New Windows 10 build is a monster update

First update of the year adds more new features than any previous build.

windows 10 laptop pc
Credit: Adam Patrick Murray

Microsoft called a halt to releasing new builds of Windows 10 in mid-December for logical reasons. The holidays were upon us and who cared to test beta software? Well, the holidays are over and Microsoft has returned with a vengeance, dropping a new build of Windows 10 so full of updates it's like a whole new OS.

Build 15002 was released to the Fast Ring of Insider builds, meaning it's known to be buggy and unstable. This is an early version of the Creators Update due in April. The list of changes, additions, and improvements is enormous.

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Microsoft Edge continues to improve

Despite its paltry usage numbers, Microsoft isn't giving up on Edge. It has several new features. First is what Microsoft calls the "set aside" tab feature, where you close a tab you no longer need. In Chrome or Firefox, you would hit ctrl-shift-T to restore the closed tab, but Edge has a tiny icon for closed tabs that you click to reopen.

Edge also now offers a tab preview where if you click a small caret symbol, you’ll get a carousel of what each tab is currently showing. It's reminiscent of the tab preview window in the Vivaldi browser.

Edge in Build 15002 also features auto-blocking of Flash. Edge already auto pauses Flash but this goes one step further by not loading a Flash image at all unless you explicitly tell Edge to do so.

UI enhancements

Windows 10 phones have a feature where you can drop several tiles into a custom folder on the Start menu, and now that is coming to Windows desktops. Just drop one app on top of another and it forms a folder, similar to what iOS does on the iPhone.

For laptop users, when you redock your laptop, your icons might get a little messed up. Build 15002 tries to solve that problem with an improved scaling options. Windows has better placement of icons and smoother resizing of desktop apps.

Windows Ink boasts a new stroke erase feature, something it needed.

OneNote 2016’s popular screenshot feature, which lets you take just a portion of your screen as a screenshot instead of the entire screen, is now built into Windows 10. You use Win+Shift+S to capture a region of your screen and copy it to the clipboard for pasting into any app.

Cortana Update

Cortana now features easier discovery of app-specific commands. App developers have added commands to Cortana for faster app launching or other actions. These apps will now also bubble up suggested commands as you type the app name in Cortana. Clicking a particular suggestion launches the app with that command.

Microsoft has also added more recurrence options for Reminders. Cortana will now give reminders for every month or every year so you (hopefully) don't forget that anniversary or bill.

Finally, the keyboard shortcut has changed to WIN+C for easier launch.

Windows Defender

Windows Defender has new options to run full, quick, or advanced scans, with a report on your PC’s health. But the biggest change is the addition of the Windows 10 Refresh Windows command within Defender itself.

Refresh Windows is one step short of a reinstall of the vanilla OS. It's for times you may have screwed up the OS with junk app installs or maybe blew off some important system files, or generally made a mess of your computer and it's running poorly. This removes all apps and restore it to its original state, although your data files are preserved. Interesting that they put it in the antivirus program, but then again, a virus may be the reason you need to refresh your system in the first place.

Other Changes

App throttling is one of the more interesting and potential disastrous new features in Build 15002. App throttling does what its name implies: It chokes background apps so that foreground apps get more CPU resources.

Given the performance of modern PCs, this is likely meant for older PCs, but Microsoft is also reportedly planning on a "game mode" for Windows 10, which would dial back all the background apps and services to give as much CPU power to the game as possible. This might be an early version of it.

Blue-light controls: An interesting addition, one based on science. Blue light exposure after sundown can mess with your circadian rhythms, preventing you from getting a good night's sleep. So Microsoft has added the option to tell Windows to automatically decrease the amount of blue light in your display after dark.

Windows Updates pauses: Don't want your PC to update on Patch Tuesday, especially given the number of bad updates over the years? You can pause updates for up to 35 days before allowing them to be installed. But for some reason, this feature is only on Windows Pro, Enterprise, and Education, not Home.

There's more, much more, but for now let's just go with this long list and look forward to the huge update coming in April.

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