Microsoft open-sources its cute 3D emoji, albeit without Clippy

Microsoft open-sources its cute 3D emoji, albeit without Clippy

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

As part of its Windows 11 design push, Microsoft also published fun redesigns for all of its emoji characters that added more character and texture than the older Windows 8- and 10-era versions. Today, the company is going one step further, open-sourcing the vast majority of these new “Fluent” emoji designs and publishing them to Github for anyone to modify and use.

Each open-sourced emoji has three iterations: the fully 3D version, complete with texture and color gradients; a flat “color” version that retains the basic color but removes textures and gradients (these are the ones you’ll see if you open Windows 11’s emoji menu); and a monochromatic “high contrast” version. All files are being made available as .svg vector graphics files so that they can be resized and otherwise manipulated without any loss of quality.

There are just a couple of Microsoft’s designs that it hasn’t open-sourced, including the paperclip that looks like Clippy (the character is apparently copyrighted). A couple of other emoji were excluded because Microsoft’s versions exclude the Windows logo. There is no generic version of the paperclip emoji listed among the emoji Microsoft has published.

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#emoji, #tech, #windows-11

Parallels Desktop 18 for Mac adds ProMotion support

A marketing splash image for Parallels Desktop 18, from the company's YouTube video about the release.

Enlarge / A marketing splash image for Parallels Desktop 18, from the company’s YouTube video about the release. (credit: Parallels)

Mac-based virtualization software Parallels launched a new version today. As with most updates to the suite, Parallels Desktop 18 adds support for new Apple hardware features, improves Windows virtualization, and expands compatibility.

The two headlining features of Parallels Desktop 18 are ProMotion support and several new features and optimizations for playing Windows games on Macs.

The first feature is pretty straightforward: Parallels now fully supports automatic refresh rate changes up to 120 Hz, matching the ProMotion feature in the M1-based 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro.

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#macos, #parallels, #parallels-desktop, #parallels-desktop-18, #tech, #virtual-machine, #virtualization, #vm, #windows-11

Windows 11 encryption bug could cause data loss, temporary slowdowns on newer PCs

Windows 11 encryption bug could cause data loss, temporary slowdowns on newer PCs

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft has published a knowledge base article acknowledging a problem with encryption acceleration in the newest versions of Windows that could result in data corruption. The company recommends installing the June 2022 security updates for Windows 11 and Windows Server 2022 “to prevent further damage,” though there are no suggested solutions for anyone who has already lost data because of the bug.

The problems only affect relatively recent PCs and servers that support Vector Advanced Encryption Standard (VAES) instructions for accelerating cryptographic operations. Microsoft says affected systems use AES-XTS or AES-GCM instructions “on new hardware.” Part of the AVX-512 instruction set, VAES instructions are supported by Intel’s Ice Lake, Tiger Lake, Rocket Lake, and Alder Lake architectures—these power some 10th-generation Core CPUs for laptops, as well as all 11th- and 12th-gen Core CPUs. AMD’s upcoming Zen 4 architecture also supports VAES, though by the time these chips are released in the fall, the patches will have had plenty of time to proliferate.

Microsoft says that the problem was caused when it added “new code paths” to support the updated encryption instructions in SymCrypt, Windows’ cryptographic function library. These code paths were added in the initial release of Windows 11 and Windows Server 2022, so the problem shouldn’t affect older versions like Windows 10 or Windows Server 2019. 

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The Windows 11 taskbar is getting better for people who open tons of apps

Microsoft is testing a new way to handle taskbars with too many open apps.

Enlarge / Microsoft is testing a new way to handle taskbars with too many open apps. (credit: Microsoft)

We appear to be entering a period of Windows’ development where we can expect new features and tweaks to come to the operating system several times a year. To that end, Microsoft continues to add, remove, and generally experiment with Windows 11’s features and user interface via its Insider Preview channels.

The most interesting addition we’ve seen in a while is rolling out to users on the experimental Dev Channel now: a modified version of the taskbar with much-improved handling of app icon overflow when users have too many apps open at once. Click an ellipsis button on your taskbar, and a new icon overflow menu opens up, allowing you to interact with any of those extra icons the same way you would if they were sitting on the taskbar.

This would be a big improvement over the current overflow behavior, which devotes one icon’s worth of space to show the icon for the app you last interacted with, leaving the rest inaccessible. That icon will continue to appear on the taskbar alongside the new ellipsis icon. Microsoft says that app icons in the overflow area will be able to show jump lists and other customizable shortcuts the same as any other app icon in the taskbar.

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Report: Microsoft will return to releasing new Windows versions once every 3 years

A PC running Windows 11.

Enlarge / A PC running Windows 11. (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft is planning yet another big change to the way it updates Windows, according to a report from Windows Central. Rather than updating a single version of Windows for many years as it did with Windows 10, Microsoft plans to return to a schedule where it releases a new major version of Windows roughly once every three years, putting a hypothetical “Windows 12” on track for release at some point in the fall of 2024.

On the surface, this looks a lot like a return to the pre-Windows 10 status quo. 2006’s Windows Vista was succeeded by 2009’s Windows 7, 2012’s Windows 8, and 2015’s Windows 10. But the report says that Microsoft will continue to refine the current Windows release at a steady clip, with new feature drops (internally called “Moments”) planned roughly once per quarter. We’ve already gotten a taste of that with Windows 11, which has evolved steadily throughout the year instead of saving all its big changes for the pending Windows 11 22H2 update.

When Windows 11 was released in October of 2021, Microsoft said that both Windows 11 and Windows 10 would receive major “feature update releases” once per year in the second half of the year. This was already a change from Windows 10, which received two of these updates per year. But Windows Central reports that Windows 11’s 2023 feature update has already been “scrapped,” suggesting that the big yearly update model could be going away for good.

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USB installer tool removes Windows 11’s Microsoft account requirements (and more)

The Rufus tool will offer to modify your Windows 11 install media when you create it. The workaround for the Microsoft account requirement is new to the 3.19 beta.

Enlarge / The Rufus tool will offer to modify your Windows 11 install media when you create it. The workaround for the Microsoft account requirement is new to the 3.19 beta. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

One of the new “features” coming to the Windows 11 22H2 update is a Microsoft account requirement for all new installs, regardless of whether you are using the Home or Pro version of the operating system. And that’s too bad, because the 22H2 update corrects a few of Windows 11’s original shortcomings while adding some nice quality-of-life improvements.

An easy workaround for this requirement is the Rufus USB formatting tool, which can create USB install media for Windows and all kinds of other operating systems. Rufus has already offered some flags to remove Windows 11’s system requirements checks from the installer, removing the need for clunky Windows Registry edits and other workarounds. But the beta of version 3.19 will also remove the Microsoft account requirement for new installs, making it easy to set up a new Windows PC with a traditional local account.

When setting up Windows 11, make sure not to connect your PC to the Internet before creating your user account. This trick worked to circumvent the Microsoft account requirement in Windows 11 Pro and some of the later versions of Windows 10 but is being removed entirely from Windows 11 22H2. The Rufus tool merely reverts to the pre-22H2 status quo.

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Microsoft tests refreshed, tabbed Windows 11 File Explorer design

Oft-tested and never released, tabs could be coming to Windows Explorer soon.

Enlarge / Oft-tested and never released, tabs could be coming to Windows Explorer soon. (credit: Microsoft)

Browser tabs have been a thing for decades, but the file explorers you use to navigate your computer’s storage have been slow to follow suit. The macOS Finder picked up tabs in 2013, and now Windows 11’s File Explorer is getting them too. Microsoft released a new build of Windows 11 (version 22621.160) to testers in the Windows Insider Beta channel, adding tabs to the File Explorer and relabeling and reorganizing the left-hand navigation bar.

