Windows 10’s Beta channel is now officially live to bring in new features – but don’t get excited yet

Microsoft recently announced that it’s resurrecting the Beta channel for Windows 10 in order to test new features – which means, yes, the OS is officially being actively worked on – and the very first preview build has arrived in this channel.

The not-so-exciting news is that build 19045 (aka KB5039299) for Windows 10 22H2 doesn’t actually contain any new features, and is all about making tweaks and minor adjustments, as well as the usual clutch of bug fixes.

Microsoft lists the various bits of work carried out in this new preview build in the usual blog post, and one of the notable changes for Windows 10 is to bolster the stability of the search box in the taskbar when you’re looking for apps. In other words, a search for a particular app should no longer produce wonky results (or at least fewer of these incidents should occur).

There are also improvements to the Windows Backup app such as now being able to store your device’s Activity History and Printer Device Settings preferences. The Windows Backup improvements mean that it'll be easier to restore all your previous hardware settings when you set up a new PC – as long as they're backed up and tied to your Microsoft account.

As well as the above changes, Microsoft also resolved a problem whereby backups would fail when desktop and lock screen backgrounds were backed up twice.

Bug squashing aplenty

That’s the main thrust of this preview build, but as we mentioned there are also bug fixes here. They include the cure for an issue whereby the PC fails to come back from hibernation after BitLocker has been turned on, and a folder management glitch in File Explorer, along with many more fixes.

So, as we said, there’s not a huge amount going on here to get excited about – but this release does at least mean that the Beta channel for Windows 10 is now active. Clearly, we will get new features coming to Microsoft’s older OS soon enough, and the software giant must have allocated some fresh resources towards Windows 10 development to facilitate that.

However, don’t go thinking this means there are any changes coming regarding the End of Life date for the crowd-favorite operating system, as Windows 10 is still scheduled to have support dropped in October 2025, and Microsoft has made it clear that won’t change.

Via Windows Latest

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Microsoft finally removes mysterious Copilot app that installed itself and freaked out Windows 11 users

Remember the weird Copilot app that was quietly installed on some Windows 11 PCs earlier this year? Well, Microsoft has announced that the mysterious and tiny app – which was just 8KB in size and did nothing save to cause some users to worry about exactly what it was – has now been removed from these systems.

As Neowin reports, Microsoft stated that the program – which was visible on the ‘Installed apps’ list in Windows 11 – was harmless and did not run any background code. Microsoft has now marked the issue as resolved, and the app will no longer be seen in your list of installed applications.

While this whole affair was rather odd, it is reassuring to know that nothing was amiss with this random bit of software that suddenly appeared. However, with the Copilot app being first spotted in March 2024, it has taken Microsoft quite some time to deal with the issue, and we’ve got to admit, we’re curious as to why the process of fixing the glitch moved so slowly. 

Microsoft wrote in a post on its release health dashboard: “This package was intended to prepare some Windows devices for future Windows Copilot enablement and was not intended for all devices. Although the component installed as part of this issue can cause the Microsoft Copilot app to be shown as part of the Installed apps, this component does not fully install or enable Microsoft Copilot.”

The app was introduced via an Edge browser update and has been removed in the same way. Microsoft notes that you need to update to Edge stable version 126.0.2592.56 and restart your browser once you’ve done so – then you’ll be good to go!

It seems like a turbulent time for Windows 11 currently, with Microsoft dropping the Recall feature from Copilot+ PCs (at least for now), a move that doesn’t speak well in terms of the confidence behind the product, but seems to be the best course of action given all the controversy around the AI feature.

Evidently, Microsoft has a fair few loose ends to tie up right now and needs to be careful not to rush so that mistakes are made. This misfiring Copilot app installation triggered by an Edge update may have been harmless in the end, but perhaps the next misstep might not be so benign.

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Windows 11’s Recall feature could pack a handy time-saving web search ability that might be less controversial (for a change)

Windows 11’s Recall feature has been causing controversy recently, so much so that Microsoft has actually halted the feature in its tracks (for now) – but a new discovery won’t fan any of those particular flames. In fact, it could well prove useful for those who eventually take the plunge with the now-delayed AI-powered functionality.

