Google Pay gets 3 handy new features that could save you time and money

Google Pay is receiving three new features that collectively aim to make online shopping easier and more transparent. At first, it may seem strange how the tech giant is updating Google Pay when the app is scheduled to go offline on June 4 in the United States. 

However, it turns out the patch is rolling out to the Google Pay payment system rather than to the app itself. The Google Pay app is still set to be discontinued in about two weeks from the time of this writing. You’ll see the following changes appear on desktop and mobile.

According to their announcement post, the company states “American Express and Capital One cardholders” will now see the benefits they can receive when checking out on Chrome desktop in the “autofill drop-down” menu. Google gives the example of someone buying a round-trip flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Your American Express Gold Card may offer three times the travel points, while a Capital One Quicksilver Card will give you “1.5 percent cash back on [your] purchase.” There are plans to add “more cards in the future” as well.

Google Pay Card Benefits in Autofill

(Image credit: Google)

Next, the buy now, pay later (BNPL) payment option is expanding to more “merchant sites and Android apps across the US.” Google appears to be working with two BNPL services, Affirm and Zip, to make the expansion possible. Exactly which websites and apps are unknown, and Google didn't provide any additional details in the post, although we did ask.

Autofill update

The first two features are exclusive to people in the United States; however, the Autofill update is seeing an international release. Moving forward, shoppers on either Chrome or Android can use biometrics or their screen lock PIN to verify card details. With this, you'll no longer have to enter your security code manually.

Google Pay - Autofill update

(Image credit: Google)

Autofill will normally work without a hitch, but Google states if it detects suspicious transactions, it’ll prevent payments from going through. Also, users can “set up device unlock” to have Google Pay ask you to unlock your smartphone to reveal “full card details.” It ensures your card isn’t used by other people who might have access to your device.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the patch when it arrives. The Google Pay update is currently rolling out. While we have you, be sure to check out TechRadar's list of the best Android phones for 2024.

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Humane AI Pin review roundup: an undercooked flop that’s way ahead of its time

The Humane AI Pin is a fascinating little device for gadget fans. If you missed its reveal in November 2023, it's a tiny wearable computer with a built-in AI assistant, camera, and a little projector that blasts its UI onto your hand. Unfortunately, it's also pretty terrible, according to the internet's first reviews, which have landed in the past few days.

It's rare for tech reviews, from both traditional media and YouTubers, to be so unanimous in their criticism of a much-hyped product. “The worst product I've ever reviewed… for now” concluded Marques Brownlee. Ouch. Meanwhile, Engadget branded it “the solution to none of technology's problems”, while The Verge simply said that the AI Pin was “not even close”.

Naturally, these scathing verdicts create some added fascination about a $ 699 device that also requires a $ 24-a-month subscription. Yet few of the reviews think the AI Pin is completely without merit. Many praise its hardware design, which is solid aluminum and clips to your chest thanks to a magnetic 'battery booster' that goes inside your clothing. On the few occasions that it did work seamlessly, it also gave reviewers a little glimpse of a refreshingly screen-less future.

A person wearing the Humane AI Pin on a camouflaged jacket

(Image credit: Humane)

But beyond the specific features – many of which don't seem to work reliably enough yet – the most interesting thing about these Humane AI Pin reviews is their broad conclusions about AI gadgets. In short, our phones aren't going anywhere for a long time, and, as Bloomberg's review concluded, “the AI device revolution isn't going to kill the smartphone”. We haven't yet reviewed the Rabbit R1, but that will probably hold true for a while yet.  

This doesn't mean that the Humane AI Pin isn't a fascinating (if deeply flawed device) today. Here are all of the internet's thoughts on the boldest tech launch since the Apple Vision Pro

Humane AI Pin: the key reviews

Marques Brownlee: “The worst product I've ever reviewed…for now”

Despite the scathing headline, Marques Brownlee's report on his time with the AI Pin is typically fair and even-handed. Unfortunately, he simply couldn't find many positives, aside from the design. “The build of this thing is actually impressive”, he says of the solid, aluminum gadget. Unfortunately, it's also “bad at almost everything it does”.

That list includes answering your voice queries, where it's either painfully slow (given most requests go to the cloud) or “just wrong all the time”. The battery life was also strangely inconsistent, and the device was worryingly warm a lot of time. But the fundamental issue, a theme across most of the reviews, is that everything the AI Pin does, a “modern smartphone does better and faster”. Without connecting to your smartphone or offering any apps, the AI Pin is strangely adrift.