Microsoft says that the new File Explorer may not be available to all testers yet, and it’s waiting to receive feedback on the changes before making it accessible to everyone.

Testers initially unearthed this File Explorer redesign a few months ago, but Microsoft has been testing a tabbed version of the File Explorer on and off for years. It was briefly included in a Windows 10 build in 2018, but the feature was removed before that version of Windows 10 was released later that year.

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Microsoft accidentally allowed unsupported PCs to upgrade to Windows 11 22H2

Windows 11 running on an old Windows 7-era HP laptop.

Enlarge / Windows 11 running on an old Windows 7-era HP laptop. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Microsoft began offering the Windows 11 22H2 update to Windows Insiders in the Release Preview channel earlier this week. But the update didn’t just go to people who were supposed to get it—it was also released to many PCs that don’t meet Windows 11’s stringent new system requirements.

As reported by Neowin, users on Reddit and Twitter whose unsupported Windows 10 PCs were signed up for the Release Preview channel were shown notifications that the Windows 11 22H2 update was available and that their PCs suddenly met the requirements to install it. This raised the possibility that Microsoft could be relaxing the system requirements for Windows 11, but the Windows Insider Program Twitter account confirmed Wednesday that the notifications were due to a bug and that the requirements were not changing.

Windows 11 generally requires an 8th-generation Intel Core CPU or AMD Ryzen 3000-series CPU or better, as well as Secure Boot support and TPM 2.0 for handling disk encryption and other security functions. PCs made and sold in late 2017 into 2018 can usually run the OS, while older PCs generally can’t. Microsoft argues that these newer PCs will run Windows 11 more reliably and that they support security features that older PCs don’t, though the cutoffs are still somewhat arbitrary.

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Microsoft sends Windows 11’s first yearly update to its Release Preview channel

A PC running Windows 11.

Enlarge / A PC running Windows 11. (credit: Microsoft)

Windows 11 version 22H2 has just entered Microsoft’s Release Preview channel for Windows Insiders, the company announced today. The Release Preview channel is the last stop before public release for most Windows updates, barring unforeseen show-stopping bugs, and it gives developers, businesses, and enthusiasts a chance to take new updates for a spin before general availability.

Microsoft adheres to a less rigid schedule than it used to when it comes to pushing out new apps, UI refinements, and minor feature improvements to Windows 11. The operating system has received a stream of continuous tweaks and app updates since it came out last October, including a particularly noteworthy batch of updates in February. But the 22H2 update includes more wide-ranging enhancements, a new Microsoft account sign-in requirement for new Windows 11 Pro installs, new default security settings, and other changes.

Microsoft’s support timeline for Windows updates is also tied to these yearly Windows updates. Security updates for Windows 11 version 21H1 will only be provided until October 2023, for example—if you want to keep getting security updates, you’ll eventually need to install version 22H2.

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An actively exploited Microsoft 0-day flaw still doesn’t have a patch

An actively exploited Microsoft 0-day flaw still doesn’t have a patch

Enlarge (credit: mturhanlar | Getty Images)

Researchers warned last weekend that a flaw in Microsoft’s Support Diagnostic Tool could be exploited using malicious Word documents to remotely take control of target devices. Microsoft released guidance on Monday, including temporary defense measures. By Tuesday, the United States Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency had warned that “a remote, unauthenticated attacker could exploit this vulnerability,” known as Follina, “to take control of an affected system.” But Microsoft would not say when or whether a patch is coming for the vulnerability, even though the company acknowledged that the flaw was being actively exploited by attackers in the wild. And the company still had no comment about the possibility of a patch when asked by WIRED.

The Follina vulnerability in a Windows support tool can be easily exploited by a specially crafted Word document. The lure is outfitted with a remote template that can retrieve a malicious HTML file and ultimately allow an attacker to execute Powershell commands within Windows. Researchers note that they would describe the bug as a “zero-day,” or previously unknown vulnerability, but Microsoft has not classified it as such.

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Microsoft Dev Box will virtualize your Windows development PC in a browser window

A selection of apps from the Microsoft Store.

Enlarge / A selection of apps from the Microsoft Store. (credit: Microsoft)

Among the announcements made at Microsoft’s Build developer conference yesterday was a new service for organizations that want to offer preconfigured, virtualized developer workstations on demand. Microsoft Dev Box is intended to simplify the process of getting new developer workstations up and running quickly, with all necessary tools and dependencies installed and working out-of-the-box (so to speak), along with access to up-to-date source code and fresh copies of any nightly builds.

Dev Box is built on Windows 365, a service that IT admins can use to provide preconfigured virtual PCs to users. Admins can build operating system images and offer hardware configurations with different amounts of CPU power, storage, and RAM based on what particular users (or workloads) need. Windows 365 virtual machines, including but not limited to Dev Box VMs, can be accessed from other Windows PCs, or devices running macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, or ChromeOS.

Virtualized development environments could offer many benefits to developers and testers beyond the ability to access a preconfigured dev box from anywhere. If you install software or make a change that breaks your development environment, you could easily roll back to a known-working version. Your administrator could offer different environments for different apps to prevent software conflicts or offer multiple environments for different versions of your app so you could easily maintain, test, and provide support for multiple versions at a time.

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Third-party widgets are coming to Windows 11, which might actually make them useful

Microsoft will allow third-party apps to bundle their own widgets starting later this year.

Enlarge / Microsoft will allow third-party apps to bundle their own widgets starting later this year. (credit: Microsoft)

When Windows 11 did away with support for Live Tiles, Microsoft attempted to relocate some of that quick, glance-able information into a new Widgets menu that lives in the taskbar alongside the Start and search menus. Our main issue with widgets in our Windows 11 review was that they were limited to Microsoft’s apps and services, with no mechanism for third parties to develop their own widgets.

That will change later this year, according to an announcement made at Microsoft’s Build developer conference. Third parties will be able to develop their own Windows 11 widgets “beginning later this year.” This suggests that it will be among the tweaks and new features coming for Windows 11 22H2, the operating system’s first big yearly update.

Widgets can be packaged as companions for traditional Win32 apps and Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), and they’ll use the Adaptive Cards platform that Microsoft created to enable cross-platform widgets and UI previews.

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Windows 11’s first yearly update is almost done—here’s what is (and isn’t) part of it

Windows 11 22H2 is entering its next stage of development, according to rumors—and the OS itself.

Enlarge / Windows 11 22H2 is entering its next stage of development, according to rumors—and the OS itself. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Windows 11 has already changed quite a bit since the version we reviewed in October, and Microsoft has released a steady stream of redesigned app updates, bug fixes, and user interface improvements.

But the company’s significant yearly Windows updates are still important. They’re still going to be where Microsoft makes the most significant changes to Windows 11’s look and feel and under-the-hood features. This week, rumors suggested that Microsoft is wrapping up work on what will eventually be released as Windows 11 version 22H2, the OS’s first yearly update. That build, currently available to the Windows Insider Beta channel as build number 22621.1, will serve as the foundation for the next year of Windows updates.

We cover new Windows Insider builds fairly frequently, depending on how noteworthy the changes are. But to save you the trouble of having to scroll through months of articles, we’ve gathered together all the most significant differences between the current public build of Windows 11 21H2 (for the record, 22000.675) and the latest beta of version 22H2.

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Windows 11 is bringing back Sound Recorder with a new design

Sound Recorder is back, but it's wearing Voice Recorder's clothes.