As discovered in the new preview build 26236 for Windows 11 (in the Canary channel) by regular leaker @PhantomofEarth on X, the new addition to Recall – which is still hidden in testing – is a ‘Search the web’ option.

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To recap, Recall is an AI feature specifically designed for Copilot+ PCs which regularly takes screenshots of the activity on your PC, files them in a library, and makes this searchable via Microsoft’s Copilot AI in Windows.

The new ‘Search the web’ facility allows the user to right-click on any text detected in a screenshot taken by Recall, and it’ll fire up a search on that selected text (in the user’s default search engine, presumably – though we don’t get to see the feature in action).

The ‘Search the web’ option is present in Recall’s right-click menu (in a snapshot) alongside the ‘Copy’ and ‘Open with’ options.

New AI settings in Windows 11

X user @alex290292 commented on @PhantomofEarth’s post with another interesting observation that there are also new AI-related settings in this Windows 11 preview build.

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These are in the Settings app, under ‘Privacy & Security’ where there’s a ‘Generative AI’ panel that allows for the fine-tuning of which apps are allowed to use generative AI capabilities. Apparently, you’ll also be able to review the last seven days of activity to see which apps requested to use generative AI.

To be able to see all of this for yourself, you’ll have to install the preview build and use a Windows configuration tool (ViVeTool) to enable ‘hidden’ Windows 11 features – not something we’d recommend for anyone but a keen enthusiast who’s comfortable with tinkering around in test builds.

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Microsoft dumps Windows 11 Recall feature from Copilot+ PCs at launch – an embarrassing turn of events, but ultimately for the best

In a very surprising move – albeit the right one, in our books – Microsoft has pulled the rug on its big Recall feature, so it now won’t launch as planned with Copliot+ PCs.

Microsoft just issued an update on Recall (hat tip to Tom’s Hardware) as follows: “Recall will now shift from a preview experience broadly available for Copilot+ PCs on June 18, 2024, to a preview available first in the Windows Insider Program (WIP) in the coming weeks.

“Following receiving feedback on Recall from our Windows Insider Community, as we typically do, we plan to make Recall (preview) available for all Copilot+ PCs coming soon.”

To recap briefly, Recall is the feature which constantly takes screenshots of the activity on the host PC, allowing the user to search these leveraging AI (Copilot), offering an undoubtedly powerfully ramped up search experience.

But there have been issues aplenty raised around Recall before its (now canceled) launch, and much controversy stirred by those who have fudged their Windows 11 installation to enable and test the feature.

So, as noted in Microsoft’s statement, the expectation was very much that Recall would be live next week, when Copilot+ PCs finally emerge blinking in the sunlight, but that will no longer be the case.

Instead, Microsoft is going to have the Recall preview made available to testers in early builds of Windows 11 in the “coming weeks,” and there’s the second major admission here. That makes it sound like testers won’t be getting the feature to play with next week, let alone buyers of Copilot+ PCs, and it may be some weeks before it arrives in whatever preview channel Microsoft deploys Recall.

In short, Microsoft isn’t sure whether Recall will even be ready for testing any time soon.

Person with a laptop

(Image credit: Shutterstock.com / ImYanis)

Analysis: A major setback, but still the right decision

This has all been a bit of a fiasco, frankly. Microsoft announced Recall with a big fanfare for Copilot+ PCs, then proceeded to batten down the hatches as flak and doubts were fired at the feature left, right, and center. Defensiveness and evasion gave way to big changes being implemented for Recall to shore up security in the light of all the negative feedback, and also ensuring it’s turned off by default (something we argued strongly for).

Now, even after that, it’s been canned for the time being, at least for Copilot+ PCs. It’s not a good look, is it? It feels like Microsoft has been taken aback by all the salvoes fired at Recall by security researchers, rushed to implement some hefty changes, realized that there isn’t time to do all this properly – Copilot+ PCs are almost upon us – so put the full launch on ice to go back to testing.

There’s no doubting that this will be damaging to Copilot+ PCs to some extent. These are AI PCs, after all, and Windows 11’s key feature for them was Recall – there is other AI functionality for these devices, but nothing on the same scale. Just look at Dell’s Copilot+ PC web page, and how it’s built around Recall – it’s the key piece of the AI puzzle, and now it’s missing.

