While the editorial deadline of this article, the final build number of version 1903 is not finally determined (at present it is 18362), the news and changes of functions have long been nailed down. A few of them might polarize a little more than usual this time.
Windows Sandbox / Sandpit
One new feature is the “Windows Sandbox” function, which must be switched on before using the control panel “Activate or deactivate Windows features”. Microsoft promotes them to easily try out executable files in an isolated environment. But unlike a real virtual machine (VM), the sandbox uses Hyper-V technology only for kernel isolation and is otherwise based on container technology. The latter has the advantage that the prefabricated image hardly takes up space – it is just about 25 MB in the dormant state. More about this Microsoft has summarized in a blog post (see ct.de/yxm1).
After starting the sandbox looks like a regular, naked Windows 10: A small desktop, taskbar, Start Menu & Co. by copying and pasting the programs that you want to try to pick up in the sandbox and start there as usual can. The sandbox window can be closed at any time, thus deleting its contents.
Cortana and the regular desktop search are more separated in version 1903: both now have their own icons in the taskbar, which also can be hidden separately, as well as their own categories in the Windows 10 settings. By the way, the previously known method for disabling Cortana with our registry file CortanaGehWeg.reg still works (see ct.de/yxm1).
When reinstalling the system, the user will no longer be sabotaged during Cortana’s initial setup – except in the Home Edition.
Compared to version 1809 more apps supplied by right-clicking the Start menu now can be uninstalled for the active user, say, without having to fumble with PowerShell commands. get rid of you could previously only the apps feedback Hub, Mixed Reality Portal, mobile rates, Office, OneNote, Print3D, Skype, Solitaire Collection, tips and weather, Releases Version 1903 the uninstall option for 3D Viewer, cutting and sketching, Movies & TV , Groove Music, Calendar, Mail, Paint 3D, Calculator, Voice Recorder, Sticky Notes and Xbox.
The Windows Update page in Settings has undergone a revision. The Update Pause button suspends updates for one to five weeks, depending on how many times you click the button. That finally works with the Home Edition. In addition, new Windows 10 versions (also known as feature upgrades) will be available on availability but will not be automatically downloaded or installed. The only exception is when the current version is already so old that a feature upgrade is mandatory in order to continue to receive security updates at all.
It also eliminates the distinction between Semi-Annual Channel and Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted), formerly known as “Current Branch” and “Current Branch for Business”. If a new Windows 10 edition is to be offered for download in the future only after a certain maturing phase, a delay of up to 365 days can still be set in the Pro, Enterprise and Education editions. In our experience, however, a new issue is usually free of the grossest errors after just three to four months.
Windows 10 Version 1903 feature details
The indexing service of the Windows own search function offers a classic and an extended mode. Basically, this is the ability to configure the sites to be indexed either via whitelisting or blacklisting. The advanced mode first indexes all drives and saves only the explicitly excluded areas of it.
This might be useful for some users: there are always cases where indexing folders that are offloaded to drive D:, for example, does not work reliably after being manually configured. Advanced mode should help you find scattered documents better.
On mobile devices, the info center now has a slider for the screen brightness. In addition, the brightness no longer switches when you change the power source, as in Windows so far usual. In order to improve the battery life automatically, you can set the threshold for the energy-saving mode to 100% – then not only the brightness is reduced, but also various background tasks are stopped.
In the settings, you can manually trigger a synchronization with a time server under “Time and language / date and time” and read when and with which server the last synchronization took place. The “Notification Assistant” can also mute notifications in full screen mode. The “time of use”, during which the PC may not automatically restart during pending updates, Windows can determine automatically based on the user behavior automatically.
The editor (“notepad.exe”) got some changes again; By default, it stores in UTF-8 format without byte order mark and can handle paths longer than 260 characters. The screen scaling for older and possibly washed-out Apps should now optimize Windows by itself, instead of constantly asking if the display should be improved.
The options for manually configuring Ethernet interfaces are now also found in the modern settings. For Wi-Fi connections that goes on for a long time, but anyway the dialogue is broken: If you give the classic system control fixed IP addresses, claim the modern settings anyway, the interface will automatically configured by DHCP – because Microsoft has probably ran again.
The color of the mouse pointer can now be changed in the settings under “easier operation / cursor & pointer”, instead of having to choose between black and white as before. Also, the size of the pointer is adjustable with a slider and much larger than before. This has advantages not only for users with visual impairment, but also for presentations, if the mouse pointer should be very clearly visible.
The Windows speech output (“Narrator”) got again small improvements. So it is now to work together with more Braille lines and issue a warning signal when the user begins to tap with the caps lock activated. In addition, the voice output should work better with the web browser Chrome. The latter should not be a coincidence, Mircosoft has decided to switch its web browser Edge soon on a Chromium substructure.
In Details view mode, the File Explorer can now display Change Date, Created Date, and Last Access as “User Friendly Dates.” For example, the ad reads “Saturday at 20:33” or “3 hours ago” instead of the usual “18/03/2019 20:33”. This display can be switched off by right-clicking on a column header and deselecting the option “Use user-friendly dates”.
In Task Manager you can now specify which tab is visible at startup, in the menu under “Options / Define default tab”.
Mostly undocumented is a new feature designed to automatically fix serious problems in Windows – such as misadjusting misconfigured services. In the test this could be adjusted for the service “Windows Update”: If we deactivated it, it was switched on again after some time – around one to three days. After all: The telemetry service remained off in our tests (“Diagnosis and user experience in connected mode” or simply “DiagTrack”).