Enlarge / Sound Recorder is back, but it’s wearing Voice Recorder’s clothes. (credit: Microsoft)

Windows’ Sound Recorder app has gone through a few iterations since its initial release in Windows 3.0 back in 1990, when it launched as a simple app that could only record 60 seconds of audio at a time. But the app vanished altogether in Windows 10, replaced by a totally new app called Voice Recorder, which can record and trim basic sound recordings and save them as m4a files.

Sound Recorder is now making a comeback, and Microsoft is currently testing a revamped version for Windows Insiders in the Dev channel. The company announced the redesign in a blog post summarizing Windows 11’s updates to built-in Windows apps.

The new Sound Recorder uses a two-column layout similar to Voice Recorder’s, with playback and trimming controls to the right and a list of all the files you’ve recorded on the left. But it adds some old Sound Recorder features that disappeared from the app years ago, when it was boiled down to almost nothing in Windows Vista.

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Explaining why gamers are adopting Windows 11 more slowly than Windows 10

Explaining why gamers are adopting Windows 11 more slowly than Windows 10

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

There was a time shortly after Windows 10’s release when Microsoft would release specific adoption numbers frequently, trumpeting how quickly the then-novel free update was being adopted by users of Windows 7 and Windows 8. The company hasn’t repeated that strategy for Windows 11, leaving us to rely on third-party data to see how quickly people are picking up the new OS.

We’ve pulled a few months’ worth of the Steam Hardware & Software Survey data and compared it to the months immediately following Windows 10’s release. This data is imperfect and inevitably a bit noisy—Steam users need to volunteer to send in the data—but the disparity in adoption is large enough that we can draw at least some conclusions.

Windows 11 was released to the public in October 2021, and Windows 10 was released in July 2015. In both cases, we used the Internet Wayback Machine to dig up seven months of data, including the month immediately before the release of each operating system. We charted the usage numbers for 64-bit versions of the operating systems (32-bit versions, along with versions like Vista and XP, are lumped into “other”), combining the numbers for Windows 8.1 and 8.0.

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New wallpapers and better window snapping come to latest Windows 11 preview builds

A PC running Windows 11.

Enlarge / A PC running Windows 11. (credit: Microsoft)

Windows 11 has settled down a lot since its original release, but Microsoft continues testing new features and tweaks to the operating system in its Insider Preview program. So far this month, the builds have focused on bug fixes and UI tweaks, but a few notable changes are notable enough to call out.

This week’s build, version 22598, is relatively low on user-visible changes. One is that “a limited number of Windows Insiders” performing clean installs will have their desktop wallpapers set to rotating Windows Spotlight images by default. The other change is Microsoft experimenting with 4K wallpapers via Spotlight. There’s also a new album-centric view for artist pages in the redesigned Media Player app.

Last week’s preview, build 22593, brought some changes for the File Explorer and some window management improvements. The default view for new File Explorer windows is now called “Home,” though the available content doesn’t change much. Folders can still be pinned to your Home window, but the “Quick access” label has been moved from the navigation sidebar to the main window, and “pinned” files are now called “Favorites” to make them more consistent with the labeling used in OneDrive and Office.

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Annoying desktop watermark comes to users of unsupported Windows 11 PCs

Windows 11 running on an old Windows 7-era HP laptop.

Enlarge / Windows 11 running on an old Windows 7-era HP laptop. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Windows 11 has stricter system requirements than any Windows version before it, dropping support for a wide range of pre-2018 PCs in the name of improving the Windows platform’s security baseline. You can work around these requirements to install Windows 11 on unsupported PCs relatively easily, but Microsoft added warnings to its installer and has threatened to withhold updates from these systems. So far, the company hasn’t followed through on that threat. But using Windows 11 on these somewhat older computers is about to get more annoying.

A new Windows 11 update adds a “system requirements not met” watermark to the desktop of unsupported PCs, similar to the watermark you might see if you were running an early beta or unactivated version of Windows. This message will presumably appear when your PC doesn’t meet one or more of the operating system’s core security requirements: a supported Intel, AMD, or ARM processor; Secure Boot support; and TPM 2.0 hardware or firmware. The screenshot below is from a PC that supports TPM 2.0 and Secure Boot but uses an unsupported 6th-generation Intel Core CPU.

The watermark you'll begin seeing on unsupported PCs. A similar "requirements not met" message will also appear in the Settings app.

The watermark you’ll begin seeing on unsupported PCs. A similar “requirements not met” message will also appear in the Settings app. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

The new Windows 11 version (build number 22000.588) is currently in the Windows Insider Release Preview channel reserved for updates that will roll out to everyone within a few days or weeks. That means most people with unsupported hardware will begin seeing this message sooner rather than later, provided they’re keeping their PCs up to date.

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Microsoft accidentally reveals that it is testing ads in Windows Explorer

Microsoft accidentally reveals that it is testing ads in Windows Explorer

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Ars Technica)

Windows 11 testers are regularly finding new Windows 11 features that Microsoft wasn’t ready to show anyone yet. Sometimes that means digging up a new Task Manager or tabs for the File Explorer. And sometimes it means finding advertisements for other Microsoft products as you browse your own locally stored files.

Microsoft MVP Florian Beaubois found an example of the latter when he saw an ad promoting Microsoft Editor while viewing his Documents folder in a Windows 11 build. In a statement to The Verge, Microsoft Senior Program Manager Brandon LeBlanc acknowledged that the banner ad was genuine, but he said that it had been “experimental” and that it “was not intended to be published externally and was turned off.”

As The Verge notes, “we didn’t mean for anyone to see that” is not a promise to never run ads in Windows Explorer, and Microsoft’s behavior around its Edge browser, Microsoft account requirements, and prompts to try OneDrive and Microsoft 365 all indicate that the company has no problem with this kind of aggressive internal promotion of its own products and services. It’s an unfortunate reality that comes with using a big company’s products—you’ll get promo notifications for Apple TV+ on your iPhone, suggestions that you switch to Chrome when you’re using Gmail, or prominent ads for Alexa-based products every time you try to buy a $6 cable on Amazon.

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A mixed bag of Windows 11 beta updates includes hidden File Explorer tabs

The File Explorer is finally getting some tabs.

Enlarge / The File Explorer is finally getting some tabs. (credit: Rafael Rivera)

Microsoft is testing a tabbed interface for the Windows 11 File Explorer, according to screenshots from developer Rafael Rivera. You can’t access the feature without changing hidden settings in the latest Insider Preview build for the Dev channel, but XDA Developers has published a guide on enabling the interface. The process involves downloading ViveTool, a utility that has been used to dig up other present-but-hidden features in Windows preview builds.

Microsoft briefly tested File Explorer tabs in Windows 10 but never ended up including the feature in the publicly released version of the OS. We’d expect the tabbed File Explorer interface to be formally introduced and enabled in a future Windows 11 Insider build, as we saw in the redesigned Task Manager and a few other UI changes that have been discovered before they were announced.

Insiders have gotten other less-hidden Windows features in their builds this week, including tweaks to the Android Subsystem for Windows that improve scrolling performance and a few other features. A Microsoft Family app made for managing parental controls will be included in all installs of Windows 11 Home. The print queue has been given a Windows 11-style makeover, yet another example of how deep Microsoft is beginning to dig into the OS to make it feel more unified and consistent. And the web-based Clipchamp video editor has been added to default Windows 11 installs (though its best features, including higher-than-480p video exporting, are still gated behind an expensive subscription).

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Microsoft is trying to lower carbon emissions via Windows Update, of all things

Windows Update will try to do its thing when your local power grid is being powered with green energy sources.