However, we’re glad Microsoft has taken the PR hit here, as it were, and pulled Recall, rather than putting its head down and trying to forge through with the feature. That would have proved even more damaging, most likely, so we understand, and approve of this move in the end.

Honestly, though, we don’t think Recall – given that it’s a sensitive and tricky piece of AI functionality with all those privacy and security aspects – should be pushed out to finished versions of Windows as a ‘preview’ at all. This should be done, dusted, tight and secure, before leaving testing – shouldn’t it?

Speaking of tight and secure, this is especially bad timing for Microsoft, given that Apple Intelligence was just unveiled, with the rival AI offering looking super-sharp on the privacy front, while Copilot appears to be stumbling about from blunder to blunder for the moment. Again, it’s not a good look, made much worse by Apple’s confident and professional revelation of its AI rival for Macs and iDevices (though we should note, we need to see Apple’s promises in action, not just words, before we get carried away with any comparisons).

Still, awkward days for Microsoft, but we’re hoping the company can now take the time to get things right with Recall. In fact, we’d argue it must take the time to do so, or risk blemishes on the Copilot brand that’ll quite probably cause lasting damage in terms of public perception.

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If your Windows 11 taskbar’s been acting weird, you’re not seeing things – but don’t worry, there’s a fix

Windows 11 just received a new update and there’s some good news for those who were experiencing weird and buggy behavior with their taskbar.

Namely that the frustrating taskbar bug – where it can vanish, before reappearing – is now fixed with the cumulative update for June 2024, as Microsoft makes clear in the support document relating to the upgrade.

Microsoft notes: “This update addresses a known issue that affects the taskbar. It might briefly glitch or not respond. It might also disappear and reappear.”

To rewind a bit, this glitchy behavior was actually introduced by the optional update Microsoft ushered in at the end of May 2024 (and we've seen a similar issue in recent times, too).

When the problem became known, Microsoft was swift to act, and fired up a rollback for devices that had installed this preview update for May. This was implemented via a ‘Known Issue Rollback’ meaning Windows 11 users didn’t have to take any action installing another patch – the fix was put in place automatically (as Neowin spotted).

So, those who were worried about this bug carrying over to the June update – after all, May’s optional update is June’s cumulative update, but in testing – well, you needn’t fret. The problem is now fully resolved (or at least Microsoft says it is).

Useful new features are also part of the June update

What else is present in the new June update for Windows 11? It also delivers the long-awaited drag-and-drop functionality for File Explorer’s address bar, changes to Account Manager in the Start Menu, a refreshed Linked Devices page in the Settings app, built-in QR code generation for links, and many security-related tweaks. 

We would always recommend that you make sure that you have Microsoft’s latest Patch Tuesday update installed, as these patches address the latest security risks and known exploitable vulnerabilities.

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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’s File Explorer could hook up directly with your smartphone to make file transfers from Android easier than ever

Microsoft has been hard at work further integrating Android devices into Windows 11, recently allowing users to draft in their phones as makeshift webcams. Riding the same wave of inter-device connectivity, a new feature is apparently in the works that will allow you to see and use your smartphone directly in Windows 11’s File Explorer – just like it was an external drive. 

According to reputable leaker @PhantomOfEarth on X, the groundwork is present in Windows 11 for the ‘Cross Device Experience Host’ to be able to link File Explorer on the desktop to your smartphone. This will allow File Explorer direct access to the files on your smartphone, or the ability to shift files the other way, from your PC to phone.

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If you cast your mind back to the beginning of the year, you may remember that the Cross Device Experience Host is replacing the Phone Link feature, so if you’re wondering why this may sound like more of a Phone Link feature, there’s your answer.

Once you turn on the feature – note that it’s still hidden in test versions of Windows 11 – @PhantomOfEarth observes that you’ll be asked to grant file access permissions, after which you’ll be good to go.

