Windows 11’s new features won’t be for everyone – but they’re seriously cool for those who’ll use them

Windows 11 is close to getting some smart additions for those who use a stylus, and other improvements besides, as seen in a new preview build.

This is preview build 22635.2776 (also known as KB5032292) which has been pushed out to the Beta channel, the last avenue of testing before Release Preview (the final step before new features come to the finished version of Windows 11).

The big step forward here is for Windows Ink, with the ability to write directly in some text boxes in Windows 11 coming to a lot more people. In other words, rather than typing in text for a search, for example, you can directly scribble your search terms into the box.

This ability was available for the US, but is now coming with support for a bunch of new regions – that includes English (Australia), English and French (Canada), English (India), and English (United Kingdom), plus many more (check out the blog post for the full list).

Windows 11 stylus writing in menus

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Windows Ink is being further bolstered by a greater level of accuracy for its recognition technology, as well as some new gesture controls. There are now gestures to select, join, or split words, to delete a word, and to insert a new line.

The Task Manager has also been tinkered with in this beta release, with Microsoft noting that it has improved process grouping in the panel that lists your running processes.

Also rolling out in this preview are notifications for Microsoft accounts on the home page of the Settings app. We’ve seen these in the past, and they’re prompts to remind you about the status of your account, and tasks you might want to finish off (though we should note we’ve not been keen on the way this has been handled in the Start menu).


Analysis: Supercharging that stylus

This is an important update for those who use a stylus, then, outside of the US, as a lot more territories across the globe are now being covered with support for writing directly in menus. This is an excellent time-saving feature for those using their convertible laptop as a tablet, for example, and it’s something Microsoft is set to develop more going forward.

Indeed, we’ve been told in the past that the eventual aim is that you’ll be able to use your stylus to write anywhere in Windows 11, which is a very cool concept.

Improved process grouping in Task Manager should be a useful little change, too, if you’re one of the Windows users who takes an interest in diving into this area of the interface. Task Manager can be a useful tool for troubleshooting what’s slowing down your PC, for example, if it seems to have hit a sticky patch.

We don’t know how the change will work yet, but more intelligent grouping of related processes should enable better visibility into what’s happening under the hood at any given time with your Windows 11 system.

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New Windows 11 update fixes a seriously frustrating bug that messed with AMD GPUs

A bug that’s been frustrating Windows 11 users with AMD graphics cards (and CPUs to an extent) has been fixed in the latest update for Microsoft’s OS – or mostly fixed, anyway, going by reports.

This glitch was brought in with the Moment 4 update (it was first seen in the preview of that upgrade), and it messed with AMD profile settings. Every time affected users restarted their PC, those GPU settings (and reportedly CPU settings too, in some instances, like overclocking) went back to their defaults.

The good news is that the Windows 11 update for November (which began rolling out last week) cured this issue, albeit with some caveats.

As Windows Latest reports, the bug has been squashed according to its own testing. The tech site has also been talking to a selection of users hit by the bug and the majority said that this new patch from Microsoft fixed things – however, a few observed that their profile was still being reset.

It appears there are still minor gremlins kicking about, perhaps, though it should be noted that for the fix to work, as well as the November update for Windows 11, you also need to be running AMD’s Adrenalin graphics driver version 23.10.2.

Another slight caveat, too: the November update that resolves this issue has some vexing problems itself.


Analysis: A thornier problem for some?

This is a nasty bug. Having your settings reset and having to redo any customization from scratch after every single PC restart is going to get very annoying, very quickly. Especially if you’ve done a lot of tweaking on your AMD system.

Seeing the fix arrive is great news, although there’s the slight catch of apparently not everyone getting the benefit. Windows Latest doesn’t make it clear if those who found the bug still present after the latest Windows 11 update were using the mentioned version of AMD’s GPU driver (v23.10.2), but presumably they were, as the site would’ve surely clarified that if not.

