Windows 10 Test Release Packed with Improvements
Microsoft is delivering a few noteworthy features in this week's "fast-ring" test release of Windows 10, known as build 15002.
The details are described in a 32-page blog post for Microsoft's Windows Insider Program testers. It's not quite clear if these features will be part of the so-called "Creators Update" of Windows 10, which is expected to arrive this spring. It's now thought that the Creators Update (code-named "Redstone 2"), which delivers inking and other improvements, could get released in April.
One of the features up for testing with the release of Windows 10 Build 15002 is the ability to defer updates to the operating system for up to 35 days. However, this capability only will be available for Windows 10 editions other than the Home edition. Consumer users can't defer Windows 10 updates, per Microsoft's use rules.
Microsoft will let Windows 10 users exclude driver updates with Build 15002, but this driver exclusion feature is just for users of the "Professional, Education and Enterprise editions of Windows 10." Home edition users don't have this option.
This build includes options for controlling the timing of PC restarts after operating system updates get installed. This build will check if the screen is being used actively before restarting, for instance. Home edition Windows 10 users will be able to delay a PC restart for 18 hours maximum.
Microsoft's crash page, popularly known as the "blue screen of death," will be green, but that's just for Windows Insider testers. It'll still be the blue screen of death for released versions of Windows 10.
Windows Defender in Windows 10 Build 15002 now has options for "quick, advanced, or full" security scans. It also has "device performance and health scans." Microsoft also added "family options." Users also will be able to refresh Windows 10 from Windows Defender. A refresh reinstalls the OS and keeps user files and some settings, but it doesn't keep most installed apps.
Virtual private network (VPN) access was improved with this build release as Microsoft has improved the user interface. Clicking on "Network" will let a user select a specific VPN. The user will see a "flyout" menu with those options and won't have to go through the VPN settings menu.
The creation of virtual machines has been simplified with this release of Windows 10. Users now have a "Quick Create" option in Hyper-V Manager that will launch a setup wizard. It takes "just a few clicks" to complete the virtual machine setup.
This build of Windows 10 will now let users know that they'll have difficulty accessing a work file when it gets saved to a removable drive due to Windows Information Protection encryption. It'll give them an opportunity to convert the file to a personal copy.
Microsoft has added Display setting options for changing the brightness of screens with this build of Window 10. The lack of brightness controls for displays has been an odd Windows 10 omission, and users will likely welcome back this basic functionality. It's also possible with this release to automatically limit the blue light omitted by PC screens at night, which apparently keeps people awake. Microsoft also improved support in this OS build for desktop applications that can support high dots-per-inch displays. For instance, Microsoft addressed a blurring effect that was occurring.
Users of this build will get a "set as metered connection" option for Ethernet local area network connections, in addition to Wi-Fi connections. It lets users "restrict background data usage from some applications and gives you more control over how data is used over the Ethernet connection," Microsoft's announcement explained. Windows 10 updates, which can be hefty files, are designed to not automatically download over metered connections, such as Wi-Fi connections. Now Microsoft is now expanding that capability to wired Ethernet connections, if wanted. It gives users greater control over potential bandwidth issues.
For application access, Microsoft has improved the sign-in experience when users have multiple accounts. Users of this build will see "Microsoft, Work, or School accounts" sign-in options.
The Windows out-of-the-box setup experience will get assistance from Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant. Apparently, this improvement is a voice-based Q&A session to simplify the PC setup process.
The Microsoft Edge browser is getting a bunch of improvements. It now has a "tab preview bar," which lets users get thumbnail views of the Web pages that are running in tabs during a browser session. Microsoft also added two buttons on the left side of the Edge browser. One button will set the tabs aside during a browser session. The other button will show stored tabs.
The Edge browser also will now "block untrusted Flash content by default," a detail that was mentioned back in December. Microsoft had indicated back then that this Flash blocking capability would get rolled out generally with the release of the Creators Update of Windows 10.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.