In addition, the settings under “Privacy / Diagnostics and Feedback” determine whether the mechanism should also detect and resolve less critical issues.
So that Windows updates rarely fail because of lack of space, version 1903 has a feature called “reserved memory” built-in. In the case of a clean reinstallation, or when a factory-installed device comes with version 1903, the feature automatically becomes active.
Whether and how much memory is reserved can be viewed in the settings under “System / Memory”. Below the bar graphs for drive C, click “Show more categories” and then the bar labeled “System Reserved”. If a value for reserved memory is displayed there, the function is active. In our tests, Windows 10 always reserved a good 7 GB; the value may also increase depending on the amount of Windows enabled features.
Microsoft has not provided an option to resize, let alone disable, this default. If you are bothered by the default, you can still get rid of them. To do this, open the registry editor via Windows key, regedit and enter key and click on the key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SOFTWARE \ Microsoft \ Windows \ CurrentVersion \ ReserveManager. Double-click the “PassedPolicy” and “ShippedWithReserves” values and change them to “0”. Then open the “System / Memory” menu in the settings, click on “Configure memory optimization …” and then on “Clean up now”. Now the previously reserved memory space should be released again. However, our impression is that the process can not be undone without further ado – we did not notice a negative impact on system stability either.
From a technical point of view, reserved storage is an NTFS innovation that pre-allocates free space and makes it available exclusively to the servicing stack. Details was written by Microsoft employee Craig Barkhouse on a TechNet forum (see ct.de/yxm1).
How is it looking?
In terms of appearance, the most obvious change is that in the regular light app mode, the taskbar, start menu and info center now have a milky-clear background. This presentation is active after a clean reinstall, after an upgrade to version 1903 according to our experience but not. If you still want to have the standard look with a dark start menu, taskbar and info center, but a light app presentation, you can set that in the settings under “Personalization / Color”. The color mode “Custom” with Windows mode “Bright” and App mode “Dark” restores the usual look. Also the so far rather confusing “course of protection” of the Windows Defender has revised Microsoft.
Otherwise, there are again small details that often open up only at second glance. Examples: The background of the login page appears soft (“acrylic”), separate network connections have a new taskbar icon and the modern print dialog has been made a little more coherent. If Windows is restarted due to a pending update, an orange on / off button in the start menu and an icon in the notification area of the taskbar now also indicate this. If an app accesses the microphone, a microphone icon appears in the notification area and also mentions the app that uses the microphone via mouse-over. The clipboard history now makes its entries more compact and thus clearer.
The Windows Defender Application Guard browser sandbox can be used in a business environment to cause the Edge Web browser to be sandboxed when an untrusted web page is visited, to isolate the page from the rest of the system. To do this, the administrator must whitelist the trusted sites. So far, this mechanism has only worked with Edge as the default browser. There are now add-ons for Chrome and Firefox that redirect to an edge sandbox when invoking an untrusted page. This feature is not exclusive to version 1903, but can be used from version 1803.
Still in its infancy is a new feature in the app “your smartphone”. So far, SMS can be read and send and the latest photos on the PC; new is a feature called “screen of the smartphone”. It not only displays the screen content of the mobile phone on the PC, but also allows interactive operation of the mobile phone. The PC must be able to handle Bluetooth LE connections in peripheral mode; beta testers are currently testing it with a Samsung Galaxy S8 (+) or S9 (+) and a Microsoft Surface Go. The test worked quite well, but the smartphone could only be operated via touchpad, mouse and keyboard, but not via touchscreen or stylus – so far at least.
Hope for improvement?
A development, which hopes in the hope of a quality improvement of Windows 10, is currently indicated in the beta test program Windows Insider. During the finalization phase of a new issue, Microsoft is already testing early versions of the subsequent issue in a test-ring called “Skip Ahead.” During the finalization of version 1903 (internally also called version “19H1” – the version that will be released in the first half of 2019), Microsoft has already supplied the Skip-Ahead-Ring with early previews of version 20H1, the version in about a year should appear. Logically, the skipped version 19H2 (probably official version 1909) will probably only be a maintenance update for the now finished 1903. If this proves to be the case, Microsoft will not only have half a year, but a full year to complete a new edition and clean it up – a chance for a leap in quality.
Some of the decisions that Microsoft has made for version 1903 are likely to polarize: that Windows will now automatically pre-allocate disk space for updates after reinstallation, or automatically re-enable the Windows Update service. Even the colloquial file modification times look strange, but can be changed at least with a handle.
On the other hand, details like the advanced indexing mode of the Windows search and the space-saving sandbox seem to make sense, but their security only has to be proven in practice. Also that the screen brightness remains the same when changing the power source is welcome. On the one hand, the screen will usually be set as it is good for the eyes, and not as good as it is for the battery – and secondly, frequent readjustment is necessary in mobile mode anyway. The abolition of the “Semi-Annual Channel” distinction to delay new Windows editions looks like a loss at first glance. In fact, it makes sense: there is still the option to delay feature upgrades by up to a year; the confusion about the difference between the previous two types of delay is eliminated. The fact that even home users can suspend updates was long overdue.
The more important question than the new features is as usual: how is the upgrade process going in practice, and has Microsoft learned from the catastrophic issues with version 1809 ? The answer to this can only be the reality when Microsoft has distributed the new version to the first few million computers.