Windows 11 users: get ready for lock screen widgets that might annoy you (but Microsoft is doing something about that)

Windows 11 and 10 users, you can breathe a sigh of relief for a moment, as there’s news that’s not about sticking more AI into the heart of Windows 11, or about Windows 10’s seemingly unavoidable end – although I don’t know if this development will be a cause for joy. Microsoft is fully rolling out MSN lock screen widgets after testing the feature for the past four months. 

Apparently, the feature is still in the process of being rolled out, so you may not see it quite yet, but these widgets should appear on your lock screen very soon (if they don’t already). Microsoft is implementing this change for Windows 11 and 10 via a server-side update, so the widgets will just suddenly appear – and so far, Windows Latest observes that users aren’t receiving them warmly.

Part of the problem is that the lock screen widgets displayed are pre-set by Microsoft, and they can’t be adjusted or modified to your preferences. The widgets appear if you switch them on, or already have the ‘Weather or more’ option turned on, in the Settings app. 

To be precise, you’ll find this option in the following location: 

Settings > Personalization > Lock Screen  

A selection of a screenshots of the Lock Screen section in the Settings app, allowing users to switch on the batch of widgets

(Image credit: Microsoft)

An all or nothing proposition – at least for now

The pre-configured MSN widgets include Microsoft Money, Sports, and Weather, but you can’t currently pick and choose which of these you’d like to keep and which to leave out. I imagine this is where a lot of the dissatisfaction with the feature comes from, as it feels that if you’d like widgets on your lock screen, but not all of them – well, it’s a case of tough luck. You’re forced to have them all, or none of them (if you switch them off).

Why can’t you adjust these widgets individually, turning off the ones you don’t like, as you can with other individual widgets such as Mail or Calendar? Well, the good news is that you’ll be able to do that before long, as Microsoft has promised this ability is inbound for Windows 11 and 10 users.

We don’t know when this important change is set to arrive, but hopefully, we’ll see this coming in sooner rather than later, as we can’t imagine it’s a huge task for Microsoft.

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Windows 11 users, get ready for more AI – a new test build promises a designated section of the Settings menu just for AI updates

Windows 11 Build 26217 is now available to developers and testers in the Canary alpha channel, offering a few small bug fixes alongside a new page in the Settings menu dedicated to “AI component updates”. 

Microsoft has been flooding Windows 10 and Windows 11 users with some pretty cool AI-related updates and features recently, most notably the addition of Copilot to the taskbar for easy access. Spotted by WindowsLatest, the new settings page is just for AI updates, but right now we don’t really know what that could entail. We speculate that users will be able to keep track of updates to features like AI Explorer and possibly Copilot as well – or Microsoft could be setting up a new space for entirely new AI-related features.

Microsoft could also be gearing up for the Build Developer conference later this year, where it seems to be encouraging developers to build their own AI features for Windows apps. This would be fascinating news for AI enthusiasts who are already feeling the positive impacts of having a tool like Copilot ready to use and may want to boost some of the apps or programs they already use with an injection of AI functionality. 

Finally, some good news!

I’m pretty excited to see what kind of nifty features will make a home in the new settings page if we do see it have a public rollout. We have to keep in mind that many features and changes we see in the Windows Canary channel aren’t guaranteed to make a wide release, so while I might be excited now, I can’t get my full hype on until we get more information from Microsoft. 

That being said, it does look like AI is here to stay for Windows users. That could be good or bad news depending on your outlook on large language models, but it feels like Microsoft is all-in when it comes to AI. 

Overall, I am glad for some good news when it comes to Windows updates. With the influx of ads becoming the new normal in Windows 11, there’s been a bitter taste in my mouth anytime I hear about a new build or update – so if this new section of the settings does come to our desktops that’ll at least be something positive (and ad-free). Here at TechRadar, we all feel Microsoft owes us some kind of good news given how irritating ads have become – even stooping so low as to disguise themselves as recommendations

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Windows 11 24H2 update is rumored to be ready to go – but nobody will get any of its major new features anytime soon

Windows 11’s next big update just moved a step closer to fruition, perhaps, given a rumor that Microsoft has just pushed out a new preview update that represents the 24H2 release.

The 24H2 update is due later this year, most likely in September, but the twist is it’s expected to initially arrive – in a slightly different form for certain devices (we’ll come back to exactly what we mean here) – around the middle of 2024.

The preview version of Windows 11 we’re talking about is build 26100 and we’re told by reliable leaker Zac Bowden (of Windows Central) that this is the RTM build for the 24H2 update (which Bowden predicted would arrive in April).

