced a set of new icons for Windows 10 on Feb. 20, 2020. The new icons ditch the flat, one-color aesthetic pioneered by Windows 8 and offer more color and complexity. Here’s how Microsoft’s Christina Koehn explains how Microsoft wants to make its icons more consistent across various platforms:

Flat, monochrome icons look great in context of colorful tiles, but as more icon styles enter the ecosystem, this approach needs to evolve.

The new icons in the latest development versions of Windows 10 don’t really fit. Rather than use your system accent color, as existing live tiles do, these new tiles always use a blue background color. After all, they wouldn’t look good on some background colors.

These icons just look much better on a Windows 10X-style icon grid than a Windows 8-style set of tiles.

Cody Carson@hologei

Microsoft has started updating the system app icons for Windows Insiders. The new ones don’t use your system accent color, and look pretty out of place in the current start menu. Perhaps the 10X start menu could make its way over to desktop sooner rather than later.

View image on Twitter

Live Tiles Are Already Just Glorified Shortcuts (Mostly)

Live tiles were supposed to be a quick way of accessing information without opening an application. They originally appeared on Windows Phone, adding more information to the application shortcuts on your home screen.

In Windows 8, your Start screen took up your entire display. Live tiles were designed to transform that Start screen from a simple application launcher into a useful dashboard. You could see the weather, incoming emails, recent messages, news headlines, other status information right on each application’s tile without opening the app.

Today, Windows 10 displays all the applications you pin to your Start menu in a grid of tiles. Most applications don’t bother displaying status information in their tiles. For most people, those tiles are just shortcuts you click or tap to open an application.

Goodbye, Live Tiles

Windows 10’s next update, also known as Windows 10 version 2004 or 20H1, is expected for release sometime around May 2020. That update is nearly done, so we don’t expect to see any major Start menu changes there.

However, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft ditch live tiles for icons in late 2020 (with the 20H2 update) or in 2021. That will give Microsoft time to fine-tune the new icon-based interface in Windows 10X before rolling it out to all Windows 10 PCs.

Windows Latest reports that “people familiar with the development” said “Microsoft is planning to replace live tiles with icons in a future update after Windows 10’s 20H2 release.” Whether or not that particular rumor is true, the writing is on the wall. Most Windows 10 users don’t use live tiles and Microsoft is clearly planning for a future without them.

We already saw a leaked version of this Start menu appear in desktop builds of Windows 10 back in July 2019. The leaked version is clearly an early work-in-progress, but it already fits Windows 10’s desktop much better than the current Start menu does.

Leaked Windows 10 Start menu without live tiles
@NTAuthority on Twitter

Written by Chris Hoffman. Taken from How-To Geek site. 

Windows 10’s Buggy Hardware Driver Updates Are Being Fixed

Broken gears superimposed over Windows 10's desktop background.

Windows Update doesn’t just automatically update the Windows 10 operating system—it automatically updates hardware drivers, too. That’s resulted in many bugs, but Microsoft is making improvements—and making some of those driver updates optional.

How Windows 10 Has Been Updating Your Drivers

Much has been written about Windows 10’s automatic operating system updates, but hardware drivers often go overlooked. Device manufacturers can upload new versions of their drivers to Windows Update and Windows 10 automatically installs those when they’re available.

Hardware drivers may contain serious security problems or bugs that lead to serious operating system instability. Most people don’t update their hardware drivers manually and most PC manufacturers have terrible driver update utilities. That’s why Windows delivers hardware drivers and their updates through Windows Update.

This also makes it possible to install Windows 10 on a new PC without hunting down most hardware drivers—Windows will automatically find and install the relevant drivers.

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

Unfortunately, time after time, this automatic update process has led to bugs creeping in. Here are just a few examples. The following drivers were all automatically installed by Windows Update, leading to hardware suddenly breaking for no apparent reason:

  • In March 2017, Microsoft released a device driver that broke the MTP protocol used by Android phones, media players, and other portable devices. They wouldn’t appear in File Explorer until you went through a 13-step process in the Device Manager to undo the damage.
  • In October 2018, Microsoft released an Intel audio driver update that broke audio playback on some systems. Microsoft said the audio driver update was “incorrectly pushed to devices.”
  • A month later, Microsoft released an Intel graphics driver update that broke audio playback on other systems. Microsoft said Intel had released the wrong versions of its display drivers to PC manufacturers.
  • In February 2016, chipmaker FTDI used Windows Update to push an update that identified and disabled counterfeit chips modeled on its design. Sure, they were counterfeits—but FTDI was using Windows Update’s automatic driver updates to break otherwise functional hardware that some people had been tricked into purchasing. This was the second time FTDI used Windows Update to attack counterfeits. In 2014, FTDI used Windows Update to push a driver that actually “bricked” the counterfeit hardware, rendering it non-functional.

Anecdotally, we’ve heard of many other cases of automatic driver updates causing havoc on well-functioning systems. These are just a few of the examples we remember.

It would be nice if these updates received better testing and if some of them were optional. Microsoft is doing just that with some recent changes.

Get Ready for Optional Driver Updates

Viewing optional updates on Windows Update's Settings screen.