Enlarge / Windows Update will try to do its thing when your local power grid is being powered with green energy sources. (credit: Microsoft)

A future Windows 11 update might make your PC more environmentally conscious. In the latest Windows Insider preview build released to the Dev channel, Microsoft is testing out a new feature that it says might help reduce carbon emissions. Using “regional carbon intensity data” from electricityMap and Watttime, Windows will keep tabs on what kinds of power your electrical grid is currently using and will attempt to install updates “when greater amounts of clean energy sources (like wind, solar, and hydro) are available.

Prior to this, Windows Update’s dynamic scheduling would mainly try to install updates at times when you weren’t likely to be using your computer. The feature won’t work if those carbon-intensive data sources aren’t available in your area, and they also only apply to PCs that are plugged in, not those running on battery power. Users can still opt to install updates manually whenever they please.

Elsewhere, the new developer build continues the rapid rate of changes we’ve seen since Microsoft got its big Windows 11 update out the door to the public last month. The “open with” dialogue box that pops up sometimes after you install new apps has been changed from a square-cornered Windows 8- and 10-era design to a new Mica-infused Windows 11 look. More Microsoft account settings are manageable from within the Settings app. The animations that accompany some touch gestures have been refined. Searching for things in the Settings app should be more accurate, and the Settings app has been tweaked “for a consistent look and feel across the app.”

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Microsoft identifies and mitigates new malware targeting Ukraine “within 3 hours”

Shadowy figures stand beneath a Microsoft logo on a faux wood wall.

Enlarge (credit: Drew Angerer | Getty Images)

Microsoft has been pushing harder to increase the baseline security features of Windows PCs for a couple of years now—the “secured-core PC” initiative launched back in 2019 was meant to guard against firmware-level attacks, and Windows 11’s system requirements mandate support for many supported-but-optional security features from Windows 10. Microsoft justified these new requirements in part by pointing to the NotPetya data-wiping malware, which has widely been attributed to Russian hackers.

To help protect against similar cyberattacks, a post from Microsoft President & Vice Chair Brad Smith is detailing more about how the company is responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. According to the post, Microsoft was able to identify new wiper malware (dubbed “FoxBlade”) and provided both mitigation strategies and updated Microsoft Defender definitions to the Ukrainian government “within three hours” of discovering it.

Reporting from The New York Times provides additional details of how Microsoft worked with US government agencies to distribute the FoxBlade fixes with other European countries to limit or prevent its potential spread.

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#biz-it, #russian-invasion-of-ukraine, #tech, #windows-11

Windows 10 and 11 bug can leave user data on disk after a system reset

Windows 10 and 11 bug can leave user data on disk after a system reset

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Windows 10 and 11 both include a system reset option that will revert your Windows installation to a pristine state, useful when you’re trying to fix weird behavior or get your PC ready to sell or give to someone else.

When it’s working properly, this system-reset feature offers to wipe all of your data from the disk to prevent the next owner from accessing any of your stuff. But a bug in the newest versions of Windows 11 and Windows 10 is keeping that feature from working properly for some locally stored OneDrive data, leaving it unencrypted and fully accessible even if you had been using disk encryption before the reset.

Microsoft acknowledges the issue on its page of known issues for Windows 10 and Windows 11 and provides further details on the data that’s being exposed. Specifically, if your PC runs “apps which have folders with reparse data, such as OneDrive or OneDrive for Business, files which have been downloaded or synced locally from OneDrive might not be deleted when selecting the ‘Remove everything’ option.” The files can be exposed whether you’re wiping your system yourself or an IT administrator is wiping a system remotely—that could be especially problematic for institutions attempting to wipe a lost or stolen laptop to protect the data on it.

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All-new touch-friendly taskbar comes to latest Windows 11 preview

Stylus next to a digital tablet.

Enlarge / Touchscreen devices like the Surface will benefit from some of the new features in the latest Windows 11 preview builds. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Microsoft famously went all-in on a tablet-centric touchscreen interface with Windows 8, and the company has spent pretty much every major Windows release since then slowly backing away from that decision. That retreat culminated in Windows 11, which fully removed the last vestiges of Tablet Mode that had survived in Windows 10.

But the last couple Windows 11 Insider Preview builds have augmented Windows 11’s touchscreen capabilities. The build released to Dev channel users last week included new gestures, changes to how snapping windows works when in tablet mode, and a few other improvements. And a new build released today totally overhauls the taskbar for touchscreens.

Windows 11 in its current form adds more space between icons when you’re using your device as a tablet, but the new preview goes further. When you’re using apps, the taskbar will shrink to a narrow strip across the bottom of the screen: it’s still tall enough to show the clock and your network, sound, and battery status icons, but all your pinned apps and other system tray icons are hidden. Swiping up from the bottom of the screen or closing an app window brings up a new, larger version of the taskbar with larger, more finger-friendly icons and spacing. The taskbar disappears again once you’ve launched your app.

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You’ll need a Microsoft account to set up future versions of Windows 11 Pro

New preview build adds Microsoft account requirement to Windows 11 Pro

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Now that Windows 11’s first major post-release update has been issued, Microsoft has started testing a huge collection of new features, UI changes, and redesigned apps in the latest Windows Insider preview for Dev channel users. By and large, the changes are significant and useful—there’s an overhauled Task Manager, folders for pinned apps in the Start menu, the renewed ability to drag items into the Taskbar (as you could in Windows 10), improvements to the Do Not Disturb and Focus modes, new touchscreen gestures, and a long list of other fixes and enhancements.

But tucked away toward the bottom of the changelog is one unwelcome addition: Like the Home edition of Windows 11, the Pro version will now require an Internet connection and a Microsoft Account during setup. In the current version of Windows 11, you could still create a local user account during setup by not connecting your PC to the Internet—something that also worked in the Home version of Windows 10 but was removed in 11. That workaround will no longer be available in either edition going forward, barring a change in Microsoft’s plans.

While most devices do require a sign-in to fully enable app stores, cloud storage, and cross-device sharing and syncing, Windows 11 will soon stand alone as the only major consumer OS that requires account sign-in to enable even basic functionality. Apple’s Macs still allow for local account creation during setup, and you can skip signing in when you set up iPhones and iPads (an Internet connection is sometimes required for device activation, though). Android likewise needs an Internet account for activation but doesn’t require signing in to get you to the home screen. Even Chrome OS has a guest mode that you can use to enable basic browsing without a user account.

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ChromeOS Flex is an ideal off-ramp for millions of PCs that can’t run Windows 11

ChromeOS Flex is an ideal off-ramp for millions of PCs that can’t run Windows 11

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

October 14, 2025, marks the end of support and security updates for the Home and Pro versions of Windows 10. That means it’s also the end of official guaranteed feature and security updates for Windows PCs that don’t meet Windows 11’s hardware requirements.

Viewed from early 2022, that date is still comfortably far off. Lots of Windows 10 PCs will break over the next 3.5 years, and plenty of people who actually want to upgrade to nicer or faster hardware will have opportunities to do so. But as someone who enjoys repairing, maintaining, and upgrading older hardware to keep it useful, we’ll be peering over the edge of that Windows 10 update cliff before we know it.

The question is: what happens to that hardware when Windows 10 goes away? Running Windows 11 on unsupported hardware is one possible solution, but we have no idea for how long Microsoft will actually allow installing, running, and updating Windows 11 on older PCs; the company could cut off these computers’ security updates tomorrow, or it could allow them to run the new OS indefinitely, and that uncertainty is hard to plan around.