RTM means 'release to manufacturing' and it translates, as the name suggests, to mean this is effectively a finished product – with caveats that we’ll come back to shortly – that Microsoft is sending out to PC manufacturers to put on their devices (and test before that hardware hits the shelves).

Some PC makers may have received this RTM build already, or they are about to. In short, this is a positive sign that Windows 11 24H2 is progressing on track with its purported release schedule as aired via the grapevine.


Analysis: A new two-tier update process from Microsoft

The mentioned caveat-laden twist is that this initial hardware in question is AI PCs with Snapdragon X Elite chips, which are based on ARM architecture (quite different to AMD or Intel x86 CPUs). Because these Snapdragon chips are different to the general norm they need the new Germanium platform that Windows 11 24H2 is built on to work, so Microsoft is technically deploying the new version of the OS with these AI PCs which are expected to debut in June.

However, that particular Windows 11 24H2 build won’t have any of the new features touted for the next big upgrade. It’s just going to be much the same as what we have now with Windows 11, just with that new underpinning Germanium platform for ARM-based chips.

Microsoft will finalize the fully fleshed out 24H2 update, with all its new features added on top, in July; or that’s the predicted timeframe by Bowden. And then after final testing, the full 24H2 update will roll out to everyone on Windows 11 in September. Including those Snapdragon X Elite PCs, of course, who won’t get all the new features until everyone else is receiving them.

Hopefully we’ve made that clear enough. But it’s true that this is all rather more complex and convoluted than the usual straightforward deployment of a Windows annual feature update.

The long and short of it is that things appear to be on track, but nobody will get the full Windows 11 24H2 update until September 2024 (or around then). And while new AI PC buyers this summer will get a Snapdragon-powered laptop with 24H2 on board, this will be just the skeleton of that version, as it were, and all the meat (new features) won’t be added until everyone else receives the update in September(ish).

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Windows 11’s next big update is almost ready to roll – but most people won’t get it for a long time yet

Windows 11’s next major update is coming close to completion, and in fact it’s rumored that it’ll hit its final stage of development very shortly – though its launch for all users will still be a good way down the line (we’ll come back to that).

As well-known Microsoft leaker Zac Bowden shared on X (formerly Twitter), Windows 11 24H2 is on track to hit RTM (release to manufacturing) in April.

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What this means is that the 24H2 update is ready to go to PC manufacturers so that they can work on installing it on their devices. In other words, Windows 11 24H2 is all but done at this point, save for final testing and changes that might need to be applied if PC makers run into any last-minute stumbling blocks.

Bowden mentions the ‘ge_release’ which refers to Germanium, a new platform that Windows 11 is built on with 24H2. While this won’t make any difference to the visible parts of the OS, under the hood, Germanium will offer tighter security and better overall performance.

With RTM for 24H2 happening in April, in theory, the plan is that it’ll take two months to finalize the new Windows 11 Germanium build, and it will be installed on ARM-based AI PCs when they start shipping in June.


Analysis: Clarifying the 24H2 release timeline

Note that as Bowden outlines on X, this does not mean Windows 11 24H2 (Germanium) will be released for everyone in June.

It will only be out on ARM-based laptops running Snapdragon X Elite chips (or variants) initially – like the consumer spin on the Surface Pro 10 or Surface Laptop 6. Which is why only the business models were unveiled recently – they have Intel CPUs that don’t need Germanium. Whereas the Germanium platform is actually required for these new ARM chips – which have been stoking a great deal of excitement – so this is why Microsoft is pushing it out ahead of time so as not to hold up those notebooks any longer than necessary.

As Bowden makes clear in a later tweet, Windows 11 24H2 won’t actually be ‘done’ until August, so the leaker suspects Microsoft wants to limit where Germanium is present until then.

What we can surmise from this is that while Windows 11 24H2 will be out on those mentioned AI PCs as early as June (if everything stays on schedule), not all of 24H2’s full library of features will be enabled – presumably.

Whatever the case, the full rollout of Windows 11 24H2 to all users won’t happen until after it’s fully done in August, meaning a September or October rollout to all Windows 11 users. This is the timeframe Microsoft is working to based on rumors that go back to the start of this year, in fact.

The long and short of it is that while Windows 11 24H2 may be ready for RTM next month and on the cusp of finalization technically, it won’t fully arrive until September (at the earliest). And the rollout will be phased as ever, so you might not get it on your particular Windows 11 device until several months after, which is all standard practice.

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Microsoft is pushing out Copilot AI to more Windows 11 users – ready or not – and Windows 10 will follow shortly

Microsoft just announced that Copilot is rolling out to more Windows 11 users right now, and also it’ll be inbound to more Windows 10 users soon enough.

