Microsoft today started rolling out a new Windows 10 preview build for PCs for those who participate in the Windows Insider program.
Build 14986 comes about a week after Microsoft released build 14977 for Insiders, but strangely only for Windows 10 Mobile. Build 14977 followed build 14971. Sure enough, this update may well be worth the wait, because it contains a lot of changes.
Windows 10’s Cortana virtual assistant gets smarter in this build, especially when it comes to running basic system-level functions. Now Cortana can shut down, restart, and lock your PC, or put it to sleep, or adjust the volume, Dona Sarkar, a software engineer in Microsoft’s Windows and Devices Group, wrote in a blog post.
If your PC is programmed to use U.S. English, Cortana can also play individual songs and albums and music from certain artists and genres from iHeartRadio and TuneIn. Cortana can also start playing radio stations through those apps. And now you can ask Cortana “what song is playing,” in any app, and she will tell you.
Microsoft is also making it possible for people in China (those using Simplified Chinese) to ask Cortana to identify the song that’s playing.
When your computer is unlocked and idle, if you say “Hey Cortana” and wait for around 10 seconds without touching your PC, Sarkar wrote, Cortana will now respond in full-screen mode.
And now on Windows 10 PCs, Cortana will let people sign in with Azure Active Directory work or school accounts instead of managed service accounts (MSAs). You can sign in by visiting Cortana’s Notebook and selecting About Me.
In addition to Cortana, Windows Ink is also getting several optimizations. The Screen Sketch feature that arrived in the Anniversary Update now lets users keep working on their most recent sketch by hitting the new Resume button.
When you’re using Windows Ink, the cursor will disappear. And Ink’s ruler can now “rotate in sub-degree increments when you’re moving it with touch, so as to make it easier to line the ruler up with two points on the screen,” Sarkar wrote. Additionally Windows Ink flyouts will show previews of using implements like pen, pencil, and highlighter with the color and width that’s selected at that moment.
Microsoft is also changing options for updating Windows 10.
“If Windows Update in unable to find a good time to restart your machine to apply the latest updates, you will now get be prompted to ‘restart now,’ ‘Schedule’ a time that works for you, or simply ‘Remind me later’ which will not apply the update but offer you these options again,” Sarkar wrote.
And, she wrote, the process of clearing up storage space on your PC when installing a new Windows update has also been revised:
Previously, this could be a bit of a hassle, but now we’ve simplified the process to help you through it and polished it up a bit along the way, so you can easily see how much space is needed, what your options are for creating it, and then make it happen. This updated Windows 10 setup page will be displayed in white (as shown below) when you encounter this issue while upgrading using Windows Update (there will be a link in Windows Update Settings to fix issues that will bring you here), and in blue when upgrading using an ISO (where there will be a link to fix issues before proceeding with the upgrade).
The Windows Game Bar now works in full-screen mode with 19 more games: Arma 3, Battlefield 1, Civilization V, Dark Souls III, Fallout 4, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, Mad Max, Mafia 2, NBA 2K16, Overwatch, Star Wars: The Old Republic, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, The Binding of Isaac, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Terraria, Tom Clancy’s The Division, Total War: Warhammer, Warframe, and World of Tanks.
Microsoft has improved Input Method Editor (IME) for people using Windows 10 in Chinese and Japanese. And for people using the Narrator screen reader, the app can provide more information aloud about user interface characteristics such as fonts, colors, and spacing when you hit Caps Lock-F.
The standard-issue Windows Defender antivirus tool has a new dashboard, although it’s not complete yet.
And there are three new Edge extensions: Ebates, Intel TrueKey, and Read & Write.
Bug fixes and known issues
The build contains quite a few significant bug fixes.
Sometimes the Windows Hello biometric authentication system gets stuck and says it’s “looking for you.” No longer, thankfully.
Sometimes going to Settings > System > Battery would cause Settings to crash, and that won’t happen anymore.
Double-clicking on an Excel file while in File Explorer won’t crash Excel anymore.
Apps like the Store, Photos, and People will no longer randomly launch if your PC is inactive for a while.
In Edge, there won’t be any more CPU throttling when you’re looking at websites with a bunch of GIFs or videos that play in a loop, and the Alt-D keyboard shortcut should now set the focus to the address bar as it should.
And if you’re one of those people who have a Surface Dial — that newly released hockey puck-like hardware product that lets you control apps, even sometimes onscreen in the case of the Surface Studio — you’ll be pleased to learn that rotating the device won’t make it suddenly beep.
That said, as you might expect, the new build does have known issues.
Asking Cortana to do things within certain apps may not work right after you install them. Sarkar recommends trying again in 5 minutes after Windows’ indexer has gotten a chance to index app content. Additionally when you open a folder in OneDrive, a “Catastrophic Error” dialog box might pop up. Sarkar suggests that you open an elevated command prompt window (hit Start, type “cmd,” and right-click on Command Prompt, and select “Run as administrator”) or elevated PowerShell window (hit Start, type in “Powershell,” right click on Windows PowerShell, and select “Run as administrator), and type in
attrib -O . (To learn about the other known issues and bug fixes in this build, take a look at Sarkar’s entire blog post.)
If you want to try this new build for PC or mobile but you’re not a Windows Insider, you can sign up here.