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Microsoft will tweak Windows 11’s UI and features pretty much whenever it wants

Microsoft will tweak Windows 11’s UI and features pretty much whenever it wants

Enlarge (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Microsoft announced that Windows 11 would be getting a few updates of note this month, and today, those updates are available for most Windows 11 PCs to install. The full list includes a preview of Windows 11’s virtualized Android apps, new versions of Notepad and Media Player (the latter of which replaces Microsoft Groove), and a handful of updates to the Taskbar that add new features and restore a couple of old ones.

To get the taskbar improvements, you’ll need to go to Windows Update and manually install the 2022-02 Update Preview; otherwise, you’ll get it automatically in the next few weeks. The Media Player and Notepad app updates will be downloaded via the Microsoft Store with no extra effort involved, unless you’ve manually switched off Microsoft Store app updates. And running Android apps in Windows 11 requires slightly higher system requirements than Windows 11 itself, including an 8th-gen-or-newer Intel Core i3 processor or a 3000-series-or-newer AMD Ryzen CPU, an SSD instead of a hard drive, 8GB or more of memory, and virtualization support that has been enabled in your PC’s firmware.

If you already knew these updates were coming, the most interesting bit comes toward the end of Microsoft’s blog post, where the company says it plans to keep bringing new features to Windows 11 through a “variety of update mechanisms.” The promised “continuous innovation” fits with the company’s plans to make its Windows 11 preview builds more experimental in 2022. It also signals an ongoing shift toward a more web-browser-y model of small-but-frequent feature updates rather than holding back big changes for once-per-year servicing updates as Microsoft generally did during the Windows 10 era.

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Coming soon to Windows 11: More reminders that your PC doesn’t meet the requirements

Windows 11 is going to keep reminding you if your hardware isn't supported, even if it's already installed and running fine.

Enlarge / Windows 11 is going to keep reminding you if your hardware isn’t supported, even if it’s already installed and running fine. (credit: @thebookisclosed on Twitter)

If you’re running Windows 11 on one of the many PCs that don’t meet its stringent system requirements, your experience so far probably hasn’t been all that different from someone running it on an “officially” supported system. Despite multiple warnings that Microsoft might withhold basic security updates from these devices, so far, they’ve gotten the same updates at the same time as “supported” PCs.

But that doesn’t mean these PCs will receive updates in perpetuity, and Microsoft does still want you to know that your PC is unsupported when it doesn’t meet the system requirements. To that end, Twitter user Albacore has discovered a message at the top of the Settings app that will remind you when your PC doesn’t meet Windows 11’s requirements. To date, these kinds of reminders and warning messages have happened before and during the Windows 11 install process, not after.

This new message is one of a few new experimental features lurking below the surface of Microsoft’s current Windows 11 testing builds. Others, which as the company has recently noted may or may not ever see the light of day, include customizable “stickers” for the desktop, a sustainability rating to measure and improve your PC’s power efficiency (shades of the Windows Experience Index), a possible return of some Tablet Mode features that were removed in the migration from Windows 10 to Windows 11, and a better overflow mode for your taskbar when it has too many icons in it.

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Windows 11’s preview builds are getting more experimental in 2022

The Windows Insider program's new logo.

Enlarge / The Windows Insider program’s new logo. (credit: Microsoft)

Windows 11 will be getting a significant new feature update sometime this month, and Microsoft is taking the opportunity to make some changes to its Windows Insider public beta program. The company outlined its plans in a blog post, along with a new logo (it looks like people but also hearts, neat).

Microsoft’s plans primarily impact the Dev channel, which will be “a place to incubate new ideas” but will more importantly be a place where Microsoft tests competing versions of features to see which one gets the best response. Some of the features might make it into the consumer version of Windows soon, some might make it eventually, and some may disappear never to be seen or heard from again.

For context, the Insider Preview program has three channels, each of which represents a different stage of Windows development. The Dev channel is updated frequently and previews not-always-stable, not-always-finished versions of new fixes and features, some of which are uncovered by external developers before Microsoft is ready to talk about them. The Beta channel is where near-final versions of features are tested before being tweaked for public release, and the Release Preview channel generally gets the exact same builds of Windows that are released to the general public a few days or weeks before everyone else.

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Major Windows 11 update, with taskbar tweaks and Android apps, coming in February

A PC running Windows 11.

Enlarge / A PC running Windows 11. (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft will be tending to some of the unfinished parts of Windows 11 in an update next month, according to a blog post by Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay. Foremost among the new features will be a public preview for Android apps running in Windows, a feature Microsoft promoted when it announced Windows 11 back in June of 2021.

Microsoft also called out a few other areas of improvement in the post: redesigns for the Notepad and Media Player apps, taskbar improvements, a universal call mute and unmute button, “easier window sharing,” and adding the weather directly to the taskbar instead of keeping it in a widget.

Most of these updates have already been available for Windows Insiders in the Beta and Dev channels for a while, so you can read our preview coverage (for Notepad, taskbar changes, and lots of miscellaneous bits and pieces) to get a good sense of what things will look like. It’s possible that we’ll see changes that Microsoft hasn’t made public yet, but major changes are unlikely to skip the preview channels before being widely released. 

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Developers unearth the bones of an overhauled Task Manager for Windows 11

A look at the Windows 11-style Task Manager, with Mica theming and dark mode support.

Enlarge / A look at the Windows 11-style Task Manager, with Mica theming and dark mode support. (credit: FireCubeStudios)

Microsoft’s piecemeal approach to updating and unifying Windows 11’s new look has led to updates for all kinds of old and obscure corners of the operating system, including everything from the volume indicator and the system icons to the humble Paint, Calculator, and Notepad apps. The next app to get its once-every-decade-or-two design renovation may be the Windows Task Manager, and it would be the first major update since Windows 8 came out a decade ago.

The Verge reports that engineering student Gustave Monce spotted the new Task Manager design lurking in a current preview build of Windows 11 (the FireCube Studios Twitter account later posted instructions for enabling it yourself). The app’s basic structure is visible in these builds—like all Windows 11-era apps, the window uses Mica theming and has dark mode support, and it trades the current Task Manager’s horizontal row of tabs for a vertical stack of navigation buttons that mirrors the modern Settings and Windows Security apps. Those text labels will also collapse into a vertical stack of buttons if the window is resized.

According to screenshots posted by users who have the new Task Manager working, it doesn’t look like the redesigned app includes significant functional improvements; the vertical buttons all correspond to the tabs in the current Task Manager, and the views for monitoring processes and resource usage all look pretty much the same as they do now. But the new design is clearly a work in progress, and Microsoft may have more changes planned before it formally introduces the redesigned app to Windows Insiders.

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Decade-old volume indicator gets a new look in latest Windows 11 preview

The humble volume indicator, reimagined for Windows 11.

Enlarge / The humble volume indicator, reimagined for Windows 11. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Improving Windows 11’s visual and functional consistency is shaping up to be a major priority for Microsoft this year, as evinced by the continued updates to core apps like Notepad, Paint, and Media Player, as well as the ongoing effort to move advanced settings out of the old Windows 7-era Control Panels and into the modern Settings app. Restoring some flexibility to redesigned areas of the OS like the Start menu and Taskbar has also been a focus.

The latest Windows 11 Insider build released to Dev channel users continues this work, updating the overlays for volume, brightness, and other settings to match Windows 11’s more rounded look. The new indicators pop up in the bottom center of your screen rather than the top left, will match your light or dark mode setting, and, like the Start menu and taskbar, they use Mica styling to match the color of your desktop wallpaper.

