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Microsoft Releases Windows 10 Version 1909

Microsoft on Tuesday announced the release of Windows 10 version 1909, a new operating system product that's also known as the "Windows 10 November 2019 Update."

In addition, Windows Server version 1909 was released. It's available from the "Azure Marketplace or the VLSC" (Volume License Servicing Center), Microsoft indicated.

Windows 10 version 1909 is notable for being a "semiannual channel" feature update. Microsoft releases two semiannual channel feature updates of Windows 10 per year, one in the spring and one in the fall. The spring/fall release schedule is important for users of the Enterprise and Education editions of Windows 10 to note because fall OS channel releases are supported for 30 months, while spring releases are supported for 18 months. All other Windows 10 product editions, though, just get 18 months of support, regardless of the spring/fall release cycle.

When OS support ends, patches don't arrive from Microsoft, leading to possible security issues for organizations and individuals. Upgrading the OS keeps Microsoft's patches flowing.

Windows 10 version 1909 is available now for users of the "Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and Windows Update for Business" management solutions. It can also be downloaded from various portals, such as "Visual Studio Subscriptions, the Software Download Center (via the Media Creation Tool), and the Volume Licensing Service Center," Microsoft indicated.

To answer questions from the public about Windows 10, Microsoft is planning to hold an Ask Microsoft Anything session on Nov. 19, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Pacific Time. Available through that hour will be Microsoft "engineers and product managers" with answers.

Enablement Packages
This Windows 10 version 1909 release is a bit different from prior releases because the upgrade process from Windows 10 version 1903 is said to be faster. The upgrade process is akin to the monthly "cumulative update" patch process, and it'll require just one reboot to take effect, Microsoft promised.

However, the faster upgrade process only applies to Windows 10 version 1903 users because that OS contains a so-called "enablement package." Essentially, the enablement package already contains the new features of Windows 10 version 1909 but they are inactive.

Here's how Microsoft explained that nuance in another announcement:

Windows 10, versions 1903 and 1909 share a common core operating system with an identical set of system files. As a result, the new features in Windows 10, version 1909 were included in the latest monthly quality update for Windows 10, version 1903 (released October 8, 2019), but are currently in a dormant/disabled state. These new features will remain dormant until they are turned on via an "enablement package," a small, quick-to-install "master switch" that simply activates the Windows 10, version 1909 features.

All other versions of Windows 10 that are older than Windows 10 version 1903 still follow the slower upgrade process because they don't contain the enablement package, which, in its dormant state takes up "less than 25MB" of storage space on PCs.

Systems upgrading to Windows 10 version 1909 will report that "build 18363" is installed. However, because of the common baseline shared with Windows 10 version 1903, "individual system file versions will still appear as [build] 18362," Microsoft's announcement explained.

New Windows 10 Features
IT pros installing Windows 10 version 1909 are getting some new features that could be useful.

For instance, this OS contains Windows Sandbox for Pro or Enterprise edition users. Windows Sandbox is an application that creates a temporary space using hardware virtualization that stays isolated from the Windows kernel. The sandbox essentially is a "lightweight virtual machine" that can be used to run untrusted executable files, and nothing will persist when the sandbox app gets closed. Microsoft had included Windows Sandbox in Windows 10 version 1903, but it's been improved in version 1909 to now have "support for mixed-version container scenarios, allowing you to run a sandbox in a different version of Windows 10 than the host operating system," Microsoft indicated.

Update 12/6: Microsoft's announcement was updated on 11/21 to state that "Windows Sandbox does not support mixed-container scenarios at this time."

Windows 10 version 1909 has a new CPU rotation capability. It'll balance the work across the OS' so-called "favored cores," which is designed to improve system performance and reliability. Microsoft also initiated "additional debugging capabilities for newer Intel processors" in this OS release.

Windows 10 version 1909 also now has Windows Search powering Windows Explorer, which lets individuals get OneDrive content in their search results. In addition, Microsoft now permits voice activation of "third-party" (non-Cortana) digital assistants from the Lock Screen with Windows 10 version 1909.

Users of Windows 10 in S mode, Microsoft's more locked-down OS product, can now run Win32 desktop applications with version 1909. It's done by "configuring the Windows 10 in S mode policy to support Win32 apps, [and] then deploy[ing] them with Mobile Device Management (MDM) software such as Microsoft Intune," Microsoft explained.

Organizations using BitLocker drive encryption and mobile device management solutions are getting a "key rolling" security feature with Windows 10 version 1909. The encryption key gets rotated "whenever a BitLocker-protected drive is unlocked using Microsoft Intune/MDM tools or a recovery password," Microsoft explained.

Kiosk mode, a way of limiting user access to all of Windows 10's features, now permits some user customizations to be made, such as switching to a different language. Kiosk mode is typically used for specialty devices, such as in-store sales support or inventory monitoring.

There's a new Cloud Clipboard feature in Windows 10 version 1909. It allows copying on one device and pasting on another. Users need either a Microsoft Account or an Azure Active Directory account to use the Cloud Clipboard feature.

Microsoft lets users create new events in the Calendar by clicking Windows 10's Taskbar. Inking latency also was improved in this release.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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