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Microsoft Weekly: Windows 11 moves forward, new hardware is on the way, and more

The first week of September is almost over and a lot has happened in the world of Microsoft. The most significant one is that the Redmond firm has put an official date on the release of Windows 11. In addition to information on the release of the next generation of the OS, the Dev channel has begun testing the version slated to come after the one releasing this fall. However, not all is good as some users are being kicked out of the program due to running unsupported devices. There is more news relating to gaming, security, an upcoming hardware event later this month, and a benign ad that crippled users’ taskbars on Windows 11. Check everything out in our Microsoft digest for the week of August 29 – September 4.

An official release date and new builds for Windows 11

Microsoft Windows 11 written next to the Microsoft logo in Windows colors

Microsoft finally announced that the official release date for Windows 11 is October 5. This is when the firm will begin rolling out the OS to eligible devices – albeit in a staggered fashion – and OEMs will start shipping devices running Windows 11 out of the box. Of course, while this news has been great for many, there are a bunch of Windows Insiders running Dev channel builds on unsupported hardware that haven’t had a good experience as they were kicked out of receiving Dev channel builds, in line with the firm’s promise from June. The firm even clarified its stance on Twitter, justifying its move.

For those that were still in the program, the firm released new builds for both Dev and Beta channel Insiders. While Beta channel users were treated to build 22000.176 that brought bug fixes, it’s the Dev channel that got more love in the way of a major build number bump. The first build from the ‘rs_prelease’ branch, build 22449, brought a ton of fixes and a simple yet modern startup animation, among other improvements to the overall UI. This build comes from a branch that is not tied to any Windows 11 release, which means they will eventually become more unstable.

Those running Beta channel builds, which are expected to be the more stable of the two channels, were surprised to see that a weird bug that broke the taskbar. While the firm quickly identified the issue and posted a workaround, it was later discovered that a small JSON blob from the IrisService component that was used tasked at serving an ad for Windows 11’s Teams integration is what broke the Start and Taskbar. Thankfully, the bug was not significant enough to cause much trouble.

Business users weren’t left out either, this week. Windows Insider Program for business users running Release Preview builds can start testing Windows 11 or Windows 10 version 21H2, available for download across all the usual distribution channels. This hints at Windows 11 OS being closer to completion than ever since the firm wants commercial customers to begin validation testing for the new OS. However, it is not forcing those that want to continue running Windows 10, with the firm promising free support and AppAssure support for customers running previews of both versions.

If you aren’t running Windows 11 and would like to take a look at the new Snap Layouts and Snap Groups feature in Windows 11, we’ve got you covered. Additionally, you could also look at the new – and controversial – changes to the Taskbar, we’ve put together a detailed look at that as well.

Microsoft also announced a “devices and Windows 11” event for September 22. The company posted a picture of what looked like a Surface Pro device in the teaser, hinting at a possible new Surface Pro model. The Surface Duo 2 might also make its debut. There is not much concrete information on what is expected, but there could be some surprises.

App updates and security

Concentric blue circles with two arrows in the middle

Talking about software, the first Edge 95 build was released to the Dev channel, bringing some PDF and screenshot inking improvements. Being the first release, it was light on features and fixes. However, with major releases now following a four-week cadence, features and improvements will begin showing up soon. With major version 95 heading to Dev, Edge 94 was promoted to the Beta channel and Edge 93 was released to the general public. For those running the popular PowerToys set of tools, version 0.45 was released that focused on improving stability and adding Fluent design elements to the Settings UI. Lastly, Windows Thin PC, a stripped-down version of Windows 7 for low-performance PCs, will reach the end of its support next week.

Developers and prosumers that run Windows Terminal were also on the receiving end of updates, with the Preview users receiving Terminal Preview 1.11 that brought with it a ton of fixes and improvements, including improvements to panes, an acrylic title bar, updates to the Settings UI and more. Naturally, Windows Terminal version 1.10 moved to stable users. That version added Quake mode to the system tray, and more. However, not all features made it to stable, as some of the omissions include the ability to set the tool as the default terminal, or the ability to edit actions from the Settings UI.

As far as security is concerned, Microsoft has made usage analytics for Microsoft 365 pseudonymized by default starting September. The change impacts user-level information stored in APIs and products that include usage reports in Microsoft Graph, Teams analytics and Teams admin center, Microsoft 365 admin center, and more. The firm is hoping to bring in these privacy changes while also allowing admins to measure trends within their organization.

Xbox Game Pass games, Halo Infinite multiplayer tweaks, more

Xbox logo monochrome with green outer glow on dark background

With the start of a new month came new Xbox Game Pass games. The Redmond giant has added seven new titles to the subscription service, out of which Surgeon Simulator 2 and The Artful Escape are day one arrivals. Just as always, there are seven games that are leaving the subscription. One of those is Forza Motorsport 7, which is being delisted from all storefronts.

In addition to the Xbox Game Pass titles, Microsoft also made available the September Games with Gold selection. The first wave of the free bonus games includes Warhammer: Chaosbane for Xbox One and Zone of the Enders HD Collection for Xbox 360. You can claim the games via the links provided here. Additionally, you can also check out the Deals with Gold list that includes games like Borderlands 3, Call of Duty: WWII, Red Dead Redemption 2, and more that are available for substantially less.

Moving on to Halo news, there is a fresh Insider test for Halo: The Master Chief Collection that brings a preview of what is slated to make it to Season 8. This includes the improvement and expansion of the popular Custom Game Browser, among other additions.

For those excited about Halo Infinite, the firm has announced a bunch of tweaks being made to the title’s multiplayer portion, thanks to the feedback from the technical preview. These include making the motion tracker (radar) behave like older Halo titles, improvements to Bot AI, improved weapon drills, and much more. 343 Industries noted that the mentioned changes will make it to the game at launch or as a post-launch, depending on the complexity of each area. Just as a reminder, Halo Infinite Campaign and multiplayer portions are launching on PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S systems on December 8.

In other gaming news, Asphalt 9: Legends is now free to download on Xbox and Windows, with Microsoft providing those downloading the 2018 game with an Xbox-themed Porsche 911 GTS Coupe for a limited time. With support for cross-save, you can pick up where you left off on either of the platforms. Those waiting for the Crysis Remastered Trilogy on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC will be happy to know that Crytek has announced that the package releases on October 15, with the publisher promising a significant overhaul of the visuals, There are improved framerates, textures, and lighting. Additionally, those that purchased Crysis Remastered when it launched on consoles will be provided the option to buy the rest of the games in the package separately.

Rounding off the list of expected launches is the spotting of a retailer listing for Alan Wake Remastered on Rakuten Taiwan’s website. The release date of October 5 spotted on the website may or may not be a placeholder, but if it does make it out on that day, it is expected to make it to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, alongside the Xbox platforms.

Lastly, news of a promise not kept comes from the Flight Simulator franchise with the delay of the Top Gun: Maverick expansion. The expansion was slated to release in November, timed with the release of the new Top Gun movie. The tentative release date is now set for 27 May 2022.

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Logging off:

Windows 11 Quick Settings toggles selection to unpin or pin new icons

Though it was posted just a while ago, it serves to be a good weekend read for those that haven’t jumped on to running Windows 11 builds. We are taking a look at Windows 11’s Quick settings and notifications in detail. We compare it to that in Windows 10, look at what’s good, what’s not so great, and what could be tweaked to improve the usability of the component of the UI. You can check out the entire Closer Look series here.

Missed any of the previous columns? Check them all out at this link.


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