Neowin spotted the revelation in the Windows message center where Microsoft let us know that Copilot is coming to a wider audience – so, if you haven’t seen the AI assistant yet, you may well do soon enough.

Microsoft also let us know that from this week, it’s possible to use up to 10 queries with Copilot before you have to sign in to your Microsoft account. So, you can give the AI a bit of a try even if you don’t have an active Microsoft account on your Windows installation.

The ‘new wave’ of Copilot additions is happening now with Windows 11 (23H2 and 22H2), at least for consumers (with businesses, it will depend on admin policies). And eligible Windows 10 devices on Home or Pro versions (22H2) will start to get Copilot in this broader rollout later in March – so within the next week.

Microsoft tells us: “This current rollout phase will reach most of its targeted Windows 11 and 10 devices by the end of May.”

Meanwhile, Microsoft is also busy expanding Copilot’s repertoire of tricks regarding changing Windows settings, though it’s very slow going on that front thus far.


Analysis: AI for everyone

It sounds like most folks will have Copilot by the end of May, then. We’ve already seen it arrive on our Windows 10 PC, so that rollout is definitely already underway – it’s just about to step up to another level.

How will you know if you get Copilot? You can’t miss the colorful icon which will appear in the taskbar, on the far right (in the system tray). It’s marked with a ‘Pre’ on the icon to denote that the AI is still in preview, so it’s still possible to experience wonky or odd behavior when running queries with Copilot.

While you can turn off the Copilot icon if you don’t want to see it, you can’t actually remove the AI from Windows as such (not yet) – it’ll still be lurking in the background, even if you never access it. That said, there are ways to extract Copilot from your Windows installation, such as using third-party apps (though we wouldn’t recommend doing so, as previously discussed).

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Get ready to learn about what Windows 11 of the future looks like at Microsoft’s March 21 event

We’ve begun getting hints of what Microsoft is gearing up to announce for Windows 11 at its March event, and now we’ve got new pieces of the puzzle. We’re expecting information about a new feature for the Paint app, Paint NPU, and about a feature that’s being referred to as ‘AI Explorer’ internally at Microsoft. 

Microsoft has put up an official page announcing a special digital event named “New Era of Work” which will take place on March 21, starting at 9 PM PDT. On this page, users are met with the tagline “Advancing the new era of work with Copilot” and a description of the event that encourages users to “Tune in here for the latest in scaling AI in your environment with Copilot, Windows, and Surface.”

It sounds like we’re going to get an idea of what the next iteration of Windows Copilot, Microsoft’s new flagship digital AI assistant, will look like and what it’ll be able to do. It also looks like we might see Microsoft’s vision for what AI integration and features will look like for future versions of Windows and Surface products. 

A screenshot of the page announcing Microsoft's digital event.

(Image credit: Microsoft)

What we already know and expect

While we’ll have to wait until the event to see exactly what Microsoft wants to tell us about, we do have some speculation from Windows Latest that one feature we’ll learn about is a Paint app tool powered by new-gen machines’ NPUs (Neural Processing Units). These are processing components that enable new kinds of processes, particularly many AI processes.

This follows earlier reports that indicated that the Paint app was getting an NPU-driven feature, possibly new image editing and rending tools that make use of PCs’ NPUs. Another possible feature that Windows Latest spotted was “LiveCanvas,” which may enable users to draw real-time sketches aided by AI. 

Earlier this week, we also reported about a new ‘AI Explorer’ feature, apparently currently in testing at Microsoft. This new revamped version which has been described as an “advanced Copilot” looks like it could be similar to the Windows Timeline feature, but improved by AI. The present version of Windows Copilot requires an internet connection, but rumors suggest that this could change. 

This is what we currently understand about how the feature will work: it will make records of previous actions users perform, transform them into ‘searchable moments,’ and allow users to search these, as well as retract them. Windows Latest also reinforces the news that most existing PCs running Windows 11 won’t be able to use AI Explorer as it’s designed to use the newest available NPUs, intended to handle and assist higher-level computation tasks. The NPU would enable the AI Explorer feature to work natively on Windows 11 devices and users will be able to interact with AI Explorer using natural language

Using natural language means that users can ask AI Explorer to carry out tasks simply and easily, letting them access past conversations, files, and folders with simple commands, and they will be able to do this with most Windows features and apps. AI Explorer will have the capability to search user history and find information relevant to whatever subject or topic is in the user’s request. We don’t know if it’ll pull this information exclusively from user data or other sources like the internet as well, and we hope this will be clarified on March 21. 