Microsoft now lets driver manufacturers mark some driver updates as “Manual” rather than “Automatic” when uploading them to Windows Update. This new option was made available to manufacturers on Feb. 19, 2020.

Starting with Windows 10’s upcoming 2004 update, also known as 20H1 and expected in Spring 2020, these drivers will be available behind a new “View optional updates” link on the Windows Update Settings screen.

This screen will show you optional driver updates for your PC’s hardware. It reads “If you have a specific problem, one of these drivers might help. Otherwise, automatic updates will keep your drivers up to date.” In other words, Microsoft is encouraging most people not to bother with these updates.

Important driver updates with security fixes and patches for other serious bugs will still be marked “automatic” and will be automatically installed by Windows Update.

Windows 10's new Optional Updates page listing driver updates.

All Automatic Driver Updates Will Get a Slow Rollout

Microsoft’s announcement says that all its partners will now be able to mark hardware driver updates as “automatic.” At first, that sounds a little questionable—do we really need more automatic hardware driver updates?

However, it looks like Microsoft is about to do much more testing of these drivers. When a new driver version is marked as “automatic,” it will be slowly rolled out to Windows 10 PCs with “throttling,” just like major updates for Windows 10 are. Only a small number of PC users get the update at first. Microsoft can automatically detect problems and pause the rollout. Windows Update won’t just automatically offer the driver update to all PCs.

Microsoft’s Kevin Tremblay explains how this should make driver updates less buggy in a comment on the Microsoft Tech Community:

All drivers published as automatic are subject to driver flighting, and gradual rollout. During these periods we are reviewing telemetry around the performance of the driver, and it’s effects on overall system health. We catch a lot of driver issues this way before they hit the Windows user base writ large. From an end user perspective we believe this will result in higher quality drivers (stable, performant) being delivered, and a better ability to stay current.

It isn’t clear exactly how many hardware drivers were going through this gradual process prior to February 2020’s change. However, it definitely wasn’t all of them. An article published in 2019 on Microsoft’s Hardware Dev Center portal for hardware manufacturers says “Eventually, all drivers submitted to Windows Update will go through gradual rollout.” That suggests some driver updates were being pushed immediately to all applicable devices without the gradual rollout process.

Microsoft Is Battling Windows 10’s Bugs

Microsoft is still struggling with bugs—just look at the recent bug in a security update that’s causing people’s files to vanish.

However, overall, Microsoft has been making Windows 10’s updates more stable. Windows 10’s November 2019 Update was the best yet, and Microsoft is giving the upcoming 2004 update a long bug-testing period at the moment.

Driver updates won’t become bug-free overnight, but requiring driver updates go through the gradual testing process is a sensible step that should improve things.

Written by Chris Hoffman. Taken from How-To Geek site. 

How to Troubleshoot Bluetooth Issues on Windows

Windows Logo

Bluetooth gives you the freedom to move without a tether, but it isn’t always the most reliable way to use wireless devices. If you’re having trouble with Bluetooth on your Windows machine, you can follow the steps below to troubleshoot it.

Basic Bluetooth Troubleshooting Steps

While many of these steps might seem obvious, they will fix many of the most common Bluetooth issues on Windows.

Check That Bluetooth Is Turned On

Start by making sure Bluetooth is actually enabled on your Windows PC. Just because the symbol is in the taskbar doesn’t mean your Bluetooth radio is actually turned on.

RELATED: How to Turn On and Use Bluetooth in Windows 10

To check it, click the Windows notification icon on your taskbar in the bottom-right corner of your screen. If you don’t see a “Bluetooth” tile, click the “Expand” button. If the “Bluetooth” tile is grayed-out, your Bluetooth radio is turned off.

Click it to turn it back on—the tile will turn blue to show the change.

Click the "Bluetooth" tile.

You can also head to Settings > Devices > Bluetooth and Other Devices and toggle the “Bluetooth” switch until it turns blue.

Restart Your Bluetooth Radio

If Bluetooth is enabled, switching it off and on again might resolve some underlying issues of which you’re unaware.

To do this, click the notification icon in your Windows taskbar to access your quick settings. Click the “Bluetooth” tile to turn it off. Once it goes gray, click it again to turn it back on.

Click the "Bluetooth" tile to turn it off and on again.

When the tile turns blue, your Bluetooth radio is back on, and ready to use.

Check the Battery

If you aren’t keeping track of the battery level on your Bluetooth device, you might not even be aware when it runs out of power.

Before you try a more serious solution, you might want to replace the batteries in your Bluetooth device or charge it, and then try it again.

Restart Your PC

The best fixes are sometimes the easiest, and if you haven’t tried it already, give your PC a quick restart.

The "Update and Restart" option in the Windows 10 Start menu.

When you reboot your PC, you wipe the slate clean, and clear out any idle processes or memory leaks. It’s not a miracle fix, but it can rectify some issues with the hardware, so give it a go.

Check Bluetooth Interference and Device Distance

Bluetooth devices communicate wirelessly via radio waves. Just like a Wi-Fi network, interference can affect Bluetooth connections. Other radio signals, physical obstacles (like thick walls), and devices like microwaves can all block or degrade a Bluetooth connection.

Take a moment to survey the area. How far away is your Bluetooth device from your PC? The bigger the distance, the weaker the signal.