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Exciting times

Sadly, there isn’t anything else revealed about the feature, and we don’t even know the basics of how it’ll actually work. We’re assuming it’ll use Wi-Fi, maybe, to connect your phone and PC, so that your smartphone is always there in File Explorer whenever you sit at your computer with it (with both on the same Wi-Fi network). That’s pure speculation, mind.

We expect to see this functionality make an appearance in the Windows Insider Program, where devs and enthusiasts test out potential new features in preview builds of Windows 11. Until we have official word from Microsoft to confirm the feature is happening, though, we won’t know for sure – so don’t get your hopes up too high. 

That being said, it’s still a pretty cool ability to look forward to!  Not only could you move documents, photos, or other files between your PC and phone a lot more quickly and conveniently, but as noted, it seems like once you’ve set permissions your device should automatically register in File Explorer.

This is definitely a feature I would have enjoyed when I was a student and had to search and scramble between my phone and my laptop to make sure I had all the relevant research in one organized place. While I won’t allow myself to get too excited yet, I will wait patiently and hope to see the feature on my PC before too long. 

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Microsoft adds Instagram-like filters and AI effects to profile pictures in sneaky upgrade as part of Windows 11 preview build

Windows 11 has a new preview version out, and it introduces a batch of settings relating to user profile pictures, complete with fresh AI tricks to try out. These settings are included in the latest Windows 11 preview in the Canary channel for testers, albeit they are hidden away in Build 26231.

This development was spotted and shared on X by @PhantomOfEarth, who is a keen Windows Insider. As you can see in the screenshot provided by @PhantomOfEarth, the profile picture options are located in a new section of the Accounts page (in Settings) called ‘Your info,’ and they allow you to apply effects and filters to your profile picture.

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As noted, they are hidden away in the preview build, and you’ll need to use ViVeTool (a Windows configuration tool) to get them to appear.

As Windows Latest observes, the new customization options and AI effects include the ability to blur your profile picture’s background, add portrait lighting, and upscale the resolution of the image.

There are also filters you can use to give your picture a distinctive appearance, similar to those you might benefit from on apps like Instagram. Windows Latest reports that there are currently six different filters you can try out. As well as those filters, you can also transform your profile picture by rotating it clockwise or anticlockwise, or zooming in closer. 

If you do enable these hidden options in Build 26231, keep in mind that there could still be bugs, as this is all still in testing (and early testing for that matter). We expect that issues will be ironed out when it comes to the final version of the feature, naturally. 

A laptop with the Windows 11 desktop on screen, glowing, while on a work desk

(Image credit: Shutterstock/Ham patipak)

A solid but unexciting addition to Windows 11

This seems a solid enough feature on the face of it, but I can’t say it particularly excites me as a Windows 11 user. Furthermore, I can foresee some people possibly getting annoyed that Microsoft is pushing AI into yet another corner of Windows 11 where it’s not necessarily improving things. It’s a neat enough demonstration of AI-assisted capabilities, but a niche thing really, and I don’t see how it improves Windows 11’s quality-of-life experience for users at its core. 

Other changes that have arrived in this preview build include a new Copy button in Windows Share that lets you copy files to the clipboard more easily, along with the auto-saving of captured recordings in the Windows 11 Snipping Tool. As you’d expect, there are a bunch of bug fixes for existing issues here, too.

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Microsoft has yanked Windows 11 24H2 update from testing – is this a bad sign?

Windows 11 24H2 has apparently been pulled back from testing for the time being, with Microsoft hitting the pause button presumably due to issues with the major update due to land later this year.

If you recall, the 24H2 update was sent out to the Release Preview channel back on May 22, but Windows Latest noticed that on a PC in that testing channel, the update was no longer being offered.

After further investigation into why that might be, the tech site stumbled across an update (from the end of last week) to the original blog post introducing the preview build, where Microsoft states: “We are temporarily pausing the rollout of Windows 11, version 24H2 to the Release Preview Channel. We will resume the rollout in the coming weeks.”

That’s all Microsoft has said on the matter, leaving the question of why the update has been yanked open to debate. Well, we say that, but there’s a fairly obvious reason you can discern from examining the posts in Microsoft’s Feedback Hub about the 24H2 update, and it’s seemingly had quite a few problems.