Person working on laptop in kitchen

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What else we might see and what this might mean

 In addition to an NPU-powered Paint app feature and AI Explorer, it looks like we can expect the debut of other AI-powered features including an Automatic Super Resolution feature. This has popped up in Windows 11 23H4 preview builds, and it’s said to leverage PCs’ AI abilities to improve users’ visual experience. This will reportedly be done by utilizing DirectML, an API that also makes use of PCs’ NPUs, and will bring improvements to frame rates in games and apps.

March 21 is gearing up to bring what will at least probably be an exciting presentation, although it’s worth remembering that all of these new features will require an NPU. Only the most newly manufactured Windows devices will come equipped with these, which will leave the overwhelming majority of Windows devices and users in the dust. My guess is Microsoft is really banking on how great the new AI-driven features are to convince users to upgrade to these new models, and with the current state of apps and services like Windows Copilot, that’s still yet to be proven in practice.

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TikTok is now on Apple Vision Pro, ready to take over your view and eat up your gestures

TikTok has had a big impact on the world of music since it was launched back in 2016, and now it’s set to make its presence felt in the world of VR with a new native app for the Apple Vision Pro. Is there anything that TikTok can’t do?

In January, Ahmad Zahran, Product Leader at TikTok, revealed that a Vision Pro app was in the works, saying his team had “designed a new TikTok experience for the Apple Vision Pro”. Its reimagined interface takes you out of TikTok in Safari – which used to be the only way to access the platform on the Vision Pro – and into a new app version that’s designed for the Vision Pro’s visionOS platform and takes full advantage of the headset’s visual layout. 

Similar to the design of its iOS and Android apps, TikTok for visionOS has a vertical layout and includes the usual ‘Like’, ‘Comment’, ‘Share’, and ‘Favorite’ icons. What sets TikTok’s visionOS app apart from its iOS and Android versions is its expanded interface designed for the Vision Pro’s widescreen view.

TikTok user interface on Apple Vision Pro

(Image credit: TikTok)

When you tap the icons in the navigation bar they appear as floating panes to the right of your ‘For You’ page without interrupting the main video display, giving you a better view of comment sections and creator profiles. Better yet, the app is also compatible with Vision Pro’s Shared Space tool, allowing you to move TikTok to a different space in your headset view so that you can open other apps. 

If you really want to reap the benefits of using TikTok in the Vision Pro, you can immerse yourself even further by viewing content in the headset’s integrated virtual environments – so you could enjoy your favorite clips on the surface of the Moon if that’s your thing. 

If you thought TikTok was ubiquitous and immersive now, just wait –  it’s already far too easy to get lost in the endless feed you’re presented with in your phone, never mind having it take over the majority of your central view in a headset. 

There is one thing missing from the TikTok Vision Pro app: the ability to capture and create new videos. 

TikTok has also beaten Netflix and YouTube to the punch by arriving on the Vision Pro. While Netflix has no plans to launch a Vision Pro app right now, YouTube recently announced the app Juno – a service that lets you browse YouTube videos specifically for Apple’s ‘latest and greatest device’. 

@techradar

♬ Papaya – Pastel

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ChatGPT will get video-creation powers in a future version – and the internet isn’t ready for it

The web's video misinformation problem is set to get a lot worse before it gets better, with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman going on the record to say that video-creation capabilities are coming to ChatGPT within the next year or two.

Speaking to Bill Gates on the Unconfuse Me podcast (via Tom's Guide), Altman pointed to multimodality – the ability to work across text, images, audio and “eventually video” – as a key upgrade for ChatGPT and its models over the next two years.

While the OpenAI boss didn't go into too much detail about how this is going to work or what it would look like, it will no doubt work along similar lines to the image-creation capabilities that ChatGPT (via DALL-E) already offers: just type a few lines as a prompt, and you get back an AI-generated picture based on that description.

Once we get to the stage where you can ask for any kind of video you like, featuring any subject or topic you like, we can expect to see a flood of deepfake videos hit the web – some made for fun and for creative purposes, but many intended to spread misinformation and to scam those who view them.

The rise of the deepfakes

Deepfake videos are already a problem of course – with AI-generated videos of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak popping up on Facebook just this week – but it looks as though the problem is about to get significantly worse.

Adding video-creation capabilities to a widely accessible and simple-to-use tool like ChatGPT will mean it gets easier than ever to churn out fake video content, and that's a major worry when it comes to separating fact from fiction.