The tech site suggests that those continuing to be affected may be suffering a profile reset from another cause other than Windows 11 updates.

Whatever wrinkles are left in the solution, if any, Microsoft will hopefully iron them out quickly – although the software giant hasn’t actually confirmed the presence of this fix in the new update.

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Windows 11 Pro users beware: Microsoft’s BitLocker encryption could be seriously slowing down your PC

Microsoft’s software encryption for SSDs, BitLocker, has been found to be slowing down SSD performance by up to 45% in Windows 11 Pro. BitLocker is enabled automatically when Windows 11 Pro is installed and set up, and is intended to increase the security of SSD-related processes. 

Eager to analyze the issue, TomsHardware tested the feature and found that SSD speeds could be seriously affected when running some applications. 

Apparently, this happens because the software-based BitLocker constantly prompts encryption and decryption processes with data on your SSD while your computer carries out read and write processes. So, as your computer extracts and puts away files and data from your SSD as you go about your business, each of these inward and outward actions from the SSD is coupled with an additional encryption or decryption process that kicks off automatically every time. 

A pcwelt.de article (translated by PCWorld) points the finger at Windows 11 developers including the encryption software as part of the installation process of Windows 11 Pro.  According to pcwelt.de, many modern SSDs have their own built-in hardware-based encryption processes, and that results in all decryption and encryption processes being handled by SSD itself. Regardless, Bitlocker is activated when Windows 11 Pro is set up without giving users the option to opt-out or disable it.

Person Working on Surface Laptop at Home

(Image credit: Microsoft)

What is the heart of the problem and does it affect you?

It’s speculated that Microsoft insists on doing this because if it doesn’t, then it must give up control of encryption to SSD manufacturers. This means that Microsoft would have to depend on these SSD manufacturers to manage such a vital feature for Windows 11 Pro users, and, in recent years, there have been vulnerability issues in the hardware encryption code created by the SSD manufacturers. 

These manufacturers have been attentive and patched these vulnerabilities, but perhaps understandably, Microsoft doesn’t want to have to rely on a third-party to guarantee users SSD security. 

It seems like Windows 11 Home isn’t affected by this specific issue because BitLocker encryption isn’t supported. 

To find out if your SSD is affected by this problem, you can do the following:

  1. Open the Windows 11 Pro Command line with administrator rights. 
  2. Enter the following command:  manage-bde -status

This should open up the BitLocker Drive Encryption: Configuration Tool which allows you to analyze all the drives in your computer. 

If you open Conversion Status, you’ll be able to figure out how your SSD data is encrypted. Next, if you look at Encryption Method, you should see what type of encryption is used on a particular drive: software encryption (“XTS-AES”) or hardware encryption (“Hardware Encryption”). “XTS-AES” means that BitLocker is enabled and is running software encryption, while “Fully decrypted” means BitLock is disabled and encryption processes take place in the SSD. 

When users use programs that greatly involve the SSD, because every in and out process of the SSD is compounded with an extra encryption or decryption process, the SSD has to handle more processes altogether and experiences greater strain. Microsoft may be working on a software patch to address this whole issue in Windows 11 Pro, but it’s unconfirmed if this is currently being developed. 

Developers

(Image credit: Startup Stock Photos / Pexels)

How to configure BitLocker in Windows 11 Pro

To speed up your device, you might consider disabling BitLocker, but you have to make an informed decision, as BitLocker and the extra security it provides is beneficial to those who use corporate and business devices, and those who find themselves travelling often, and find that they’re in situations where there’s heightened risk of the device being stolen in general. 

If you have BitLocker installed, because it’s integrated with your system on a software and operating system level, you can only access the computer’s data by entering the Windows account details tied to that specific Windows 11 Pro device. 

If corporate and business devices come with Windows 11 Pro, then it’s likely that they have default settings, and that these devices are experiencing this specific type of slowdown.

After careful consideration and understanding, if you need higher-level data protection and you still want to get rid of this SSD encryption protection, then you can deactivate BitLocker by taking the following steps. Make sure that you understand clearly what level of encryption you need before you do this! 

