On Wednesday, January 21, 2015, Microsoft had a press event in which they announced new features for Windows 10. Geekbeat.TV has information regarding the press event here. At the event, they had announced that a new build for Windows 10 Technical Preview would not be released until next week for users to preview and test. On Friday, January 23, 2015, Microsoft surprised Windows Insiders by releasing build 9926. According to Microsoft’s blog, not all of the features announced on Wednesday are included in this build. This review will look at the new features in this build as well as any other changes to existing features.
Build 9926 has been pushed out to both the Fast and Slow rings and Windows Update. The build is also available in ISO form. Microsoft is trying to get the new build to users and testers as quickly as possible because it has been two months since build 9879 was released. In the blog, Microsoft stated that new builds should be coming out faster in the future than they did for this build. The long gap between build 9879 and build 9926 was primarily a result of the holidays and a need to add features and make sure they work.
The build update process uses the same methods in previous builds. This is a full install that will install as an upgrade so users who update to the new build will go through the initial account setup process again. Any apps that the user had installed previously will be reinstalled during the setup process. Users downloading the updated build will have a 3-4 GB download depending on which version (32-bit or 64-bit) of the Windows 10 Technical Preview is installed.
If build 9926 is not showing for users when they check the Preview builds section of the PC Settings Update and Recovery menu, they will need to install Windows Updates and then restart the PC when prompted before build 9926 will be available. I had installed updates on Wednesday on my desktop and I had the build available when I checked for the new build. My laptop had not been updated though and I did have to install updates and restart the laptop prior to the new build being available for download in Preview builds.
Microsoft announced new features on the blog that were included in build 9926 as well as changes to existing features. There were also some known issues that Microsoft discussed on the blog. The remainder of this review is going to address these three areas. I will be starting with the new features, and then discussing the changes and known issues.
There are several new features that were added with this build although not all of the features announced on Wednesday are included with build 9926. There are also some features I cannot test such as Continuum as I do not have a touchscreen device. I will give my thoughts on the features that I am able to test and for features that I cannot test, I will identify what the feature is designed to do.
The first of the new features I wanted to look at is Cortana which has replaced the previous Search functionality. I was not able to fully test Cortana as I am running Windows 10 Technical Preview on virtual machines and I cannot use the audio portions of Cortana. After a quick setup, Cortana loaded some initial results based on my account information. The initial results included both national news as well as news from the area I live. Weather information for my area also was listed in the results. I do like how this information is included as part of the results as it will make it easier for me to find information that I need quickly. Clicking on the hamburger-style menu button allows users to switch to their notebooks, set reminders, select places (that you may wish to go to), and change settings for Cortana. In the Places section, users can add places and save them for future use. Clicking on a saved place allows users to load the Maps app which then shows users the place on the map. Overall, I like the inclusion of Cortana but I will need to test it more as there are still parts of it that I have not gotten to try yet such as the traffic updates option and the trip planner. The image on the left is what users will see what they first use Cortana. The image on the right is a view of the results that Cortana returns. Users can scroll down through the result for additional information.
Microsoft made a couple of changes for the Start Menu. Microsoft added the ability to make the Start Menu use the full screen which will benefit tablet and other touchscreen device users. They also rebuilt the Start Menu so that it uses one of the same coding languages used to build apps in Windows 10. Users can change the color for the Start Menu and scroll up and down through the tiles on the Start Menu. Microsoft still has more changes in the works such as drag and drop, the ability to resize the Start Menu, more personalization, and Jump Lists.
Microsoft also added Continuum, a feature originally shown back in September, to Windows 10 Technical Preview in build 9926. Continuum allows Windows to adapt across different device types. The example of a Surface Pro 3 was used on Wednesday to show how Windows 10 using Continuum easily transitions from desktop mode to tablet mode. I am not able to test this feature at this time but I do believe that Continuum will be very beneficial to users of Windows 10, especially those who have devices that can be used as desktop or mobile devices.
The Settings menu received an overhaul in build 9926 with the interface being completely redone. The top level of the interface was redesigned to make it easier to access the different options. The interfaces displayed for the options themselves have had changes made as well. The options screens still use the left frame with the sub-options to select from but the colors and font have been changed to match the new interface for the main Settings window.
In addition to the changes for the Settings interface, Microsoft made some changes to the Update and Recovery options. Preview builds is now part of the Windows Update section. Preview builds can be found by using the Advanced options link on the main Windows Update screen.