Move your device closer to your PC and see if it impacts the Bluetooth connectivity. If not, try (if possible) to use your Bluetooth device in another location. You can also use third-party apps, like the Bennett Bluetooth Monitor, to check your Bluetooth’s signal strength.

Signal strength for nearby Bluetooth devices in the Bennett Bluetooth Monitor.

If the problem persists, interference might not be the problem. But there are some other potential fixes.

Install or Update Bluetooth Device Drivers

Windows 10 automatically installs drivers for devices that connect to it, but only when those drivers are available on your PC or through Windows Update. In most cases, though, Bluetooth devices (especially keyboards and mice) should work fine right out of the box.

If Windows can’t find the correct drivers for your Bluetooth device, however, it won’t work. If this happens, check the device manufacturer’s website to see if it offers a driver for your device. If so, download and install it, and that should resolve the problem.

This also applies to the Bluetooth radio itself. If the drivers for your Bluetooth chipset aren’t installed automatically, Bluetooth won’t work on your PC. Visit the PC manufacturer’s website or, if you built the PC yourself, check the motherboard manufacturer’s website for supported drivers.

You might also find that a new Windows update has impacted your device, requiring updated drivers. In most cases, Windows will look for and install updated drivers automatically. If it doesn’t, though, visit the device manufacturer’s website and install the latest drivers.

To see whether your Bluetooth device is installed, you have to check the Windows Device Manager. To do this, right-click the Windows Start button and click “Device Manager.”

Click "Device Manager."

If your Bluetooth device is recognized, it appears under the category relevant to its purpose. For example, a Bluetooth radio would be under the “Bluetooth” category. If the device isn’t recognized, it will be listed under the “Other Devices” category.

When you find it, right-click the device, and then click “Update Driver” to search for a new driver.

Click "Update Driver" in "Device Manager."

Click “Search Automatically for Updated Driver Software” if you want to search for a driver automatically.

If you downloaded the driver from the manufacturer’s website (and it doesn’t include an automatic installer), click “Browse My Computer for Driver Software” and follow the onscreen instructions.

The "How Do You Want to Search for Drivers?" options in Windows 10.

If you clicked “Search Automatically for Updated Driver Software,” Windows will tell you if it thinks you already have the best driver for your device. However, you can also search Windows Update for alternatives.

To do so, just click “Search for Updated Drivers on Windows Update” to proceed.

Click "Search for Updated Drivers on Windows Update."

This opens Windows Update in Settings. Click “Check for Updates” to begin a search.

When (or if) Windows Update finds an updated driver for your device, it will download and install it. When that process is complete, restart your PC, and then try your Bluetooth device again.

Remove and Re-Pair Your Bluetooth Device

Sometimes, removing the Bluetooth device from your PC resolves connection issues. You can then “re-pair” the device with your PC.

RELATED: How to Pair a Bluetooth Device to Your Computer, Tablet, or Phone

To start this process, open the Bluetooth settings in Windows. If the Bluetooth icon is visible in the Windows taskbar, right-click it, and then select “Open Settings.”

Click "Open Settings."

If you don’t see the Bluetooth icon, right-click the Start menu and select “Settings.” From there, click Devices > Bluetooth and Other Devices to access your Bluetooth settings.

Your known Bluetooth devices will be listed here. Select your device, click “Remove Device,” and then click “Yes” to confirm. This removes the device from your PC.

Click "Bluetooth and Other Devices," and then click "Remove Device."

When the process is completed, restart your PC.

After you log back in on your device, head back to the Bluetooth settings. Click “Add Bluetooth or Other Device” at the top. In the “Add a Device” window that appears, click “Bluetooth.”

Click "Bluetooth."

Wait for your PC to detect the device, and then click it to connect. You might need to type a PIN on one or both devices to allow them to pair.

Use the Windows 10 Troubleshooter

If all else fails, you can also try the Windows Troubleshooter on Windows 10 and see if it can resolve your Bluetooth issues. It checks your Bluetooth radio and device settings step-by-step, and identifies any issues.

If it detects an issue, it will inform you, and either ask you whether you’d like to fix it or direct you on how you can fix the problem yourself.

To run Windows Troubleshooter, right-click the Start menu and select “Settings.”

From there, go to Update and Security > Troubleshoot > Bluetooth, and then click “Run the Troubleshooter.” Windows will automatically begin working through your Bluetooth status and configuration. If it finds a problem, it’ll direct you to fix it.

The Windows Troubleshooter tool, with identified Bluetooth issues detected and fixed.

If the Troubleshooter can’t resolve the problem, you might want to contact the device manufacturer for further support and advice, as the problem might be with the hardware.

Written by BEN STOCKTON . Taken from How-To Geek site. 

What’s New in Windows 10’s 20H1 Update, Arriving Spring 2020

A Windows 10 20H1 (version 2004) desktop with the new Cortana experience.

Microsoft is already working on Windows 10’s 20H1 update. Expected sometime around May 2020, this is Windows 10 version 2004. It’s much bigger than Windows 10’s November 2019 update but still feels like a collection of useful improvements.

This post is up-to-date with features included in Windows Insider builds up to build 19041.84, released on Feb. 11, 2020. We originally published it on Aug. 28, 2019, and have been updating it throughout Microsoft’s development process.

