Windows 11 update breaks Start menu for some customization apps – and Microsoft isn’t going to help this time

Windows 11 again has a problem with third-party customization apps that are used to modify the operating system’s interface, with one of these applications clashing with the latest update for the OS.

That’d be the new preview (optional) update for Windows 11 22H2 (patch KB5028254), which as XDA Developers spotted has broken the Start menu for some users of the customization app ExplorerPatcher (going by reports online).

If all this sounds familiar, it’s because earlier in the year we witnessed issues with ExplorerPatcher (and StartAllBack) causing trouble with File Explorer (and nasty boot loops). This was with the Moment 2 update, in fact, back in March (when that was released in preview).

With this gremlin rearing its head again – albeit causing a different issue – what is Microsoft doing? Well, not a lot it seems. Let’s dive into why.

Analysis: Not our problem

Back in March, when these third-party apps became problematic for Windows 11, Microsoft said it would investigate the matter (as The Register reported at the time) and provide more info. What happened was that the developers of both ExplorerPatcher and StartAllBack released patches for their clients to solve the bug, and that was that. We didn’t hear anything else from Microsoft.

Now that issues have appeared again, it seems Microsoft has got fed up, and is washing its hands of the matter. As advised in a release health status update for Windows 11, Microsoft says: “We recommend uninstalling any third-party UI customization app before installing KB5028254 to prevent this issue. If your Windows device is already experiencing this issue, you might need to contact customer support for the developer of the app you are using.”

The issue is marked as ‘mitigated external’ which basically means it’s up to the developer (an external party) to fix it for their app (as happened in the past), and Microsoft doesn’t want to know.

In short, affected users only have two options: nag the developer for a fix, or uninstall the customization app in question.

Is that a reasonable response from Microsoft? In fairness to the software giant, it has previously noted that some of these apps use “unsupported methods to achieve their customization” and that this can produce weird side-effects. Given that the methods are ‘unsupported,’ Microsoft’s view is that it doesn’t have to take this software into consideration when updating Windows 11 code (especially if this is going to happen repeatedly, which seems to be the case).

We don’t feel that’s unreasonable of Microsoft in all honesty, but still, the response does feel a little cold and ‘not our problem’ in nature.

Note that KB5028254 is an optional update right now, so there’s no need to install it, and the upgrade is still in testing; you can simply steer clear.

However, this will become a mandatory cumulative update for August, and therein lies the problem – ExplorerPatcher users (and possibly those employing other third-party customization apps) could then have a broken Start menu. Hopefully, though, the developer of this app will have implemented a fix by then (because Microsoft certainly won’t, that’s abundantly clear).

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Android 14 Beta 3 is here, and it brings enhanced lock screen customization

We’re not expecting the finished version of Android 14 to roll out for another two or three months, but the beta version has just had a big update, with Android 14 Beta 3 now here, complete with new lock screen customization options for Pixel phones.

These features – spotted in Beta 3 by Mishaal Rahman – were previously teased at Google I/O 2023, and they allow you to change the colors, size, and style of the lock screen clock, as well as choosing which shortcuts to display on the lock screen.

For the clock, you can choose from a number of digital options along with one analog one, while for the shortcuts, you have a choice of mute, device controls (for smart home devices), Google Wallet, camera, do not disturb, video call, flashlight, and a QR code scanner.

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You can place one in the bottom left corner and one in the bottom right, or choose not to display shortcuts. Disappointingly though you’re limited to those options, so you can’t have truly custom shortcuts.

Still, this should be a handy update, and bring the Pixel series more in line with what’s possible on the iPhone 14, along with the other best iPhones, especially since iOS 16 introduced a similar feature. And while this implementation isn’t currently supported by other Android handsets, some manufacturers have been offering similarly capable lock screen customization for a while, anyway.

Interface tweaks and a new tutorial

This isn’t the only new feature in the Android 14 Beta 3 though, as Rahman also reports that there’s a new tutorial for gesture navigation, and there are various small interface tweaks, such as a new charging indicator, themed icons now having more vibrant colors, and more rounded buttons in the screenshot preview.

So the enhanced lock screen customization is definitely the headline feature, but there are a few other things that users might appreciate too.

Notably though, this beta has been released on the schedule Google previously set, which means we should be on target for a finished release, likely in August or September. As such, there shouldn’t be too long to go now, and we’d recommend most users wait until the final version is ready, since betas always have bugs.

That said, if you really want the latest Android 14 beta now and you have a compatible phone, you can head to our how to download the Android 14 beta guide for full step-by-step instructions.

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Google Chrome’s new customization tools make the browser a lot more fun

If you've been finding Google Chrome a gray, uninspiring place to be lately, then the browser's new customization tools make it much easier to give it a much-needed lick of paint.

In the latest version of Chrome on desktop, Google has added a new side panel that lets you try out a bunch of new uplifting colors, themes and settings. While many of these options were previously available in Chrome, these new ones are easier to use and actually let you see the changes you're making in real-time.

If you don't have automatic updates turned on, you can update to the latest version by going to the three dots in the top right-hand corner of the toolbar then going to Help > About Google Chrome.

Once you're updated, how do you find Chrome's customization tools? Open a new tab and you'll see a 'Customize Chrome' icon in the bottom right-hand corner. Click that and it'll open up the new sidebar. The main section to fiddle with is the 'Appearance' section at the top.

A video showing where to find the Google Chrome customization settings

(Image credit: Google)

This lets you change two big things – the overall color scheme of your Chrome browser and the background image, which you can set to change everyday. Click on 'Change theme' and you'll see a range of default background options from a selection of artists, or some more subtle ones like 'geometric shapes' if those are too distracting.

If you can't decide on one, then just toggle the 'refresh daily' option within each collection and Chrome will cycle through them. Alongside these themes, you can also pick a background color for your toolbar and tabs, thanks to the grid further down. 

There are 15 default colors to choose from, though you can go super-granular with the eyedropper tool, which lets you enter your own RGB values (just in case you were wondering, the TechRadar logo is R:47, G:110, B:145).

Bigger changes under the hood

Chrome's revamped customization tools are a nice little quality-of-life upgrade for regular users – even if it isn't quite as dramatic as the new AI-powered Opera One browser, which has a built-in chatbot called Aria.

Google has so far been reticent to take that step, preferring to keep its Google Bard chatbot as a separate “experiment” that you open in a browser window. But Bard will soon start appearing more prominently in Google's products, including Chrome and Pixel phones (where the chatbot is rumored to be getting its own widget). 

A video showing how to change the color of your Chrome browser

(Image credit: Google)

Google is also separately making some big changes underneath Chrome's hood, with its plans to turn off third-party cookies moving forwards at a glacial pace. So while Microsoft Edge is now arguably a better browser than Chrome, Google is slowly reinventing its browser under the hood.

If you're looking to customize and tweak Google Chrome even more to go with your new themes, remember that the best Chrome extensions are also a fine way to add new features like tabs that automatically close when they've inactive – as long as you watch out for malicious extensions that can steal your Gmail messages and more.

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