The other changes in this preview build are pretty small; “Apps and Features” in the Windows + X shortcut menu has been relabeled as “Installed apps,” the Voice Access accessibility feature can be pinned to the Taskbar and Start menu, and the Clock app can be uninstalled. Exciting times!

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Firefox 95 for Windows and Mac introduces RLBox, a new sandboxing tech

A minimalist view of the Firefox web browser.

Enlarge / A minimalist view of the Firefox web browser. (credit: Firefox)

Mozilla has released the latest version of Firefox, Firefox 95, for Windows and macOS. It’s available now for all users on both platforms.

The Firefox team says the new macOS version reduces CPU usage during event processing and that power usage is reduced while streaming video from sites like Netflix, “especially in fullscreen.” macOS users will also get a faster content process startup and will enjoy memory allocator improvements for better overall performance.

On both macOS and Windows, Mozilla has “improved page load performance by speculatively compiling JavaScript ahead of time.” There’s also a way to move the picture-in-picture toggle button to the opposite side of the video on both platforms, plus a handful of fixes.

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Microsoft rolls out revamped Notepad app to Windows 11 Insiders

The new Notepad app in Windows 11.

Enlarge / The new Notepad app in Windows 11. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Microsoft is continuing to update and refine Windows 11 two months after its public release, and the Notepad app is the latest bit of the operating system to get some attention. The updated version of the Notepad app is rolling out to Windows Insiders in the Dev channel, where the company is also testing tweaks to the taskbar and Start menu, a new-old button for setting the default web browser, an updated Media Player app, and other changes.

The main changes appear pretty much as they did in the leaked Notepad screenshots from early October: there are a new unified title bar and menu bar that pick up Windows 11’s “mica” styling, as well as dark-mode support, support for switching between dark and light mode, and modernized font controls.

Microsoft has added a few nonaesthetic features to Notepad, but so far the company is focusing on making the program better at the kinds of simple text and code editing that Notepad is good for. Microsoft isn’t trying to make Notepad a more advanced or rich-text editor. For starters, the program picks up a multilevel Undo function, whereas the current Notepad app can only undo and redo the very last thing that you did. There’s also a new find and replace dialog that takes up less space.

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Microsoft restores individual “default browser” setting in Windows 11 preview

Microsoft restores individual “default browser” setting in Windows 11 preview

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson)

It’s been a rough week for Microsoft’s Edge browser in the court of public opinion as users grumbled about the addition of a controversial “buy now, pay later” financing feature and another layer of pop-up messages that tries to dissuade users from installing Google Chrome. But Microsoft isn’t totally unresponsive to user criticism when it comes to Edge—the latest Dev channel Windows Insider build of Windows 11 restores a button in the Settings app for setting your default browser, something that existed in Windows 10 but is missing from the current stable version of Windows 11.

The change, originally spotted by developer Rafael Rivera, adds the default browser button to the top of the Settings app when you navigate to any browser in the “Default apps” section. The button automatically changes the default app for opening http, https, .htm, and .html files and links instead of making users change each of these associations manually (or relying on browser makers to build that capability into their browsers themselves).

For all the other file types that Microsoft Edge can handle, including PDFs, SVG files, and others, you’ll still need to change those associations manually and one at a time. But this is already how the default browser button worked in Windows 10, so it at least represents a reversion to the pre-Windows 11 status quo rather than a new hurdle to jump over.

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Preview builds begin to fix Windows 11’s Start menu and taskbar

The new Start menu kills Live Tiles and puts the All apps view on a separate screen. Like the taskbar, it's cleaner-looking but also less customizable and flexible than before.

Enlarge / The new Start menu kills Live Tiles and puts the All apps view on a separate screen. Like the taskbar, it’s cleaner-looking but also less customizable and flexible than before. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Microsoft may have given the taskbar and Start menu a fresh coat of paint in Windows 11, but the updated look also came with new limitations. Microsoft appears to be listening to at least some of the ensuing complaints because the latest preview build of Windows 11 for Windows Insiders in the Dev channel includes some improvements to both the taskbar and the Start menu, among many other tweaks.

For example, the Windows 11 version of the taskbar won’t show the time and date on all monitors in a multi-monitor setup, only on the primary monitor; in this preview build, the time and date show up on all monitors again. Hooray!

In the Start menu, users will be able to shift the balance between pinned apps and “recommended” items depending on what they want to see more of. “More pins” adds another row of pinned apps while shrinking the Recommended field to just a couple of entries, while the “more recommendations” view removes a row of app icons and displays up to eight recommended items.

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Two months in, Windows 11 is still a work in progress

A PC running Windows 11.

Enlarge / A PC running Windows 11. (credit: Microsoft)

When we reviewed Windows 11 nearly two months ago, it was obvious that some areas of the operating system were still under construction. Many of the built-in apps were still in need of updates, and a handful of features that had been promised back at Windows 11’s unveiling in June were still either in preview or missing entirely.

Windows 11 now has two months of updates under its belt. Many of those have focused on fixing the OS’s early problems, but others have slowly added features to bring it closer to what Microsoft originally announced. We’ve covered many of those updates as they’ve been released. But if you’re still on the fence about upgrading and you haven’t been following closely, we’ve put together a quick list of bug fixes and features that have come out since Windows 11 was launched, things Microsoft has been testing since early October, and a few things that we still haven’t seen.

Available to the public

The initial release of Windows 11 was build number 22000.194 (you can see this number by running “winver” from the Run box or the Start menu’s search bar). As of the November 2021 update, build number 22000.348, the following things have been added, tweaked, or fixed:

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Next Windows 11 update brings back Clippy, along with redesigned emoji

Some of Windows 11's new emoji designs.

Enlarge / Some of Windows 11’s new emoji designs. (credit: Microsoft)

We’re nearly two months out from the public release of Windows 11, and Microsoft is still slowly updating bits and pieces of the operating system that weren’t quite ready in early October. Microsoft announced redesigned emoji back in July, and the next Windows update (version 22000.348, if you’re tracking this sort of thing) adds those emoji to Windows 11.

The new emoji remove the bold, black outlines from the Windows 10-era designs and change the colors and shapes of a few to make them match up better with Apple’s, Google’s, and Samsung’s glyphs—compare the new design for Spiral Shell to the old one, for an example. There are also a few cute Microsoft-specific touches, like a Clippy design for the paperclip emoji, though Ninja Cat appears to have been removed entirely.

A selection of the old Windows 10-style emoji (left) and the Windows 11 redesigns. The new versions drop the thick outlines, so now they all look lighter and brighter.

A selection of the old Windows 10-style emoji (left) and the Windows 11 redesigns. The new versions drop the thick outlines, so now they all look lighter and brighter.

These emoji use the basic designs that Microsoft showed off earlier this year—but without animation or the “3D” touches, like added depth and color gradients. The Verge speculates that this is a limitation of the vector graphics format Microsoft uses to display emoji in Windows—using vector graphics can reduce file sizes while making it a lot simpler to scale the size of emoji up and down without losing sharpness or detail, but it also works best with flat colors. We may yet see the 3D animated emoji in other Microsoft apps, like Teams.

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#clippy, #emoji, #tech, #windows-11

Next Windows 11 update makes the Blue Screen of Death blue again

Next Windows 11 update makes the Blue Screen of Death blue again

(credit: javelinnl)

Microsoft is pushing another bug-fix update for Windows 11 out to its Beta and Release Preview Insider channels today, and like all the Windows 11 bug-fix updates released so far, the list of resolved issues is more than long enough to vindicate anyone who decided to stay on Windows 10 for a few more months. The update (version number 22000.346, for the record) fixes rendering problems with the new Taskbar and Start menu, some Bluetooth audio volume control problems, issues running some 32-bit apps, and a variety of printer problems, among many other things.