More Control Over Optional Updates

Viewing optional updates on Windows Update's Settings screen.

Windows Update automatically installs many updates, but some updates are optional. Now, there’s a new screen that shows all these updates in one place.

Hardware driver updates, big feature updates like 20H1 itself, and monthly non-security quality updates like the C and D updates will appear here.

To find this screen after updating to 20H1, head to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > View optional updates. You can then choose which updates you might want to install.

Windows Update will still automatically install many hardware driver updates, but sometimes there are additional updates that may not automatically be installed. In the past, you had to dig through the Device Manager and select a specific device to update. Now, all optional hardware driver updates will appear on this screen. Microsoft says, “if you’re having a problem, one of those optional drivers might help.”

A New Cortana Experience (With Typing)

Cortana's new conversational interface on Windows 10.

Microsoft is advertising a “new Cortana experience” with a “brand-new chat-based UI.” You can now type queries to Cortana rather than say them out loud. The history of your conversation with Cortana will appear as if it was a chat window, so you can see the results of recent queries just by opening Cortana from the taskbar.

The Cortana panel is now a more normal window, too. You can resize it and move it around on your desktop by dragging the title bar, just like other windows. It supports both Windows 10’s light and dark themes, too.

Beyond the new design, Microsoft says it has “updated Cortana with new speech and language models” as well as “significantly improved performance” of the voice assistant. And, soon, Microsoft says you’ll be able to use Cortana in any of its supported languages, even if your Windows operating system is set to use a display language Cortana doesn’t support.

Microsoft has temporarily removed Cortana features like jokes, timers, and Bing instant answers. It’s focusing on a productivity-based feature for now.

Cloud Download for Reinstalling Windows

The Cloud Download option for resetting (or reinstalling) Windows 10.

Windows 10 has a new “Cloud Download” option you can use when resetting your PC to a default Windows system. When you head to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery and choose to reset your PC and remove everything, you can now tell Windows to use “Cloud Download.” Rather than reinstalling Windows 10 from the files on your local system, Windows will download the most up-to-date version of Windows 10 and install it on your system.

This will save time on updates afterward. Previously, the only way to do this was to either update Windows 10 before “resetting” your system or by creating new Windows 10 installation mediaWindows 10’s Reset feature has become much more powerful.

Bandwidth Limits for Windows Update

Setting a download and upload limit in Mbps for Windows 10's updates.

The Settings app now gives you more control over how much bandwidth is used for downloading Windows updates. In current versions of Windows, you can set a bandwidth limit as a percentage of your bandwidth. Windows 10 20H1 will let you set a precise “Absolute bandwidth” limit in Mbps for more accurate throttling of downloaded updates. This option was previously available in Group Policy but is now available to everyone in Settings.

To find the update bandwidth limiting options on any version of Windows 10, head to Settings > Update & Security > Delivery Optimization > Advanced options.

WSL 2 With a Linux Kernel

Linux's Tux mascot on Windows 10
Larry Ewing

The new Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) is probably the most important feature in Windows 10 20H1. This is WSL version 2, and it’s even more powerful than the first version. WSL 2 uses a real Linux kernel to provide an even more powerful, more full-featured Linux environment on Windows 10.

Microsoft will build its own Linux kernel and ship it with WSL 2, and that Linux kernel will be updated through Windows Update. You can also build your own Linux kernel and make Windows 10 use it. You don’t have to think about any of this, though—WSL 2 has the same user experience as WSL 1 and will “just work” without any extra configuration.

WSL 2 promises “dramatic file system performance increases” and “full system call compatibility.” That compatibility means support for technologies like Docker that wouldn’t run on the original WSL 1.

Beyond that, Microsoft has added support for ARM64 devices—in other words, WSL now works in Windows on ARM PCs. The WSL release notes say this will only work “if your CPU / firmware supports virtualization.”

More configuration options are available, too. For example, you can set a Linux distribution’s default user account in its /etc/wsl.conf file.

A Faster Windows Search Experience

Windows 10's indexing settings.

Windows 10’s May 2019 Update fixed Start menu search. Microsoft did this by taking advantage of the old Windows search indexer, which runs in the background and scans your PC’s files to create a search database.

Microsoft asked why Insiders were turning off the search indexer and received three main areas to improve: “excessive disk and CPU usage, general performance issues, and low perceived value of the indexer.” Microsoft says it’s now detecting peak usage times so it can better optimize when the indexer runs. For example, it won’t run when gaming mode is on, if power saving mode is on, if low power mode is on, when CPU usage is about 80%, when disk usage is above 70%, or when the battery is below 50%.

Windows search will get faster on developer PCs by default, too. The Windows search indexer will now “exclude common developer folders, such as .git, .hg, .svn, .Nuget, and more by default.” Performance will improve while compiling and synchronizing code.

Disk Type in the Task Manager

Disk type shown on the Task Manager's Performance tab in Windows 10.

Windows 10’s Task Manager now displays your disk type—SSD or HDD. This makes it easier to see what hardware is in your computer, and it can help you tell which disk is which if you have multiple disks in your system.

This information is displayed on the Performance tab. Open the Task Manager (Ctrl+Shift+Esc) and click “More Details” to find it.