  1. Open the Windows 11 Pro Command line with administrator rights
  2. Enter the following command: manage-bde -off C:

C: here represents whatever drive you want to turn off BitLocker for, and if it’s not C: then you need to change it to the drive you want to remove BitLocker from. After that, you will need to restart your computer to complete the process of disabling BitLocker. 

There is a way to not totally disable SSD encryption altogether, but switch it from software encryption to hardware encryption and this process has also been detailed by pcwelt.de (translated by PCWorld).

I personally would only consider disabling BitLocker if you don’t use your computer in any work capacity, or if you don’t have any data or files on it that you consider particularly sensitive. However, this is still useful information in terms of understanding more about the inner workings of your computer and digital security. 

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Microsoft fixes seriously annoying PC gaming bug with Windows 11 update

Windows 11’s Moment 3 update has arrived, albeit only in preview form right now, and as well as new features, it comes with a whole lot of bug squashing – including the fix for a glitch that has been driving some gamers round the bend.

Namely Timeout Detection and Recovery (TDR) errors which crash the game and can lock up the PC. These have been around for a long time, and you can trace troubleshooting efforts all the way back to Windows Vista on Nvidia’s support forum.

Microsoft’s release notes for the Moment 3 preview (KB5027303) state that: “This update addresses an issue that might affect your computer when you are playing a game. Timeout Detection and Recovery (TDR) errors might occur.”

There are some thumbs-ups for this move on Reddit, though no reports that gamers who have been experiencing TDR crashes of late are no longer getting them – not yet, anyway. But we’ll take Microsoft at its word, of course, and this is an important step forward.

One user on Reddit did observe: “Funnily enough, Spider Man Remastered no longer crashes since I have installed this update. I never had TDR issues though.”

So maybe there are some overall stability fixes in the background here for PC games, as well as the TDR remedy? Perhaps.

Another useful facet of this update for gamers is that it improves performance with high polling rate mice (as seen before in testing), reducing levels of stutter with these peripherals (such as the models found in our best gaming mouse roundup).


Analysis: Bug fix bonanza

There are a bunch of other bug fixes delivered by KB5027303, too, including a solution for an issue that stops File Explorer working (that’s a big one, as File Explorer is the central part of the Windows interface which displays your folders and files).

There’s also a cure for flickering video in some apps, the virtual on-screen keyboard failing to open (after coming back from the lock screen), and some earbuds not working (for playing streaming music). That’s quite a bit of problem solving from Microsoft.

Remember, however, this is a preview update, meaning it’s an optional one. If you’ve been frustrated by those TDR errors crashing games, or another of the mentioned gremlins, then you might well feel this update is worth installing. Any risks of still undiscovered bugs in preview likely pale into insignificance compared to the problem you’re facing, anyway.

Otherwise, folks may want to wait for this update to get its full release, which will happen next month (on July 11 to be precise, so that’s not all that much of a wait).

As ever with optional updates, the choice is yours. Windows 10 gamers, however, are a bit miffed that the TDR fix is here for Windows 11, but not for the older OS – so they don’t have a choice, and are forced to live with any game crashing antics. With any luck, Microsoft has this resolution inbound for Windows 10 and it’ll be coming soon enough, fingers crossed.

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Windows 11 security bug fix debacle is seriously embarrassing for Microsoft

Windows 11 has run into further problems with a security-related bug that’s scaring users and was supposed to have been fixed recently – but Microsoft has admitted that its cure failed to work, and it has been pulled.

This one has a bit of a lengthy backstory, as it were, so buckle up and bear with us as we take you through it to give some context as to what’s happened here.

Okay, so the bug in question first appeared when Microsoft pushed out the March 2023 cumulative update for Windows 11 22H2, causing Local Security Authority (LSA) protection to tell users that it was turned off. In actual fact, it had stayed on, the glitch being the error message, rather than LSA itself actually going wrong.

