New Windows 10 beta build 14352 holds a few pleasant surprises

With a new ‘Start fresh' link and independent malware scans, Version 1607 looks nearly done

New Windows 10 beta build 14352 holds a few pleasant surprises

Given the significant bump in features shown by build 14342, the dearth of new features in the latest build 14352, and the long period of time since our last beta -- 16 days -- you might come to the conclusion that this new build is a release candidate. Hard to read the tea leaves, but I’d be willing to bet that 10.0.14352.1002.rs1_release.160522-1930 is a nearly feature-complete version of Build 1607, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

No, it won’t be called Win 10.2, which is my vote for naming the second major update to Windows 10. But you get the idea.

You can read the official story on Gabe Aul’s Windows Experience blog, which is bouncing around the tech echo chamber, copied and pasted a hundred times. The post shows a few feature updates but lots of squished bugs.

I had a chance to play with 14352 overnight and found a few things that aren’t well known.

Aul leads with a description of Cortana improvements: How Cortana can now play music by voice command (catching up finally with Siri, Alexa, and OK Google); how Cortana can set a timer under voice command (catching up finally with ... oh, nevermind); how Windows Ink improves Sticky Notes with Cortana-recognizable phone numbers, email addresses, and URLs; how the on-screen ruler has a “compass” that locks the ruler in 45-degree increments; how the Windows Game bar has support for six new games; how you can now upgrade from Pro to Enterprise without rebooting; and how (gasp!) the File Explorer icon now has different colors. He also warns that the new Cortana features may not work unless you reboot.

There’s an interesting new setting called Defender Reigns -- er, Limited Periodic Scanning, which allows the built-in Windows Defender to run from time to time even if you’ve turned it off by installing a third-party antivirus. It’s like getting a second opinion from the mothership if you’ve switched AV packages. If you use Windows Defender as your AV package, the setting doesn’t do anything. The results of a Limited Periodic Scan are telegraphed to you through the Action/Notification center. Microsoft says:

At this time, Windows 10 Limited Periodic Scanning is intended for consumers. We are evaluating this feature for commercial customers, but Limited Periodic Scanning only applies to unmanaged devices for the Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

I’ve seen news reports that this new feature lets you run two AV products on your computer. That isn’t true -- at least, not simultaneously. In this case, Defender does a one-time sweep. It sounds like it’s similar to, say, a Malwarebytes run. You don’t have two AV products running simultaneously.

Here’s what you may not know.

The Start menu tiles are loaded with garbage. On an absolutely clean machine, ISO installed from Microsoft’s build 14332, upgraded directly to 14352, I count no fewer than ten tiles with unabashed ads: Adobe Photoshop Express, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Flipboard, Minecraft/Xbox Live, World of Tanks, iHeart Radio, Duolingo, Farmville 2, USA Today, and Try Office 365. Make it eleven with Skype Preview.

On that same absolutely clean machine, I see Start menu items for 3D Builder, Candy Crush Soda Saga (can’t get enough Soda, I s’pose), Microsoft Solitaire Collection, Paid Wi-Fi & Cellular, Skype Preview, and Twitter’s anemic UWP app. Ka-ching, ka-ching.

To replicate those findings, you may need to sign up for a new Microsoft account. If you use a local account to sign on, you’ll see “loading” down arrows in all 10 of those tiles -- only Skype Preview makes it to the final tile collection. If you use a local account, the Start menu has all of the noted, uh, enhancements except Candy Crush Soda Saga and Twitter.

I found an undocumented entry in the Start > Settings > Update & security > Recovery menu to be particularly interesting. (Thanks, @h0x0d.) There’s a new section at the bottom that says Related Settings, and it contains a link to a Microsoft Answers forum post I’ve never seen before. It’s called Coming Soon: A Tool to Start Fresh, written by Microsoft engineer Jason, a forum moderator, and it says:

Hello Windows Insiders!

Want a simple and easy way to start fresh with a clean installation of Windows?  Looking for an easy way to do this?  We're working on a tool to make this possible.

Final testing and validation is underway and we will want your feedback once it is ready to go!  Stay tuned for additional information as we work through the finishing touches.

And as always, thank you for being Windows Insiders!

- Jason

Walking Cat (@0h0x0d) also discovered a new Office Online extension that's underwhelming. Using build 14352, go to the Windows Store Office Online page, and click Free (so much more intuitive than “download,” eh?).

The next time you start Edge, click the ellipses in the upper right corner, then Extensions. At the top you’ll see a new extension called Office Online. Click on it -- the version number is 1.2.0 -- move the slider to On, and click Turn on. Again click the ellipses in the upper right corner of Edge, choose where you want to put your docs (OneDrive or OneDrive for Business are the only choices), click Yes to let the app access your info, click the ellipses once more (fourth time), and you should see a list of your recently accessed documents. Click on one of the documents, and it opens in the appropriate Office Online app.

It’s a very lengthy way to avoid logging in to OneDrive.com. The hokey app ellipses interface doesn’t help -- it’s nowhere near as capable or visual as the OneDrive.com interface -- but it’s new, and it’s a real live app.

Edge gets more badly needed love in this build, but it isn’t much: A “What’s new and tips” entry in the ellipses menu, which links to the microsoftedgewelcome.microsoft.com page (not accessible to most of us) and, according to the ChangeWindows site, “You can now allow Edge to use an unrestricted amount of memory.” No details yet.

I see a tiny bit of additional information in the Windows Store -- a change that isn’t associated with this Win10 build, but it seems to be coincident. There’s a new System Requirements block in each app’s description that lists which version of Windows is required and also lists an “Architecture” requirement, which may be used to distinguish between ARM, 32-bit and 64-bit Windows (duplicating a less-legible “Supported processors” entry in the current Windows Store).

There’s a new LastPass 4.0 extension for Edge in the Store, but it doesn’t work very well. Install the app, crank up Edge, and you'll see a notification in the upper right corner that “You have a new extension.” Click Turn on, and a LastPass icon appears at the top of the ellipses pane. Click on that icon, and after you’ve logged in with a valid LastPass ID and password, you can use it to navigate to sites. Click on the My Vault entry to get a guided tour -- but be aware of the fact that it's far from ready. I couldn’t even get it to save a changed password.

That’s what I’ve found. If you see something new, hit me in the comments here, or over on AskWoody.com.

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