GPU Temperature in the Task Manager

GPU temperature in Windows 10's Task Manager

That’s not the only new feature the Task Manager is getting. The Task Manager’s performance tab will also display your GPU temperature, too. Assuming you have a graphics card with a new enough driver—it must support the WDDM 2.4 driver model— you’ll find this information on your GPU’s status page under the Performance tab, too. This also only works with dedicated graphics cards, not integrated or onboard GPUs.

This is just the latest GPU-monitoring feature in the Task Manager. Previous updates added features like per-process GPU usage, overall GPU usage display, graphics driver version information, graphics memory usage, and hardware details.

A New “Tablet Experience”

Windows 10's new Tablet Mode

Windows 10 has a classic desktop mode and a Windows 8-style Tablet Mode that even hides your taskbar icons by default. That’s not ideal for many people, so 20H1 is adding a new in-between “tablet experience.”

When you’re using a 2-in-1 PC with a touch screen, and you have no keyboard or mouse connected, it can make the traditional desktop interface a bit easier to use. For example, the taskbar icons will be further apart, File Explorer will be optimized for touch, and you can use windows on your desktop.

Microsoft says this isn’t a replacement for Tablet Mode, but convertible PCs will no longer automatically enter Tablet Mode when you remove the keyboard or flip them around. Instead, they’ll enter this new touch-optimized experience. Microsoft is backing off on Tablet Mode on 2-in-1 devices and making the classic Windows desktop easier to use on a touch screen.

FPS in the Xbox Game Bar

FPS counter in Windows 10's Game Bar.
Mike Ybarra

Windows 10’s new game bar is already more of a full-screen overlay packed with features, including quick volume controls, performance graphs, and even Spotify integration. Now, it’s getting better with an FPS counter and achievement overlay.

Press Windows+G to open the Game Bar while playing a game, and you’ll see a real-time FPS counter without installing third-party applications like FRAPS or activating a game-specific option.

Windows Lets You “Make Your Device Passwordless”

Option to make your device passwordless on Windows 10.

Microsoft new lets you “Make your device passwordless” with a new option on the Settings > Accounts > Sign-in page. It sounds awesome and futuristic, but really it’s just a new setting that requires everyone on your PC sign in with a PIN or another Windows Hello sign-in method like face or fingerprint unlock.

Safe Mode now works with PIN login, too. If you’ve set up Windows Hello to sign in with a PIN, you’ll be able to use that PIN to sign in to your PC after booting into Safe Mode. Previously, Safe Mode made you enter your account’s password.

Renaming Virtual Desktops

Renaming a virtual desktop (with emoji) on Windows 10.

Windows 10’s virtual desktops, available in the Task View interface that appears when you press Windows+Tab on your keyboard or click the Task View icon on the taskbar, are getting more configurable.

Rather than being stuck with the default names of “Desktop 1,” “Desktop 2,” and so on, you can now rename them. Just click the name of each virtual desktop at the top of the Task View interface and type a new name.

As Microsoft points out, you can even use emojis in the names. Just press Windows+. (period) to open the emoji picker and enter an emoji. This emoji panel works in nearly any text field in Windows 10.

Improved Network Status Information

Windows 10 20H1's new network status options.

The network status page at Settings > Network & Internet > Status has been redesigned. It now shows all the network interfaces you have available at the top of the page. For example, both Wi-Fi and Ethernet will be shown here if you have a PC with both.

Microsoft says this new interface will “provide more information at a glance about your device’s connectivity, combining several pages to give you one clear view of how you are connected to the internet.”

Windows will also display your data usage for each interface right on this page, so you don’t have to go elsewhere in Settings to see how much data you’re using.

Built-in Support for Network Cameras

The Camera app's splash screen logo on Windows 10.

Windows 10 is getting built-in support for IP-based cameras that send their video feeds over your local network. Traditionally, you needed third-party software to view these camera feeds on Windows 10.

With this update, you’ll be able to add network-based cameras by heading to Settings > Devices > Bluetooth & other devices > Add Bluetooth or other device. If there’s a supported camera on your local network, Windows 10 will find it, and you can add it to your system in one click.

Once it’s added, you can use the built-in Camera app (and other Camera apps) to access the network camera. For now, Windows 10 only supports standards-compliant cameras that use ONVIF Profile S.

RELATED: Windows 10 Is Getting Built-In Support for Network Cameras

Better Control Over Restarting Apps at Sign-in

Choosing whether or not Windows 10 restarts apps.

Windows 10 automatically reopens many applications, including Google Chrome, after you restart your PC. There’s now a new option that more easily lets you disable this.

To find this option, head to Settings > Accounts > Sign-in options. Under Restart apps, toggle “Automatically save my restartable apps when I sign out and restart them after I sign in” if you’d like to turn this off.

Previously, this option was somewhat hidden and merged with the “Use my sign-in info to automatically finish my device” option, which read “Use my sign-in info to automatically finish setting up my device and reopen my apps after an update or restart.” These are now two separate options.

This feature now works a bit better, too. It now restarts “the majority of” UWP apps as well as traditional Windows desktop apps.

Disk Cleanup Won’t Delete Your Downloads Folder

Disk Cleanup showing the Downloads folder on Windows 10's November 2019 Update.