Still, some Windows 11 users being told that their device ‘may be vulnerable’ due to the lack of LSA protection, complete with a big yellow warning triangle adorned with an exclamation mark, was obviously going to provoke some concerns.

What really didn’t help is that the error persisted continually, even after reboots.

Microsoft gave us a workaround at the time – if you can call it that, we were simply told to dismiss the (repeated) error messages, and assured everything was fine with LSA. But a welcome sight was an official fix for this problem arriving at the end of April.

That cure for the LSA error blues arrived in the form of an update for Microsoft Defender, but sadly, this brought forth some new bugs – yes, argh – namely driver conflicts, hitting some PC games with crashes (due to anti-cheat software).

And now, as Neowin observes – while pointing out reports from its own readers of the LSA bug still being present – Microsoft has updated its health dashboard for Windows 11 to admit that the Microsoft Defender fix caused these unwanted side effects, and it has now been pulled.

Microsoft tells us: “This known issue was previously resolved with an update for Microsoft Defender Antivirus antimalware platform KB5007651 (Version 1.0.2303.27001) but issues were found, and that update is no longer being offered to devices.”


Analysis: Fix with one hand, break with the other

So what’s the upshot? The LSA problem remains, and Microsoft is working on a new fix, with the old one stuffed firmly in the bin. Those who have already got the old fix applied (KB5007651), mind you, are kind of stuck with it.

Microsoft advises those who are already running KB5007651 (Version 1.0.2303.27001) that they will need to disable Kernel-mode Hardware-enforced Stack Protection.

The software giant provides instructions as follows: “To do this, select the Start button, type Windows Security and select it, select Device Security then select Core Isolation then disable Kernel-mode Hardware-enforced Stack Protection.”

We’re not exactly sure that’s an ideal situation on the security front, though. But hey, if it’s Microsoft’s official advice, then it should be fine.

Meanwhile, for those still affected by the LSA bug, Microsoft instructs them to go back to that fabulous workaround mentioned previously. Yes, just ignore it, and while it will irritate you by continually popping up, there’s actually nothing wrong with LSA (in distinct contrast to the yanked-down fix which definitely did cause driver-related havoc).

This has been a very messy episode for Microsoft, and not one that will especially give Windows 11 users faith that the QA department has a particularly good handle on what’s going on with the OS. Hopefully, a solution that doesn’t break a bunch of other stuff will be forthcoming soon.

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Microsoft 365 is seriously late to the party with this important hybrid working feature

Avoiding embarrassing meeting snafus could soon be a lot easier thanks to a long-awaited new update from Microsoft 365.

The software suite has revealed that users will finally be able to specify where and how they will be attending meetings using its Outlook email service.

Going forward, Outlook users will now be able to specify whether they will attend a meeting in-person or online.

Outlook RSVP

Microsoft says this feature will be useful not just for the workers, but also for those planning meetings, who can best prepare by booking a room with video conferencing resources or bringing an external speaker.

The update was first revealed back in September 2021 as part of a larger hybrid working push by Microsoft, but the company has now said the tool is finally set to begin rolling out soon. It is marked as general availability, meaning all Outlook and Exchange users should be able to access it upon release.

The update comes a number of weeks after Google announced an identical feature for Gmail, as Google Calendar users are now able to specify whether they will be attending a meeting either virtually or in-person in their email RSVP.

The function had initially been added to Google Calendar back in July 2021 during the initial hybrid working peak, with Google noting this would, “help meeting attendees know what to expect when joining a meeting, and prepare accordingly.”

Ironically given today's news, Google's RSVP options are not shared with contacts on other platforms, such as Microsoft Outlook.

Google Calendar also recently launched a “Focus time” feature that allows users to block out periods of time where they can avoid meetings and get their heads down for actual work.

Setting such a marker in your Google Calendar will also allow users to automatically decline meetings, meaning no last-minute rush to finish off work.

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