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Microsoft updates Windows 10: adds features, addresses clean install license nightmare

Microsoft has released Build 10565 to Windows Insiders on the Fast Ring. It is chock full of new features, but the most-important may be an improved system for licensing a new install on a Windows 7 or Windows 8 machine taking advantage of its free upgrade offer. Other big news includes better Skype integration, adding ink recognition to Cortana, Tab Preview and Favorites syncing in the Edge browser, and yet more new icons. Microsoft has also made some more tweaks to the Start Menu. Some bug fixes and of course a known issues list round out the update.

Finally some clarity on how to use your free Windows upgrade

Microsoft Edge browser adds tab previewsThere has been a lot of confusion as users have tried to install Windows 10 on their Windows 7 or 8 machines as a clean install and found it either difficult or impossible to take advantage of the free upgrade. Microsoft has now addressed the issue in this latest build — at least for those who have their current product key for that device. You can enter your Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 product key when asked for your Windows 10 product key — as long as it is the key you used on that same device! You can do this by going to Settings->Update & Security->Activation and using Change Product Key. Similarly, if you are doing a clean install from a DVD or USB drive, you can also enter your existing product key.

Now, this is really good news, but I suspect the users most affected are also not ones who suddenly want to jump into the Insider Preview Fast Ring. So the biggest benefit may come when this feature is presumably rolled out in the Threshold 2 general release, planned for later this year.

Cortana gets more clever for those with a stylus

Cortana is supposed to read ink now but it couldn't identify anything in this noteMicrosoft has always had some of the world’s best handwriting recognition technology — although it didn’t do much to showcase it. Now, Cortana can read through your handwritten notes and not only recognize what the words are, but in many cases turn them into reminders by noting locations, times, and numbers. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get this feature to work. Microsoft shows a screen capture of Cortana recognizing a date, but when I tried it, like in the sample note on the right, it didn’t recognize anything. So perhaps this feature still needs to be rolled out on Microsoft’s servers.

Plus some bug fixes and new issues

Microsoft says they have fixed bugs in background media playback, Windows Update UI, too-large context menus, and Windows Store app updating. Known issues include the Search box not working in locales without Cortana support, and the Xbox app consuming large amounts of memory in some cases if you a Win32 game installed. WebM and VP9 have been removed — although Microsoft says to look for VP9 to return in a future build.

It also sounds like users of small-form-factor devices, like the Dell Venue 8 Pro, need to exercise caution. If they are upgraded with their virtual mode screen size set larger than the physical screen, they will blue-screen and revert to the previous build. One change you’ll want to pay attention to is that Windows will now set your default printer to the printer most-recently used. If you don’t like the new system, you can change it in the Printers & Scanners settings dialog. It’s good to see Microsoft being so specific about the changes, given the concerns about its new policy on not always issuing full release notes.

Microsoft has provided more options for customizing the display of the Start MenuFinally, if you don’t see the Update listed, you probably don’t need to panic. As with previous builds, it seems to roll out in fits and starts over the first day or so. Only one of the two tablets I have on the Fast Ring, for example, has been able to see the Update so far; my Surface Pro 3 still hasn’t seen it.

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