The Advanced options section in Windows Update is where Microsoft moved the options available for configuring Windows Updates. There are a couple of key points I need to address. The first one is the choice for how updates are installed as there are now only two options to choose from. By default, Automatic (recommended) is the option used. With this option, updates are installed automatically and the PC will restart if needed. The key point for this is that the restart will be performed automatically although Microsoft will schedule the restart for a time when the PC is not normally in use. The other option is to Notify to schedule restart. With this option, users will be notified that they need to restart the PC. For both options, Microsoft notes that downloads will not be done over metered connections as users may be charged for the data used when downloading over a metered connection. As with previous versions of Windows Update, users can select to get updates for other Microsoft products on this screen. The other key point I wanted to make is one that I already mentioned. Preview build no longer is a section of its own as Microsoft has moved it into the Windows Update Advanced options screen.
As mentioned above, after some updates Microsoft may need to have the computer restart. After updates have been installed, a message that a restart has been scheduled will appear on the main Windows Update screen. Microsoft will state what time they plan to do the automatic restart if Windows 10 is set to the Automatic (recommended) option. Users can also select a restart time or choose to restart now.
The Action Center has some new features included with it in build 9926. The Action Center allows users to switch between desktop and tablet modes. It also lets users access the Display properties window to make changes to display settings. Users can select the Connect option to connect wireless or Bluetooth devices to Windows 10. Users can also select the All Settings option to open the new Settings app window.
Windows Store Beta
Microsoft introduced the beta for the new Windows Store in this build. Microsoft changed the layout in the store to make it easier to find apps. It also was redesigned so that the Windows Store works independently of the operating system. The new Windows Store can be updated as needed instead of updating it as part of the operating system. The redesign allows a common interface across different device types and the new Store will work better when running in a window.
There are limitations in this version of the Windows Store Beta as some purchasing capability is currently disabled. Currently, users can search and buy apps but in-app purchase is not available. If users have apps previously purchased that contain content that was purchased in the app, that content will be available. Users just cannot purchase additional content from within apps at this time. Apps purchased on Windows 8.1 can be used with Windows 10 but apps purchased on Windows 10 cannot be used in Windows 8.1 at this time.
Three apps were added in build 9926. Those apps are the Photos app, Maps app, and Xbox App. The apps are still works in progress and may have functionality that is not enabled yet.
The Photos app will allow users the ability to find photos in areas such as the local PC or online using cloud storage like OneDrive. There are parts of this app that are still being developed such as the Albums and Folders sections. These sections both have messages stating that they are coming soon. Users can choose to auto-fix photos but there is an option to revert the fixes if the changes are not what the user wanted.
The Maps app is similar to other maps programs but it does have an option that I like. The Maps app includes offline support so that users can look up directions when they are not online. This will work well for devices that do not have a persistent connection to the Internet such as tablets without broadband. Offline support is handled by users downloading maps for a specific region or state while they are online and then they can use those maps when they are offline. This feature would benefit me as I frequently am working out of the office and I could look up how to get to a specific location without using data on my broadband connection for my smartphone.
The last of the new apps that Microsoft released in build 9926 is the Xbox app. Microsoft did not go into detail on the new app in the blog but they did link to the Xbox Wire website (need link to site) which gave a significant amount of information. I do not have an Xbox so I was not able to test the app very much but from the information on the Xbox Wire website, it looks as if a number of features have been included. I recommend taking a look at the Xbox Wire website for the details on what was included for the Xbox app in this build of Windows 10 Technical Preview.
Changes Based on User Feedback
Microsoft made a number of changes based on user feedback. The changes that they identified on the blog are just some of the changes. The changes include additional language support with 18 languages and three language interface packs having been added. Users also had requested Persian calendar support which has been added in build 9926. In File Explorer’s Folder Options, users can now select whether they want Quick access or This PC for their default folder. Microsoft also made changes to File Explorer which include changes in icons, the ability to Pin folders so they are always available, and a recently used files list. Microsoft also brought back the full screen button so that users can maximize windows to fill the screen as people were having problems with using the hamburger-style menu to maximize windows. Microsoft also fixed an issue in which the keyboard lights were not working for users to show when Caps Lock, Scroll Lock, or Num Lock was toggled on. Search results now include email in the available tabs so that any emails matching the search query are shown.