The Good

  • Solid build quality
  • Translation feature has promise
  • Impressive engineering

The Bad

  • Too slow at giving answers
  • Poor, inconsistent battery life
  • Overheating issues
  • Wrong all the time
  • No apps

Mrwhosetheboss: “It's not good”

Tech YouTuber Arun Maini, AKA Mrwhosetheboss, was clearly conflicted in his review between the “small twinges of something magical” he could see in the Humane AI Pin and the unworkable reality of using it. “As of right now, the Human Pin is an incredibly poor proposition” he concluded.

As other reviews noted, it all goes downhill after you see the hardware. The price (which works out at $ 1,700 over two years, when you factor in the subscription, accessories, and taxes), slow responses to voice requests, lack of integration with existing phone apps, and impractical projector interface were all black marks. 

As Maini notes, a more sensible setup would surely be for the AI Pin to connect to your phone – like the best smartwatches – rather than act as a standalone device. All of this led him to conclude that he can't see “a single angle from which it makes sense”.

The Good

  • Construction is top-notch
  • No wake words needed
  • Vision feature is satisfying

The Bad

  • Too expensive
  • Requests take too long
  • Doesn't talk to existing apps
  • Projector not bright enough

CNET: “Futuristic but frustrating”

CNET's hands-on review of the AI Pin contains a nice nod to the Star Trek Communicator badge that the pin is seemingly inspired by, but that's one of the few moments of levity in a review that cautions, you “definitely not” consider buying it in its current form.

The video is more of a whistlestop tour of the AI Pin's features – including the built-in camera for taking photos and 15-second videos – than a real deep-dive into living with it. But there are lots of useful real-world examples of using the wearable, including its promising translation feature and uncut takes of how long it often takes to respond.

There are also some familiar conclusions; overheating, the laser display not being bright enough in daylight, underwhelming AI features, and the hand-tracking interface being frustrating and worse than on a VR headset. In short, it's frustrating and CNET said there are times when the AI Pin has driven it crazy.

The Good

  • Sleek design
  • Well-conceived accessories
  • Decent battery life

The Bad

  • Overheating issues
  • Too frustrating for everyday use
  • Can't connect to your phone
  • AI is unreliable 

The Verge: “Not even close”

Frequent bouts of hysterical laughter aren't usually a good sign for a tech review –and sure enough, The Verge found that the AI Pin's promise is completely undermined by its unreliability and its “single biggest problem – it is so, so slow”.

Cue a 13-second wait for it to mis-identify the Brooklyn Bridge and other unintentionally hilarious gaffes. The Verge actually still came away “sort of impressed” by the AI Pin's technology, including the fact that it doesn't need a wake word and promises a world where you can sometimes leave your phone at home.

It also concluded that the Pin “might still be the future, or something like it”, with its camera-based descriptions of real-world objects being “easily the most futuristic thing” about the device. But it's also a “$ 700 gamble” and the damning conclusion is that a cell-connected Apple Watch is a much more capable and functional device, while being a lot cheaper.

The Good

  • Sturdy and nicely made
  • No wake word needed

The Bad

  • Many features not yet available
  • Very slow at responding
  • Doesn't always work

Bloomberg: “The design and interface are fatally flawed”

The Humane AI Pin on a shirt

(Image credit: Humane)

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman is an Apple reporter who notes that Humane's co-founders are former Apple staffers who worked on the iPhone and iPad, which gave them a leg-up when it came to investment. But despite its promising backstory, he concludes that the AI Pin's “fundamental design and interface are fatally flawed”.

Gurman's conclusion is that the bugs and slow response times aren't the AI Pin's main problem. Instead, the voice control and laser projection system make it “a nonstarter for most people”. He notes that smart speaker and voice assistant hype has died down because they're not a “practical user interface”.

So while Gurman concludes, like most of the early reviews, that Humane deserves credit for creating something new and creating a system that “aggregate data from several AI engines”, the concept is ultimately doomed to failure and is “never going to work”.

What next for the Humane AI Pin?

The Humane AI Pin on an orange background

(Image credit: Humane)

Understandably, Humane has defended its new gadget from the wave of scathing reviews. Ken Kocienda, the company's Head of Product Engineering and the inventor of the iPhone's autocorrect, posted a lengthy statement on X (formerly Twitter) about why he's a “happy AI Pin user” and why his “intuition tells me that we are on track”.

Kocienda admits that the AI Pin can be “frustrating sometimes”, but apparently no more than a laptop or smartphone. That isn't the conclusion from the internet's first reviews from multiple sources, but the Humane designer also blames the social media landscape for encouraging “hot takes” and encouraging people to “jump on the skepticism bandwagon”.