Microsoft is removing the Downloads folder from the classic Disk Cleanup application. This option was added to Disk Cleanup with the October 2018 Update. Critics said that it was too easy to accidentally delete all the files in your Downloads folder, especially if you’re an experienced user who didn’t realize that option had been added to Disk Cleanup.

With this update, the Downloads folder vanishes from Disk Cleanup. You can still use Disk Cleanup to empty your Recycle Bin, delete temporary files, remove old Windows installations, and everything else—but the short-lived Downloads option vanishes.

The option to clean up your Downloads folder lives on in Storage Sense, available at Settings > System > Storage > Configure Storage Sense or run it now. It’s just gone from the classic Disk Cleanup interface.

Paint and WordPad Are Now Optional Features

Microsoft has turned MS Paint and WordPad into “optional features.” Paint and WordPad are still installed by default, but you can uninstall them to free up a bit of space.

Head to Settings > Apps > Apps & features > Optional features, and you’ll see Paint and WordPad alongside other optional features like Windows Media Player.

Microsoft Paint takes up 11.6MB, and WordPad uses 9.11MB, so you won’t free up much space by removing them. Microsoft was originally going to remove Paint from Windows and distribute it via the Store, but it abandoned those plans and even updated Paint with new features.

A Header in Windows 10’s Settings App

The new banner with your user account picture in the Settings app on Windows 10.

Microsoft has been experimenting with a banner in the Settings application for a while, and it’s back in 20H1 Insider builds. The new banner appears at the top of the home screen in the Settings window, showing your picture, name, and a link to manage your Microsoft account online. It offers quick links to your OneDrive and Windows Update settings and information about their status.

Thankfully, Microsoft hasn’t included advertising for Microsoft Rewards (formerly Bing Rewards) here this time.

Quick Searches in Search Home

Quick Searches in Windows 10's Search Home panel.

When you open the “Search Home” panel by clicking the search box on the taskbar, you’ll see new “quick searches” at the bottom, giving you one-click access to things like the weather, top news, and new movies.

Bluetooth Swift Pair Improvements

A Bluetooth Swift Pair notification on Windows 10's desktop.

Microsoft is improving Windows 10’s quicker Bluetooth pairing experience, which was previously called Quick Pair and is now apparently called Swift Pair.

When you have a supported device in pairing mode nearby, you’ll see a notification that prompts you to go through pairing. This was added to Windows 10’s April 2018 Update. Now, it’s been further streamlined. The entire pairing process is performed through Windows 10’s notifications with no need to open the Settings app, and one fewer notification is shown. There’s a Dismiss button to close the notification if you don’t want to pair a device, and the notification shows more information about the device’s name and type, if possible.

This still only works with supported devices like Microsoft’s Surface keyboards and mice, but it should hopefully come to more devices in the future, making the Bluetooth pairing process quicker for more PC users.

Text Cursor Indicator

Customizing your text cursor indicator on Windows 10.

You can now adjust the size and color of Windows 10’s text cursor indicator—that little line that appears to show you where you’re typing in an application.

To find this option, head to Settings > Ease of Access > Text Cursor. Enable the new “Text Cursor Indicator,” choose a size, and pick a color that’s easy for you to see. You can select any custom color you want.

If you’re interested in this option, you might also want to adjust the size and color of your mouse cursor. Microsoft added this option back in Windows 10’s May 2019 Update.

Drag-and-Drop With Your Eyes

Eye Control interface in Windows 10

Windows 10 has an Eye Control feature that works with certain specific eye-tracking devices. It’s an accessibility feature that lets you control your PC just by moving your eyes around. In 20H1, eye tracking gets even more powerful. You can now perform a mouse drag-and-drop action just by moving your eyes around.

RELATED: Windows 10 20H1 Will Let You Drag and Drop With Your Eyes

Language Settings Improvements

New language option icons in Windows 10's Settings app.

Windows 10’s Language settings page at Settings > Time & Language > Language has been reorganized to be easier to use and understand. For example, it now shows you the default selected languages for Windows, apps and websites, your keyboard, speech, and regional settings right at the top of the screen.

This update is packed with better support for non-English languages, too. The SwiftKey touch keyboard’s “typing intelligence” features now support 39 different languages. That means more helpful autocorrect and keyboard text predictions. The improved text prediction even works when you have text prediction enabled for hardware keyboards.

Dictation also gets better. Microsoft now supports more languages when using dictation—to use it, press Windows+H while typing in any text field.

Microsoft has done a lot of work on the East Asian Microsoft Input Method Editors (IMEs). There’s a new Japanese IME and improvements to the Chinese and Korean IMEs.

Other Changes

Setting a mouse cursor speed in Windows 10's Settings app.

