5 fatal flaws that dog the new Windows 10

Microsoft's forthcoming Creators Update offers a mixed bag of fixes for Win10's biggest knocks

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  • Advertising on the lock screen.
  • Start menu app “suggestions,” including Candy Crush Soda Saga on Win10 Pro PCs.
  • Unwanted Start tiles, including Food & Drink, Groove Music, Flipboard, and a plethora of other seemingly random tiles (see screenshot).
  • Other Windows tips that appear in Toast notifications and pop-ups, with “helpful” information about how Microsoft’s products are better than rivals’.

None of the offensive applications are installed, mind you. The tiles you see are advertising links that connect to downloads for the products in question.

In earlier versions of Windows 10, admins using Group Policy could wipe out most of those advertisements. In Version 1607, Microsoft changed the ad-blocking capability. Starting with Win10, Windows 10 Pro users and admins can no longer block tips and tricks and Windows Store suggestions using Group Policy. Win10 Enterprise retains the capability.

Future Version 1703: The ads aren’t getting any better.

Win10 Version 1703 advertising InfoWorld

Version 1703 build 15031 clean install Win10 Pro

In the most recent build of 1703, some of the default Start tiles have changed (Facebook, Royal Revolt 2, and Forza 8), the Suggested entry on the Start menu is populated (Age of Empires Castle Siege), and Candy Crush Soda Saga continues to stand as a salted entry on Start. Again, the apps aren’t installed; they’re only taking up real estate.

Version 1703 continues to block the Group Policy settings that used to help you avoid Windows tips (screenshot). The old policies, which don’t work in 1703, are in the Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Cloud Content branch of GPedit.

Win10 Version 1703 continues to block the Group Policy settings InfoWorld

It’s easy, if time-consuming to delete the offensive Start menu tiles. In 1607, installing cumulative updates would bring back the tiles. It’s not clear if 1703 will continue in that boorish tradition.

At this point, 1703 responds to these ad-suppressing settings:

  • You can manually turn off the Spotlight advertising on the lock screen, by using Start > Settings > Personalization > Lock Screen > Background and choosing a Background (lock screen picture) other than Windows spotlight.
  • You can manually turn off Suggested Apps in the Start menu by clicking Start > Settings > Personalization > Start, then turning off the Occasionally Show Suggestions in Start slider.
  • To remove unwanted Start tiles, right-click on them one by one and choose Unpin from Start for each.
  • Most (but not all) of the tips can be disabled by clicking Start > Settings > System > Notifications & Settings. You can turn off any of the listed kinds of notifications, but the two you definitely want to turn off are Get Tips, Tricks, and Suggestions as You Use Windows and Show Me the Windows Welcome Experience after Updates and Occasionally When I Sign in to Highlight What’s New and Suggested.

I know of no way to disable the helpful balloon tips that tell you, inter alia, Edge is 21 percent superior to Firefox.

Flaw No. 4: Stability

Stability is a problem when any new version of Windows 10 appears. That’s not a result of Microsoft’s intransigence. It’s by design.

Win10 stability issues InfoWorld

Current Version 1607: It took Anniversary Update about four months to become stable. A frighteningly large number of Windows customers don’t understand that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Microsoft releases new versions of Windows 10, then lets the unwashed masses test it for months before declaring the new version to be business-ready. It’s a service, as in Windows as a service, and the first part of that service, after the beta test, is to spread millions of copies out to see what’s wrong. Gregg Keizer at Computerworld has an early look at that process in “Microsoft to business: Don’t worry about Windows 10, consumers will test it.”

Version 1607, released on Aug. 2, 2016, wasn’t deemed ready for business customers until Nov. 29, a span of 120 days.

Future Version 1703: Expect more stability problems until 1703 reaches the so-called Current Branch for Business (CBB) status. It would be wise to avoid updating prior to the CBB date, which is expected to take about four months from the date 1703 is released in “final” form to the masses.

The old admonition “wait for Service Pack 1,” where earlier Windows customers were well-advised to hold off on installing Windows until an SP1 release, has become “wait for Current Branch for Business.”

Flaw No. 5: Hijacked default settings

Throughout its history, Windows 10 has gained a nasty reputation for changing users’ settings.

Win10 hijacked default settings InfoWorld

Current Version 1607: Users made no end of complaints when the installer switched many user settings. Default file associations for pictures, videos, and songs got changed. The default browser was changed to Edge. PDFs were handled by Edge, no matter what you had set before. Old mail programs got clobbered, replaced by the Windows Mail app.

You can change many of those associations by going to Start > Settings > System > Default apps, but you may have to mess around with individual defaults by clicking Choose Default Apps by File Type, Choose Default Apps by Protocol, or Set Defaults by App. You can also change the default associations by right-clicking on a file and choosing Open With > Choose Another App, but why should you have to?

Future Version 1703: Microsoft is, as they say, “aware of the problem.” I haven’t hit any egregious setting hijacks in the course of testing many recent beta copies of 1703 in a multitude of situations. Hope springs eternal.

Your decision

In summary, if you wait for the Creators Update version 1703, based on what we’ve seen so far, you should expect the following:

  • Blocking updates will be easier for Pro users, but Home users in 1703 will still be treated like cannon fodder.
  • It will be easier to choose antisnooping settings, but it remains to be seen if the quantity and nature of telemetry data nudges the meter.
  • Advertising will get worse, with fundamentally no change in settings, as part of a widely anticipated and recently witnessed push to get the cash register going.
  • Stability of the initial version of 1703 won’t be great until millions of unpaid testers take a swing and Microsoft declares 1703 CBB.
  • Hijacked settings should be much less common.

If the betas we have right now hold true, Creators Update 1703 will offer worthwhile improvement to several of the most-maligned parts of Anniversary Update 1607. Give it a few months to settle down and reach CBB status, and you’ll be looking at a better version of the last version of Windows.

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