So what next for the AI Pin? Humane does have a roadmap for new features, with timers, gesture unlock, photo sharing via SMS, and more coming in software version 1.2, which is scheduled for “Summer”. Other features like number sharing, visual shopping, and an SDK for apps are also in the pipeline, but don't yet have a date.

As it stands, the current consensus for the Humane AI Pin is that it's simply too ambitious for its form factor and current technology – including the problem that AI tends to 'hallucinate' or confidently give incorrect answers. For now, the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses and Rabbit R1 look like more promising examples of AI gadgets, but we'll be keeping an eye on AI Pin to see if it can overcome its inauspicious start. 

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Microsoft continues to shove Copilot down our throats, this time on our tablets

If you’re a Windows user, you’ve probably been embracing (or running away from) Microsoft Copilot being integrated into your operating system. The AI-powered tool has been added to Microsoft Edge, Microsoft 365, and the Windows 11 taskbar. Now, it seems like the AI companion is making its debut on Windows tablets – in the most annoying way possible. 

Zac Bowden from Windows Central discovered that swiping from the right on your tablet now opens Copilot instead of your notification center – disrupting a core gesture that users have grown accustomed to. Bowden posted a video on Twitter (sorry, X)  showing this change in action, swiping to open notifications and instead being greeted by an unwelcome Copilot. 

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Bowden also adds that the notification panel has apparently simply disappeared. You would think that if Copilot had been moved to the right, the notification panel would have been relocated, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Now, it seems that if you miss a notification it’s simply gone with the wind – you have nowhere to catch up on anything you miss. 

Give it back! 

Almost all modern devices have some kind of notification center that’s easily accessible. iPhone and Android mobiles have the swipe down from the top gesture, which is also translated to larger touchscreen devices like iPads or Galaxy tablets. Even your Windows PC has a notification center on the right side of your taskbar. So, it’s incredibly peculiar for Windows tablets to have that crucial feature removed. 

If you’re worried about your tablet being affected, don’t panic – so far this change has only been implemented on tablets that are running on the latest Windows 11 version (24H2). It was first spotted in Microsoft Windows Insider Dev and Canary channel and now seems to have broken out to a wider array of devices – so if you want to avoid this, just hold off on updating to version 24H2 for now.

Hopefully, this is a temporary change that’ll be reversed soon. While Microsoft’s Copilot is an objectively impressive tool, there’s no doubt that not everyone will be happy to have these changes shoved in their faces like this. Especially if you’re not a big fan of AI chatbots in the first place – I’d be pretty upset if I lost access to my notifications for something I’d never use.

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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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Time to start saving – the Apple Vision Pro looks set to launch very soon

It’s time for AR aficionados to start saving, if you haven’t been already, because Apple is getting everything ready to launch the Apple Vision Pro headset in February according to a new report. This follows rumors that it might be delayed until March.

Unnamed sources have told Bloomberg (article behind a paywall) that if things go according to plan, the first wave of consumer units will be ready to ship at the end of January, with a retail release planned for February – sticking to the “early” 2024 release window Apple gave during WWDC 2023 when the headset was unveiled.

It’s apparently not just the product that’s being prepared for an upcoming launch. The report adds that developers creating mixed reality software have recently been told to “get ready” for the Vision Pro, and in January at least two staff members from every US Apple Store branch are supposedly heading to its headquarters for training.

The training is to help them understand the complex Apple gadget. The headset has a lot of customizable components that need to be calibrated and boxed up in-store (online purchases supposedly won't be available) when someone buys one. If there are any problems with the process, potential buyers may walk out the door, or even take home and unbox a subpar experience – something completely unacceptable for a gadget that starts at $ 3,499 per headset (around £2,800 / AU$ 5,300).

But even if the Vision Pro does materialize on shelves in February 2024 you’re unlikely to actually get your hands on one.

A person views an image on a virtual screen while wearing an Apple Vision Pro headset.

Will the Vision Pro replace your TV? (Image credit: Apple)

A February launch for the lucky few

Not simply because the Apple mixed reality headset is priced out of most people’s budgets, but because Apple won’t have many available. 

According to rumors, Apple is only expected to produce 150,000 headsets in 2024. This lack of availability may be why the device will only be sold in the US at launch. And that 150,000 figure is for the whole of 2024; far fewer devices would be available on its release date – so even if you live in the US there’s a good chance you still won’t see one for a while.