Buried amongst its other, more important tweaks is the rollback of one of Windows 11’s cosmetic additions: the “Black Screen of Death.” This update will change the color of this system-killing error screen back to blue, “as in previous versions of Windows” (and as the computer gods intended).

The Blue Screen of Death (or BSoD) has become iconic in its own right, with a fairly active Reddit community dedicated to spotting it and other computer errors out in the wild. It’s a reminder that beneath the shiny artifice of our screen-filled modern existence lurks a bunch of decrepit PCs that, like pandemic-era humanity, are often just barely holding it together.

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Expired Windows 11 certificate breaks some built-in apps and tools

Screenshot of Windows user interface.

Enlarge / The new Snipping Tool updates its predecessor’s Windows 7-era UI while integrating the features of Windows 10’s duplicative Snip & Sketch tool. (credit: Microsoft)

If you’ve been noticing strange issues with some of Windows 11’s built-in apps and tools since the calendar rolled over to November, you’re not alone. In a post on Microsoft’s Known Issues page for Windows 11, the company says that an expired digital certificate is rendering some users “unable to open or use certain built-in Windows apps or parts of some built-in apps.”

Affected apps include the Snipping Tool, the Accounts page of the Settings app (but only when running Windows in S mode), the Touch Keyboard, Voice Typing, the Emoji picker, the Input Method Editor, and the Tips app. There’s no indication that Windows 10’s versions of any of these apps have been affected.

For everything but the Snipping Tool and the S mode Settings app, an update to fix the problems is already available—it’s the same 22000.282 build that addressed some of Windows 11’s AMD Ryzen performance issues. Check Windows Update and install that patch to fix those issues. Fixes for the other problems are still in progress.

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Report: Microsoft is working on a low-cost Surface Laptop and “Windows 11 SE”

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

Enlarge / The Surface Laptop Go. (credit: Jeff Dunn)

Microsoft may have another Surface announcement to make before the end of the year, according to a rumor from Windows Central. The report claims that Microsoft is working on a low-cost, education-focused device, codenamed “Tenjin,” designed to compete with Chromebooks in schools. The laptop could be “announced before the end of this year if plans don’t change,” the report says. It would also run a new variant of Windows 11, dubbed “Windows 11 SE.”

The laptop would come with a low-end quad-core Intel Celeron N4120 processor, “up to” 8 GB of memory, an 11.6-inch 1366×768 display, and an all-plastic body. It would eschew the normal Surface Connect port in favor of a single USB-A port, a USB-C port, and a “barrel-style AC port.” Presumably, the laptop could charge through either the AC port or the USB-C port, as current Surface devices do.

Such a laptop would slot in below the $549 12.4-inch Surface Laptop Go in Microsoft’s lineup, and accomplishing that in today’s supply-crunched, chip-shortage-afflicted PC market would definitely require some cost-cutting. That would explain the device’s use of a two-year-old, underpowered Celeron processor and a low-resolution 16:9 display, breaking with the Surface lineup’s longstanding tradition of using screens with a taller 3:2 aspect ratio. The laptop may not even be available through typical retail channels, mirroring a strategy Microsoft already uses with certain business-focused Surface configurations and specific models like the Surface Pro 7+. Only offering the machine in bulk to educational institutions could further reduce the price.

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AMD and Microsoft release fixes for Ryzen slowdowns in Windows 11

AMD and Microsoft release fixes for Ryzen slowdowns in Windows 11

Enlarge (credit: AMD)

Microsoft and AMD have both released patches to fix the AMD Ryzen performance bugs present in the initial versions of Windows 11, according to an AMD knowledgebase article that was updated late yesterday.

AMD has provided a new chipset driver to fix a problem that broke the “preferred core” feature that can boost performance on high-core-count, high-TDP Ryzen processors. Even if your system isn’t affected by this specific bug because you’re running Windows 10 or a lower-core-count Ryzen CPU, the new driver has fixes for a handful of other Ryzen and Threadripper systems running either Windows 10 or Windows 11.

Another issue affected L3 cache latency on all Ryzen processors, lowering performance by between 3 and 5 percent for most apps and by up to 15 percent for some games. Microsoft began issuing a fix for the L3 cache issue to testers last week, and it’s one of the many issues fixed in build 22000.282 of Windows 11 (you can see your build number by typing “winver” into a Run window or Windows Search).

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Amazon’s Android apps come to the latest Windows 11 beta

Android apps listed in the Microsoft Store.

Enlarge / Android apps listed in the Microsoft Store. (credit: Microsoft)

Windows 11 shipped without the promised support for Android apps from the Amazon App Store, but Microsoft has announced the first preview of the feature for Windows Insiders in the Windows 11 Beta channel today.

The initial preview is only available to users in the United States, and it still isn’t live as of this writing, despite Microsoft’s blog post. But when the update does hit, it will provide access to 50 Android apps, including games, educational apps, and the Kindle app. Microsoft will release new apps to Windows Insiders on its favorite timeline: “in the coming months.”

Android apps running on Windows 11 won’t look or feel like native Windows apps, but they will support basic integration with the rest of the operating system, including access to the Action Center for notifications and the Clipboard. Microsoft also says that “many Windows accessibility settings apply to Android apps,” but it didn’t specify which.

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Fixes for AMD Ryzen performance, other Windows 11 issues rolling out to testers now

A PC running Windows 11.

Enlarge / A PC running Windows 11. (credit: Microsoft)

Now that Windows 11 is out, the arduous process of fixing the new operating system’s bugs can begin. The OS got its first Patch Tuesday update earlier this week, and now another update is rolling out to Windows Insiders in the Beta and Release Preview channels. It fixes a long list of early problems with Windows 11.

The headliner here is a fix for a problem affecting L3 cache latency on AMD Ryzen processors. According to AMD, the bug can reduce performance by 3–5 percent. The Windows 11 update released earlier this week may have actually made the problem worse, but at least a fix is imminent.

The L3 latency bug is one of a pair of problems that AMD identified with Windows 11 earlier this month. The other Windows 11 problem AMD identified, which can prevent high-core-count, high-wattage Ryzen chips from correctly assigning work to the processor’s fastest individual cores, will be fixed via an AMD driver update.

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Microsoft puts the Windows Subsystem for Linux in its app store for faster updating

Microsoft puts the Windows Subsystem for Linux in its app store for faster updating

Enlarge (credit: Microsoft)

For a certain kind of person, the new additions to the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) are some of the best features in Windows 11. And Microsoft has announced that it will be even easier to get new WSL features in the future. The company has posted a preview version of WSL to the Microsoft Store so that Windows 11 users can download and update WSL independently of other Windows updates.

Many of Windows’ built-in apps have already moved to being updated through the Microsoft Store rather than through regular Windows Updates. This gives the company more flexibility when deciding when to update apps, though one side effect has been that many of Windows 11’s preinstalled apps still haven’t been fully updated for Windows 11. But long-term, it also means you don’t need to wait for a new Windows update to benefit from updated apps.

For WSL, this means you won’t need to install major, potentially disruptive Windows updates (like, say, Windows 11) just to take advantage of new WSL additions. Microsoft specifically calls out “GUI app support, GPU compute, and Linux file system drive mounting” as the kinds of major features that can be added via Microsoft Store updates, in addition to less flashy updates like new Linux kernel versions.

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The latest app to get a Windows 11 redesign? The humble Notepad

The new Notepad app looks a lot like the old one, with condensed menus and added padding to make the menus more touch-friendly.