Windows Latest observes that there’s a notable bug with a ‘RunDLL’ error box that keeps popping up annoying testers, and much more in terms of general stability issues, with apps and games freezing, stuttering, or crashing. Nasty.


Analysis: Time to fret about a delay? We don’t think so

This all sounds a bit worrying, and might make you wonder whether the Windows 11 24H2 update might even be delayed – if there are gremlins crawling around the inner workings serious enough to get the upgrade pulled from testing for the time being. Microsoft’s timeframe of the “coming weeks” for the return of the final test version (Release Preview) of 24H2 doesn’t sound too comforting either – hinting at a lengthier pause, perhaps.

Then again, we shouldn’t read too much into that statement – it’s standard language commonly used in these kinds of situations. Also, remember that the 24H2 update is still a good way off. It’s not expected to arrive until September 2024 or October, or thereabouts, so there’s still a lot of time to iron out any issues.

Rather than expecting that things are delayed, what’s more likely the case here is Microsoft was a bit too early in deploying Windows 11 24H2 to Release Preview. After all, we were a bit surprised when it emerged last month, and Microsoft did note that it was a very limited rollout initially (in an update to the blog post at the end of May). In other words, the company was being cautious here, and we can see why now.

Granted, there is a slight concern due to the issues present sounding pretty bad here, but for now, this feels like a misstep with an early release, rather than the alarm bells sounding for Windows 11 24H2 not being ready for its roughly rumored launch timeframe later this year.

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Windows Recall will no longer be enabled by default on Copilot Plus PCs – here’s what you need to know

Windows Recall has proven to be a highly controversial AI feature ever since it was first announced in May. What it does is it constantly takes screenshots of everything you do on your PC and then places the images into a searchable on-device database. And yes, that includes pictures displaying sensitive information. 

People were quick to call it a “security nightmare” after Microsoft openly admitted the software would not hide “passwords or financial account numbers.” The company attempted to defend its decision but has recently decided to make multiple safety improvements to Recall before its quickly approaching June 18 launch.

Arguably, the most important of these changes is that Recall will no longer be turned on by default upon activating your PC. According to a recent post on the Windows Experience Blog, the feature will instead be off by default, meaning you’ll have to enable it yourself during a computer’s setup process. 

Next, enrolling into Windows Hello is now a requirement to activate Recall and to view your screenshot timeline. This means you’ll have to authenticate yourself as the primary user through a biometric input or PIN before accessing the feature. 

Windows Recall's new setup page

(Image credit: Microsoft)

As for the final update, Microsoft is beefing up security by adding extra “layers of data protection [including] ‘just in time’ decryption” from Windows Hello ESS (Enhanced Sign-in Security). As a result, snapshots can only be viewed whenever a user proves their identity. Additionally, Recall’s search index database is now encrypted.

What's strange is this suggests the database that would’ve stored images containing bank account numbers was initially unprotected and vulnerable to outside forces. It may surprise you to hear how unsafe it was, but at least they’re fixing it before launch and not after.

Analysis: Remaining skeptical

The rest of the blog post reiterates the security functions of Windows Recall that were previously known. For example, snapshots will be stored locally on your computer and not uploaded to Microsoft servers. An icon representing the feature will sit in the system tray, “letting you know when Windows is saving” images. Plus, users can “pause, filter, [or] delete” snapshots whenever they want.

Microsoft also stresses that Recall will only be available on the upcoming Copilot Plus PCs since they have robust security to ensure privacy.

Does this mean we can totally trust Windows Recall to maintain data security? No, not really. 

Jake Williams, VP of R&D at the cybersecurity consultancy Hunter Strategy, told Wired he “still sees serious risks [as well as] unresolved privacy problems.” People could be hit with a subpoena forcing them to cough up PINs to gian access to Recall databases. 

Although Microsoft claims it can’t see snapshots, who’s to say the tech giant can’t change its mind a year or two down the line and decide to harvest all that sensitive information. They may find some legal loophole giving them carte blanche to do whatever they want with Recall data. It’s scary, though.

If you're looking for ways to improve your online security, check out TechRadar's massive list of the best privacy tools for 2024.

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