The Meta Quest 3 on a notebook surrounded by pens and school supplies on a desk

The Meta Quest 3 is the main Vision Pro rival. (Image credit: Meta)

That is, unless the gadget is wildly unpopular.

While this seems almost impossible for an Apple product, a combination of price and novelty may put people off – even the company’s most rabid fans. What’s more, the headset is certainly the best VR headset ever made from a raw hardware perspective, but Apple has yet to show off software that puts these specs to use in ways that the far cheaper Meta Quest 3 can’t – even its iPhone 15 Pro’s spatial video can play on Quest hardware

It also has some frankly ridiculous problems such as a measly two-hour battery life and (according to some people who have tried it) an uncomfortable design. As I said above, with a $ 3,499 price tag there isn’t any wiggle room – it has to be perfect.

All that said, I’m fully expecting the Apple Vision Pro to be perpetually sold out. This will be Apple’s first new product line in a while, and even if it does wind up being an overpriced folly, Apple collectors will desperately want to get their hands on this piece of tech history.

So if you want to get your hands on one, be ready to book an appointment and head to your local Apple Store as soon as you can. Otherwise, you might have to wait for the Vison Pro's successor to get your hands on an Apple VR headset.

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Want a pair of AR glasses? Now’s the best time to finally buy some

If you've been looking to pick up a pair of AR glasses but have been put off by the price then this year's best Black Friday deals might be able to lend a hand. There are some big savings to be had on a wide range of deals.

The popular Xreal Air glasses are currently $ 271 at Amazon – down from $ 379 – and the recently released  RayNeo Air 2 glasses are $ 30, now down to $ 349 at Amazon. Best of all every deal below is the lowest ever price these AR glasses have ever been. So no matter which pair or bundle you pick up you'll be getting a bargain this Black Friday.

If you're after something a bit more immersive, you might instead prefer this year's Oculus Quest 2 Black Friday deals. Otherwise, scroll down to see some AR glasses discounts.

Today's best Black Friday AR glasses deals

Xreal Air glasses: was $ 379 now $ 271 at Amazon
The Xreal Air AR glasses are currently over $ 100 off for Black Friday which is a really solid deal. Connect these AR specs to a compatible smartphone, tablet, or laptop and you’ll be able to see the screen on a massive virtual display. There’s a really fun gadget and normally quite pricey, so this is a deal you don’t want to ignore.View Deal

Xreal Air glasses + Xreal Beam: was $ 449 now $ 379 at Xreal
To make the Xreal glasses better you can pick up this bundle that includes the Beam. It’s a portable power source that phones can wirelessly cast to, meaning you won’t drain your phone’s battery as quickly and it allows you to connect the specs to a wider range of gadgets. Just remember to use the $ 70 voucher for a full discount.

If you already have the glasses, the Beam on its own is $ 10 off. It was $ 119 but is now $ 109 at Xreal.View Deal

Xreal Air glasses + Xreal Adapter: was $ 369 now $ 309 at Amazon
This bundle includes the Xreal Airs and an adapter that makes it easier to connect the Xreal glasses to iPhones (if you have an HDMI to Lightning converter), and game consoles like a PS5 and Xbox Series X.

If you already have the glasses, the Adapter on its own is $ 10 off. It was $ 49 but is now $ 39 at Xreal.View Deal

Rokid Max glasses: was $ 379 now $ 299 at Amazon
Instead of the Xreal Air glasses, you could opt for the Rokid Max specs. These glasses do offer several benefits including better field-of-view and are slightly lighter, though we found they can get uncomfortably hot during use which can be distracting.View Deal

RayNeo Air 2 glasses: was $ 379 now $ 349 at Amazon
We’ve yet to try these specs out, but $ 30 on a pair of AR glasses that launched this year isn’t bad. We have tried the related Nxtwear S AR glasses and thought they were fine, though they weren’t faultless so we’d recommend checking out some reviews before picking up this RayNeo gadget.View Deal

I've had the chance to test a large range of AR glasses like the ones above, and I think they are really fun gadgets – I love using them, and my friends and family who have tried them think they're awesome too.

On a commute, or just when you and your partner want to use the TV at the same time you can slip on a pair of these and have a large full HD display floating in front of you. Unfortunately, they're normally too expensive for what you get. Spending around $ 400 on a wearable display is a lot, especially when you need to pay extra for add-ons that are optional in the loosest sense of the word (to get the most out of these specs you need an adapter or two).