As usual, Windows 10’s 20H1 update is packed with smaller tweaks and bug fixes. Here are a few:

  • New DirectX 12 Features: Windows 10’s 20H1 update currently contains developer previews of DirectX 12 features like DirectX Raytracing Tier 1.1, DirectX Mesh Shader, and more. Game developers will eventually be able to take advantage of these to improve their games.
  • More Kaomoji: Microsoft has added more kaomoji to Windows 10’s emoji panel, which you can open by pressing Windows+. (period) or Windows+; (semicolon.) For example, you’ll now find ヾ(⌐■_■)ノ♪ in the list.
  • Mouse Cursor Speed in Settings: Windows 10 now lets you set your mouse cursor speed from within the Settings app at Settings > Devices > Mouse. Previously, this option was only available in the Control Panel.
  • Better Account Picture Settings: Windows 10 now makes it easier to set your account picture in Windows and across various Microsoft services. Head to Settings > Accounts > Your Info to set an account picture. When you set a picture here, Windows will now quickly update it both on your local Windows computer and across various Microsoft services—assuming you’re signed into Windows 10 with a Microsoft account.
  • Optional Features Gets Better: The Optional Features page under Settings > Apps & Features > Optional Features is getting a better interface. You can now select and install multiple features at once, search available features, and sort them in different ways. You can see the date each feature was installed and view the status of feature installation at the top of this page.
  • Wi-Fi Warning Redesign: Microsoft also says it’s changing how open Wi-Fi networks appear in the Wi-Fi list. Windows 10 will no longer display an “Other people might be able to see info you send over this network” warning message before connecting to an open Wi-FI network, which Microsoft says is confusing. Instead, there’s a new icon for secured Wi-Fi networks to more clearly emphasize you should connect to those.
  • Accessibility Improvements: Microsoft has also updated the accessibility features with more new options and improvements. For example, there’s a new command in Narrator to give a web page summary (Narrator+S).
  • Install MSIX Files Without Sideloading: System administrators will find that installing an MSIX file no longer requires enabling Sideloading in Settings or via Group Policy. Previously, installing these required enabling sideloading—just like on Android. Now, as long as the MSIX file is signed, a Windows 10 system can install it like any other application. Enterprises can still disable this type of sideloading via policy settings, but that’s no longer the default mode.
  • Windows PowerShell ISE: PowerShell’s Integrated Script Editor is now a “Feature on Demand.” It remains installed by default, and you can manage it from Settings > Apps > Apps & Features > Optional Features.

With so many months left to go, more features may appear in future Windows Insider previews. We’ll update this article as they do.

Canceled: Notepad Updated Through the Store

Windows Notepad available for download in the Windows 10 Store.

In a surprising change, Microsoft announced it would move Notepad to the Store back in August. It would now be automatically updated through the Store, allowing Microsoft to update Notepad more frequently than once every six months. You could uninstall Notepad, too.

Notepad would still be installed by default, so not much would change there. Microsoft has been updating Notepad with new features like UNIX line ending support and integrated Bing search. Microsoft wanted to update Notepad even more often.

That was the originally announced plan, anyway. Microsoft changed its mind in December and removed Notepad from the Store. Nothing has changed with Notepad—for now.

On the Way: Calls in the Your Phone App

Placing a phone call from a Windows 10 PC using an Android phone.

Windows 10’s Your Phone app will let you make and receive calls from your PC if you have a phone running Android 7 or a newer version of Android.

Microsoft has been testing this feature in 20H1 Insider builds but says it will come to all PCs running Windows 10 19H1 (the May 2019 Update) or a newer version. You’ll get this feature even if you don’t upgrade to Windows 10 version 2004.

Already Here: Online File Search in File Explorer

Windows 10's File Explorer searching online files.

This feature first appeared in Windows 10’s 20H1 update, but it’s already available as part of the November 2019 update.

In both versions of Windows 10, File Explorer has a new search experience. When you type in the search box, you’ll see a dropdown menu with a list of suggested files. It will also search for files in your OneDrive account online—not just files on your local PC.

You can still access the more powerful, classic search experience by pressing Enter. This will allow you to search non-indexed locations, for example.

Written by Chris Hoffman. Taken from How-To Geek site. 

Microsoft’s New Chromium-Based Edge Browser Is Now Available

Microsoft’s new Edge browser is now finished and available for download. This new browser is based on Chromium, which forms the basis of Google Chrome. Windows 10 users will also get the new Edge browser automatically delivered via Windows Update in the next few months.

Edge is available for Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, macOS, iPhone, iPad, and Android. Microsoft has even promised Edge for Linux in the future—no surprise, as Chrome already runs on Linux.

The new Edge browser offers many of the features found in Google Chrome, features found in the older Edge like support for inking PDF files with a stylus, and new features like Internet Explorer Mode for accessing older websites without actually opening Internet Explorer. And yes, the new Edge works with Chrome extensions.

Microsoft is also betting hard on privacy protection with “tracking prevention,” which is enabled by default on Edge and blocks many types of trackers on the web.

After you install the new Edge, the old Edge browser will be hidden on your system. The new Edge browser can automatically import the old Edge browser’s data, so you won’t lose anything.

Microsoft has more information about Edge available in its announcement post. We look forward to using it more.

Even if you stick with Google Chrome, Microsoft’s cooperation will make Chrome better.

The new Microsoft Edge browser based on Chromium, showing a New Tab page.

Written by Joel Cornell. He is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. 

How to Enable a Single Click to Open Icons on Windows 10

Double-clicking is the standard method of opening a desktop icon in Windows. It’s meant to prevent “accidental opens.” However, some people might want to access files and apps with a single click instead. If you’re among them, here’s how you can change this setting.