The US will be going to the polls later this year, and a general election in the UK is also likely to happen at some point in 2024. With deepfake videos purporting to show politicians saying something they never actually said already circulating, there's a real danger of false information spreading online very quickly.

With AI-generated content becoming more and more difficult to spot, the best way of knowing who, and what, to trust is to stick to well-known and reputable publications online for your news sources – so not something that's been reposted by a family member on Facebook, or pasted from an unknown source on the platform formerly known as Twitter.

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Microsoft steps up its Windows 11 file management game – get ready to say goodbye to WinRAR and &-Zip

If you’ve ever downloaded a 7-Zip file or RAR file (archive file formats that allow users to compress files to more portable, smaller sizes), you will probably find that you need an extra program or app or do something with them in Windows 11, but that’s about to change. Microsoft has announced native (as in, built-in) support for 7-Zip file and RAR file formats in Windows 11 22H2

According to BleepingComputer, Microsoft has stated that Windows 11 22H2 can now support almost a dozen archive file formats that it couldn’t before without a third-party app or program such as RAR, 7-Zip, Tar, and GZ archives. 

This update came as part of October’s optional KB5031455 Preview cumulative update. This means to have this new archive file capability, you’ll need to go to Settings, then to Windows Update, and select ‘Check for Updates’. Once your device finds the new optional update, click the ‘Download and install’ button. 

That means Windows 11 will soon support all of the following archive file types: .rar, .7z, .tar, .tar.gz, .tar.bz2, .tar.zst, .tar.xz, .tgz, .tbz2, .tzst, and .txz. Password-encrypted files aren’t covered in this update, but that will come soon. BleepingComputer asked Microsoft about the lack of password-protected archive support, but Microsoft had nothing to share at this time. 

This development was first announced during the Build 2023 conference back in a May blog post that detailed Microsoft’s new Dev Home Windows control center.

Reportedly, Microsoft enlisted the open-source libarchive project, a library of file archive and file compression formats. Apparently, this open-source project also allows users to enable support for the LZH and XAR file formats, so we could see in-house Windows 11 support for these as well. If you’re familiar with the .gz archive file format, you’re probably a Linux user familiar with the GNU Zip (gzip) utility. This new Windows support for this file format will be helpful to those using the Windows Subsystem for Linux. 

Internet Archive

(Image credit: Shutterstock / 300 librarians)

How you can power up your Windows 11's file capabilities

Again, if you’d like this new capability for Windows 11 right now, you’ll need to manually install it. Otherwise you can wait until November’s Patch Tuesday, when there is a scheduled Windows 11 cumulative update. Either way, you will get all the new Moment 4 update features which includes a whopping seventy two new features for Windows 11 like a revamped File Explorer, a renewed Backup app, a new Passkey Manager, and the shiny jewel of the update, Windows Copilot

This is a welcome update, especially since the ZIP, 7-Zip, and RAR archive formats are widely used by users of Windows systems past and present. Since 1998, Windows has had native system support for ZIP archive files, and it’s good to see 7-Zip (.7z), RAR (.rar), and gz (.gz) files, get support in Windows 11, which should make using those files much easier – and means you won’t need to install any extra applications. 

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Samsung may be adding AI to its home appliances – I’m so ready to chat to my oven

Samsung is set to bet big on the AI hype and enhance a range of home appliances with AI capabilities – including premium and budget appliances across multiple categories, like smart TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners, and everything in between. 

According to DigiTimes, the tech giant intends to “equip all its new home appliance products with neural processing units (NPUs)” in 2024. Samsung’s Home Appliances Division is apparently working on updating various smart device chipsets, with the goal being to enable power-efficient, always-on AI tools that’ll assist users. 

This could mean a variety of new features will be made available to spruce up your home, like advanced voice recognition and a smarter version of Samsung’s voice assistant Bixby, which could answer questions and work with the rest of your smart home to help come up with lists or answer queries. 

Never burn a cake again!

As noted by Tom’s Hardware, one of the more exciting possibilities the proposed AI integration could lead to is smart ovens. As someone who regularly battles with my low-tech oven, a smart oven that can suggest cooking times, tell me when things are burning, or advise me that my dinner needs to be cooked a little longer would be great. 

AI integration may seem like it’s going off the rails a little bit with how quickly our day-to-day lives are getting boosted by artificial intelligence. But, if there’s one tech department that would greatly benefit from that intelligent upgrade, it’s smart home appliances.

That being said, the change may not be welcomed by everyone. There is the concern of privacy and security, and the strange new territory of giving a little more of our life to the bots. But if it keeps me from burning my cakes, I’m willing to let this one slide.

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