These Black Friday deals bring the prices down to more reasonable levels; they're literally the cheapest these glasses have ever been. If you want to find out more about these AR glasses then check out our full Xreal Air review, Rokid Max review, and TCL Nxtwear S review.

If you are thinking of getting a pair of AR glasses, I'd also suggest checking out our Black Friday headphones deals page. The audio from these glasses is pretty weak, and it leaks too. For a better and more private experience, a pair of good Bluetooth headphones is a must.

Follow TechRadar on TikTok for news, reviews, unboxings, and hot Black Friday deals!

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Google Bard can now respond to your AI queries in real time, like ChatGPT

Generative AI chatbots like ChatGPT, Bing Chat and Google Bard continue to iterate and improve, and Google's smart assistant is the latest to get a feature update – it can now respond to you in real time, if you want it to.

Before now, Bard has always taken the time to compose its responses in full, before putting them on screen. That's in contrast to ChatGPT and Bing Chat, which output text in real time while the answer is still being worked on.

Now, Google Bard will do that as well, by default. The update was spotted by 9to5Google, and we've seen it for ourselves too, though Bard's changelog hasn't yet been updated to reflect the different approach.

You should see a message on screen when you load up Bard on the web after the change has been applied. If you want to go back to the old way of working, you need to click the cog icon in the top right-hand corner, then choose Respond once complete.

Still the same bot

This change is really just a cosmetic one: there's no difference when it comes to the answers you're actually getting out of the AI behind Google Bard. However, the real time response does have more of a human feel to it – even if it's still the same bot.

With Bard now working in this way, it also means you can cut off the response before it's finished – maybe if you've phrased the prompt or question wrong for example, or if you can see that Bard isn't answering in the right way.

It's interesting that Bard is now copying the way that ChatGPT and Bing Chat (powered by ChatGPT) have always worked, though ultimately these AI engines are going to be judged based on the quality of their responses rather than how they answer.

As before, when Google Bard has finished responding, you can view alternative responses via the View other drafts link to the top right. You can also click the sliders button at the bottom to tweak the response (making it shorter or simpler, for example).

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Windows 11 is getting two new features that’ll save you time in spades

The latest preview build for Windows 11 shows off a new Settings homepage, complete with fresh backup capabilities for the OS.

This is build 22631 in the Beta channel, and the Settings homepage is a major move that’s been in the works for a while (it was previously seen in earlier test channels).

The homepage shows some status details along the top – the name of the PC, internet connection status, and when Windows Update last checked for updates – and a bunch of panels with various bits of info underneath.

Those panels (Microsoft calls them ‘cards’) include cloud storage details (OneDrive) – and how full it is – and a personalization panel that offers the ability to quickly change the Windows theme or color mode.

Another important card offers up recommended settings, providing access to recently used settings, or ones that you use a lot based on your past history of tweaking Windows 11.

Microsoft has also implemented panels for Xbox (with details like your Game Pass subscription, if you have one), and a card for Bluetooth devices to give you quick access to all the peripherals you might hook up wirelessly with.

Windows 11 Settings Homepage

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The other big introduction here is a revamped backup system for restoring your Windows 11 environment to a new PC (or your existing one, should the OS somehow crash and burn irrevocably).

The Windows Backup app is on hand for beta testers to back up their PC. When restoring Windows 11, the app will pull in all your settings and customization, as well as your pins on the taskbar and Start menu, and Microsoft Store apps. (Third-party apps from elsewhere will still get their pins kept on, but you’ll be directed to download the relevant installer from the web when you first fire them up).

Elsewhere in build 22631, there’s been a change to Dynamic Lighting whereby the Windows 11 accent color can be synced with your RGB peripherals, a neat little touch.

As expected, there are a bunch of bug fixes and other minor features, all of which are summarized in Microsoft’s blog post about the preview build.

Windows 11 Backup App

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Analysis: Time is of the essence

The theme here is timesaving. The new Settings homepage lets you easily adjust customization elements, and change commonly used settings in a single click, all in one place (rather than having to hunt in different Settings submenus, and let’s face it, these can be a bit of a maze to navigate at times, perhaps requiring Googling to find things).

Another major timesaver is the ability to have all your bits and pieces where you left them when restoring your PC from the Backup app. Having to redo all your customization and pinned elements is a real drag – a potentially lengthy process, and you may even forget stuff – so this is very helpful.

With these features progressing to the Beta channel, they’re coming close to arrival now. The next step is the Release Preview channel, and from there, it’s a short hop to what’ll surely be inclusion in the Windows 11 23H2 update due later this year.

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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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