Enabling the Single-Click Feature in Windows 10

To change the default to open files and folders from a double- to a single-click, head to the Start Menu. Search for “File Explorer,” and then either click it when it appears or press Enter.

Click "File Explorer."

In the window, head to View > Options > Change Folder and Search Options.

Click "View," select "Options," and then click "Change Folder and Search Options."

In the pop-up window, select the “Single-Click to Open an Item (Point to Select)” radio button.

After you select this option, icons will be underlined (like a hyperlink) when you hover over them. If you want the titles of icons to be underlined all the time, select the “Underline Icon Titles Consistent with My Browser” radio button.

Select the "Single-Click to Open an Item (Point to Select)" radio button. 

Now that you’ve enabled this setting, if you ever want to select an icon without opening it, just hover your mouse over it for a moment.

You can also tell Windows to present a checkbox over each item to allow you to select it. To enable this option, click the “View” tab in the “Folder Options” pop-up window, and scroll down to “Advanced Settings.” Click the checkbox next to “Use Check Boxes to Select Items,” and then click “OK.”

Click the checkbox next to "Use Check Boxes to Select Items."

These options should increase your efficiency and give you greater flexibility on your Windows 10 device.

Written by Joel Cornell. He is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. 

So you’ve switched to Windows 10. Now what?

So you’ve made the switch to Windows 10 and are ready to put its new features to work. But which handy new functions should you take advantage of first? Here are six important things you can do to get the show on the road:

1. Create a recovery plan

Setting up a recovery drive will be your magic key to getting your operating system back online if you encounter any startup problems. You’ll need a USB flash drive and administrator access to get started. Then simply search for the Recovery Drive desktop app and follow the prompts.

2. Check for updates

Run Windows Update (you’ll find it in: Settings > Update & Security) after you finish the initial Windows 10 install. You can set future updates to install after work hours to ensure minimal disruption to your day. In Windows Update, go to “Change active hours” and specify the hour range you don’t want to be interrupted by automatic updates.

3. Secure your account

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is vital to securing your account. Register for a free Microsoft or Azure Active Directory account to set up 2FA on your system. This will require login confirmation from your specified mobile device along with your Windows 10 password. Also consider turning on BitLocker Drive Encryption to protect your personal and business data.

4. Review privacy settings

Check out the “Privacy” menu (go to: Start > Settings) to review the default privacy settings. You can set which apps have access to your personal data, and disable camera access to certain apps. You can also set up a PIN that will be used only to log into Windows 10 on your PC. Go to: Start > Settings > Accounts > Sign-in Options.

5. Set up your Action Center

You can use the Action Center in Windows 10 to block certain apps from sending notifications and also customise pop-up messages. It’s a good idea to prioritise the Quick Action buttons to keep the tasks you complete most often up front.

Jump on the Windows 10 train before the end of the line

If your business hasn’t yet migrated to Windows 10, you’re potentially missing out on a range of new features and benefits. And if you’re still on Windows 7, you’ll run out of support very soon. 

Microsoft announced 14 January 2020 as the Windows 7 end-of-support (EOS) date some time ago. After that, no more functionality or security patches will be released, so those who continue to use it will do so at their own peril. 

You can still use Windows 7 after its EOS expires, you just won’t get any protection against new viruses and malware. It’s a double hazard: Not only will your Windows 7 hardware be vulnerable, but attackers often target EOS operating systems because they’ve stopped getting security fixes.

In other words, the benefits of migrating to the new OS in conjunction with the risks and potential costs of not migrating should make your decision a no-brainer.

Plenty of benefits 

Businesses that haven’t moved will find a raft of new features on Windows 10. These include new security and productivity tools, as well as features designed to enhance interoperability with other businesses. 

Windows 10 also contains Device Manager, which has been designed to unify Android and Apple devices across a common platform to maximise business productivity by making it easier for the end user to find, for example, a specific hardware device for a particular project.

Windows 10 maximises the potential of Microsoft’s cloud services.

Other features include Intune, which specifies which user groups belong to which projects, and Windows Information Protection, which enhances corporate security by ensuring staff are working in the right programs. 

Additionally, Windows 10 maximises the potential of Microsoft’s cloud services – the Azure directory syncs networks and intranets so staff can work together on projects anywhere at any time on a large range of devices. 

Pre-upgrade checklist

Before upgrading, you may want to consider a few things:

  • What’s Windows 10’s compatibility with your overall IT infrastructure?
  • What, if any, hardware will you need to replace? Some old legacy systems may have issues.
  • Are all of your mission-critical software applications, antivirus tools and devices like printers and other peripherals compatible? Some earlier versions of QuickBooks, for example, do not work on Windows 10.
  • What advantages will Windows 10 have for your current IT infrastructure? Modern PCs – desktop, laptop or hybrid – are equipped with hardware and software features that allows you to take advantage of Windows 10’s productivity and security capabilities, like touchscreens and styluses for system navigation and note-taking, or cameras and fingerprint scanners for biometric security.

At any rate, once you’ve checked for compatibility, it may be a good idea to contact your IT partner or an IT expert to discuss your options. Whether you need a bare-minimum upgrade or are taking the opportunity to review your entire IT architecture, you’ll want to know how finance, system design, staff training and support can be rolled into a deal that’ll keep your business in tip-top condition.

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