Mixed news for Windows Insiders today as the window for jumping to the Slow Ring slammed shut amid promises of minty fresh code for those on Fast (but don't ask for which version of Windows, m'kay?)
Build 19536 of Windows 10 arrived for those brave souls on the Fast Ring last night, as the Windows Insider team offered up an almost-apology for the confusion over how things have worked over previous years and, er, obscured things just a little bit more. Because, hey, its Windows.
As a reminder, over the last few years Microsoft has used its army of Windows fangirls and fanboys to do its testing over a number of testing rings. Of those, the Slow Ring traditionally had more stable builds of the next version of Windows and the Fast Ring was a tad more bleeding edge. A lucky few Fast Ring testers could also opt for "Skip Ahead" builds, which were the version of Windows after next.
It all went a bit wrong in 2019, as the program floundered following the disastrous Windows 10 October 2018 Update. 19H1 was released, but Fast Ring testers were shunted directly to 20H1 (2020's Windows 10, and now referred to as 2004), bypassing 19H2 entirely. 19H2 would eventually turn up on the Slow Ring prior to release.
So yes, all a bit confusing.
But not to worry, with build 19536 Fast Ringers will be getting code directly from the RS_PRERELEASE branch, "where the teams check in all their latest code changes into the OS."
Simple, right? Er, maybe not. While in the past testers knew which version of Windows 10 they were playing with – be it 20H1, 19H2 or whatever – from now on: "While features in the active development branch may be slated for a future Windows 10 release, they are no longer matched to a specific Windows 10 release."
Better still: "we may deliver these new features and OS improvements as full OS build updates or servicing releases."
While great for the enthusiasts keen to get their hands on the latest and greatest, this is not so good for those planning deployments where it is important to know what a given version of Windows 10 is going to look like. That said, Microsoft has a rich history of yanking features that the company decided were not going to work – Sets, anyone?
So, the Fast Ring might have some bits of 20H2, something that might show up in 21H1. Maybe a sprinkling of 21H2. The Slow Ring, however, continues to target a definitive release.
The new build itself is understandably light on features, with 20H1 just around the corner. Optional drivers have received some attention, with a "View optional updates" in Windows Update to save users hunting around the venerable Device Manager for a specific device to update.
Insiders who reset their PC may also see the arrival of a "People in my family" option to get things set up in a family group once the desktop is reached.
Other fixes include that the Windows Recovery Environment will no longer require an administrator password, there will be an option to clear previous searches from the File Explorer "search experience" and the UI for creating a storage pool will no longer fall over with an incorrect parameter.
Those who still fondly remember Microsoft's recent forays into consumer networking will note the removal of the HomeGroup deprecation notification.
Insiders will also get some extra toys to play with in the Your Phone app. Gone is the 25-picture limit in Recent photos. Instead, the app will now show the most recent 2,000 snaps from an Android smartphone camera roll.
And known issues? Anti-cheat software and problems with some USB 3.0 devices remain challenges for those toiling in the Windows mines, deep beneath the building sites of Redmond. ®