Last night Microsoft released the latest beta test version of Windows 10 for those on the Insider Fast ring. Build 14367.rs1_release.160613-1700 brings the beta version of Windows 10 up to Version 1607 (OS Build 14367.0). If you're counting, 14367 was released just two days after 14366. The timestamp says that the build was constructed on June 13 and released on June 16 -- a remarkable achievement which signifies that builds are getting more and more stable.
NinjaCat spokesperson Dona Sarkar has full release notes which, as usual, are being parroted all over the web. Handwriting recognition for Xhosa and a keyboard shortcut for the Feedback hub highlight the new features. Saints be praised. The list of fixes goes on for pages, but the only notable improvement, from my point of view, is the fix for a crash on right-click "Open Command window here" inside File Explorer.
The one new feature that's drawing a lot of attention is an option in the Start > Update & security > Recovery menu called "Learn how to start fresh with a clean installation of Windows." I wrote about that entry three weeks ago, when it first appeared in build 14342.
Here's the fundamental point that seems to be overlooked: This isn't a feature built into Windows 10. It's a link to a page on the Microsoft Answers forum that contains instructions for running a clean install of Windows 10. No doubt the link will change with the final version of Win10 1607.
Right now, Windows 10 has the ability to perform a Reset, and you have two options: "Keep my files" or "Remove everything." (Win 8 and 8.1 drew a confusing distinction between "reset" and "refresh," but it's conceptually cleaner in Win10.)
Few people realize that your PC manufacturer has a say in what "Remove everything" means. Most hardware manufacturers have the command jury-rigged to put their crapware back on your PC. If you run Reset with "Remove everything" on those systems, you don't get a clean copy of Win10, you get the factory settings version. Yes, that means you get the original manufacturer's drivers. But it also means you get the manufacturer's garbageware.
With the "start fresh" option in Anniversary update, Microsoft is making it easier to create a non-bloatware-addled system. They're circumventing the hardware manufacturers in the process. It's hard to say if this will tick off the few hardware companies that aren't already alienated by Microsoft's Surface sales. After all, the Dells and Lenovos and HPEs of the world make most of their PC-sales profit by sharecropping out screen real estate on new PCs and selling it to the highest bidder. It remains to be seen if the "start fresh" option will eat into their revenue.
But there's clearly one winner in all of this: Users. Not only do we get an easy option to nuke all the junk on new PCs, we have a way to wipe a Win10 PC clean without going through the Media creation tool step and figuring out how to boot from a USB drive.
Thank you, Microsoft.
The Win10 Anniversary update -- version 1607 -- is almost fully baked. How will we know when we have an escrow build? Last time around, the telltale sign that we had reached the end was the removal of the "Insider Preview" watermark from the desktop and elimination of the expiration date in the "winver" About Windows dialog. Watch for it.