Users also had reported that there were issues with the ALT+Tab functionality. Some users were submitting reports concerning confusion about whether they were using ALT+Tab or Task View as the interfaces were similar. Also, users wondered why virtual desktops were not available in ALT+Tab. To fix this issue, Microsoft merged the previous ALT+Tab and Task View functionality. When I look at both ALT+Tab and Task view now, the tiles appear to be the same size and users can easily select which app or program this wish to use. ALT+Tab still doesn’t allow access to the virtual desktops but as Microsoft stated, it has a lighter-weight feel to it now. Microsoft also indicated that this will improve the user experience on touchscreen devices when using the three finger swipe.
One significant change that Microsoft included in the Windows Update section is the inclusion of a progress bar for preview build downloads. Previously, users would not be able to tell if the download of the build was actually running if they left the Preview build screen and then returned to it. Also, the progress bar shows the actual progress instead of the spinning circle that just showed that the download was occurring.
Known Issues with Build 9926
Microsoft identified several known issues with this build. Microsoft stated that like it has done with past builds, some of the issues may be fixed using Windows Updates. Other issues may be fixed in future builds.
Boot Selection Menu
Users may see a boot selection menu when starting the PC after updating to build 9926. There is a bug that is causing the issue. A second boot option for uninstalling the Windows 10 Technical Preview and rollback the operating system to a previous version was supposed to be removed after the install but in some instances, that option is not removed. If users see this menu, they can either wait 30 seconds for the countdown timer to run out as Windows 10 Technical Preview will then start automatically or the users can choose the Windows 10 Technical Preview option and Windows will then load. Microsoft stated that this behavior is only temporary so I expect that we should see a fix for the issue soon. If users have the issue, either waiting for the time to run out or selecting the boot menu option for Windows 10 Technical Preview will work to allow users to boot into Windows 10 Technical Preview. I had the issue on both of my virtual machines (VM) after updating to build 9926 and then rebooting the VMs. I let the timer run out on one of them and Windows 10 Technical Preview started normally. On the other VM, I selected the Windows Technical Preview option and it also loaded to Windows 10 Technical Preview’s login screen.
Microsoft posted on the blog that Xbox Live games that require users to login will not launch correctly. Microsoft said a fix will be released for this issue shortly after Build 9926’s release. As the build was released on Friday, I would expect to see the fix soon.
Microsoft also identified an issue with reminders in Cortana. Reminders cannot be edited and complex reminders may not get created. Also, the first reminder users create in this build with Cortana may not pop up but reminders after the first one will pop up. Reminders that have been completed also are not moving to the History page currently.
Other Issues in Build 9926
Microsoft also identified several other issues in the blog but no timelines for resolving the issues were given. On devices with Connected Standby enabled, users may encounter an issue with the battery life being shorter than expected. Also battery related is an issue in which the battery icon appears on the lock screen of computers that do not have batteries.
Users will also encounter some issues for the Start Menu. For some users, the Start Menu will not register properly and the Start Menu will fail to launch. From what I was seeing when I researched the issue earlier, most of the issues involved the system created administrator account being the account in use. If the account was created by the user, the Start Menu should launch normally. Tiles on the Start Menu currently truncate all names such as the Windows Feedback tile cutting off the last three letters in Feedback.
If users minimize the Music app in the first 16 seconds after starting it, the app will disappear. Microsoft recommends leaving the app running in the foreground for 20 seconds or so to avoid having the issue occur. When I tried to reproduce the issue, I did not have the issue though so this issue may only affect some users. The last issue that Microsoft talked about on the blog involves an issue with Remote Desktop. People using Remote Desktop may encounter pixelation when they connect to the remote PC. I tried to reproduce this issue but I did not have any problems with pixelation.
Final Thoughts on Build 9926
From the last day and a half that I have spent using build 9926, I can say that I like the direction that Microsoft has continued to go with Windows 10. Overall, I like the new features but there is one area in which I am not sure that Microsoft went the right route by using the default of automatic restarts when a restart is needed after installing Windows Updates. The reason I have a concern about the automatic restarts is because what happens when users forget to save something they are working on? If the PC restarts automatically, that data Is lost unless the program in use has an autosave feature. Other than that one concern, I like the progress Microsoft has made with this build. If anyone has questions or comments about what I have discussed in this review or the features in Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9926, please feel free to ask your question or post the comment below. Also, I can be reached at the email linked in my bio.