Enlarge / The new Notepad app looks a lot like the old one, with condensed menus and added padding to make the menus more touch-friendly. (credit: @FireCubeStudios)

Windows 11 is out, but the process of updating the operating system’s built-in apps continues. Over the weekend, screenshots leaked for an as-yet-unannounced redesign of the Notepad app, which currently looks and works more or less as it has since Windows XP came out two decades ago (though under-the-hood updates have added new capabilities, like support for the line-ending style used in Linux and macOS text files).

The screenshots were posted and deleted by a “Microsoft engineer” but preserved by FireCubeStudios on Twitter, and they suggest that Microsoft isn’t reinventing Notepad in the style of more advanced apps like Notepad++ or Emacs. The screenshots show fewer menu options with a larger, more touch-friendly amount of padding between them, as well as theming options and setting a different default font. Also listed is a “Classic” mode for opening files, though exactly how that differs from the default experience remains to be seen.

The leaked version of Notepad appears to support dark mode (not shown here but implied by the "app theme" option), plus the ability to change the default font.

The leaked version of Notepad appears to support dark mode (not shown here but implied by the “app theme” option), plus the ability to change the default font. (credit: @FireCubeStudios)

The unfinished state of Windows 11’s built-in apps was one complaint from our full review and something that keeps the operating system from feeling fully modernized and unified. The Paint app has been updated but without the promised dark mode support. Updates for apps like Your Phone, Microsoft Whiteboard, some kind of media player, and (now) Notepad have been leaked or announced but not released. And other built-in apps like Wordpad still look like they did in Windows 7.

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Windows 11 bug could reduce Ryzen CPU performance by up to 15%, AMD says

Windows 11 bug could reduce Ryzen CPU performance by up to 15%, AMD says

Enlarge (credit: AMD)

Most people shouldn’t rush out to install brand-new operating system versions on day one, and Windows 11 is no exception to that rule. AMD has published information about a pair of bugs that can reduce performance for Ryzen processors running Windows 11 by as much as 15 percent, though how much slowdown you observe will vary based on what you’re doing and the CPU you’re using. AMD expects both bugs to be fixed later this month.

The first issue AMD has identified increases L3 cache latency by up to three times, affecting apps that rely on fast memory performance. AMD says that most affected apps will slow down by between 3 and 5 percent but that some “games commonly used for eSports” could see dips of between 10 and 15 percent. AMD says that a Windows update will fix this issue later this month, so as long as you’re checking for and installing Windows updates regularly, you won’t need to do anything special to resolve the problem.

The second bug is related to an AMD processor feature that tries to use your fastest individual CPU cores when running lightly threaded tasks rather than treating all cores the same. AMD doesn’t put a number on this one but says the problem “may be more detectable” in processors with eight or more cores and a 65 W or higher TDP. This would include most 2000, 3000, 4000, and 5000-series Ryzen 7 and Ryzen 9 desktop CPUs and APUs. AMD says that a “software update,” not a Windows update, will be released to fix the problem later in October, so you may need to install new AMD chipset drivers or some other software to get the fix.

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#amd-ryzen, #gaming-culture, #tech, #windows-11

The best part of Windows 11 is a revamped Windows Subsystem for Linux

Installing and using the Windows Subsystem for Linux is easier and more productive under Windows 11 than it was under Windows 10.

Enlarge / Installing and using the Windows Subsystem for Linux is easier and more productive under Windows 11 than it was under Windows 10. (credit: Jim Salter)

In our main Windows 11 review posted earlier this week, we covered the majority of new features and design decisions in Microsoft’s newest consumer OS—and it feels reasonable to characterize the overall impression given there as “lukewarm.” The good news: we still hadn’t covered the best part of Windows 11—Linux.

For years now, Windows 10’s Windows Subsystem for Linux has been making life easier for developers, sysadmins, and hobbyists who have one foot in the Windows world and one foot in the Linux world. But WSL, handy as it is, has been hobbled by several things it could not do. Installing WSL has never been as easy as it should—and getting graphical apps to work has historically been possible but a pain in the butt which required some fairly obscure third-party software.

Windows 11 finally fixes both of those problems. The Windows Subsystem for Linux isn’t perfect on Windows 11—but it’s a huge improvement over what came before.

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#tech, #ubuntu, #uncategorized, #win11, #windows-11, #windows-subsystem-for-linux, #wsl, #wslg

How to upgrade to Windows 11, whether your PC is supported or not

You name it, we've tried installing Windows 11 on it.

Enlarge / You name it, we’ve tried installing Windows 11 on it. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Windows 11 is here. And now that you’ve had time to read our full review, you might be thinking about installing the upgrade on your own PC.

We think most people should wait a few months to give Microsoft time to iron out Windows 11’s biggest new-operating-system bugs and finish releasing updates for Windows’ built-in apps. But you may want to install the operating system anyway because you want to test it or because you like to run the newest thing. Or maybe you’d like to install Windows 11 on an “unsupported” PC because Microsoft is not your parent and therefore cannot tell you what to do.

We’ve pulled together all kinds of resources to create a comprehensive install guide to upgrading to Windows 11. This includes advice and some step-by-step instructions for turning on officially required features like your TPM and Secure Boot, as well as official and unofficial ways to skirt the system-requirement checks on unsupported PCs.

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#tech, #windows-11

Razer updates Book and Blade 15 lineups for Windows 11

Razer Book.

Razer Book. (credit: Razer)

Windows 11 arrived yesterday, giving PC makers everywhere an excuse to refresh their lineups. Razer announced new SKUs for its ultraportable Razer Book laptop and Razer Blade 15 Advanced gaming laptop today, and both are preloaded with Microsoft’s latest operating system. Of course, the new PCs also come with some fresh specs to consider.

New Razer Book

Razer’s roots are in PC gaming, but the Razer Book is the three-headed snake’s attempt at a more mainstream, portable PC. The clamshell’s silver aluminum unibody chassis starts at just 2.9 pounds and 0.6 inches of thickness, making it competitive with ultraportables like Dell’s XPS 13.

Today’s announcement lowers the Razer Book’s starting price to $1,000. That gets you a quad-core i5-1135G7 CPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of SSD storage, and a 1920×1200 resolution screen with a 60 Hz refresh rate. Razer also announced more powerful versions with a quad-core i7-1165G7, 16GB of RAM, 512GB ($1,500) or 1TB of storage, and a 3840×1200 screen ($1,800).

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#gaming-culture, #gaming-laptops, #laptops, #razer, #razer-blade, #tech, #ultraportables, #windows-11

Windows 11: The Ars Technica review

Windows 11: The Ars Technica review

(credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft wanted everyone to use Windows 10.

Faced with slow adoption of Windows 8 and the stubborn popularity of Windows 7, Microsoft made Windows 10 a free upgrade for anyone using either version—the offer technically expired years ago, but to this day, old Windows 7 and 8 product keys still activate Windows 10 without protest. The OS was billed as a return to form that would appeal to people put off by Windows 8’s divisive touchscreen-oriented interface while still retaining touch-friendly features for people who had bought a PC tablet or a laptop with a touchscreen.

Windows 10 would be long-lived, too. Some in the company billed it as “the last version of Windows“—one big, stable platform that would simultaneously placate change-averse users, huge IT shops that would have kept using Windows XP forever if they had been allowed to, and software developers who would no longer need to worry about supporting multiple wildly different generations of Windows at once. Windows could still change, but a new twice-a-year servicing model would keep that change coming at a slow-but-consistent pace that everyone could keep up with.

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#biz-it, #features, #gadgetology, #tech, #windows-11