An ‘underwhelming’ Windows 10 21H1 arrives


Last week I detailed easy ways to block Windows 10 21H1 from installing on your machine. And this latest update isn’t without issues —Microsoft has highlighted known problems that not only affect 21H1, but 20H2 and 2004, too: 5.1 Dolby Digital audio may contain a high-pitched noise or squeak in some apps when using specific audio devices and Windows settings. But so far, any trouble appears to be limited to computers I call “advanced” or “troublesome.”

Typically, PCs that need special attention attention are dual-boot machines modified to install into either Windows or another platform. (I have not seen issues when the bootloader is modified to offer an easy way to boot into a recovery process, so if you modified Windows to perform that function, you don’t need to worry.)

“Non-normal” Windows systems often trigger issues. Always start by reviewing whether you have enough drive space on your C: drive before beginning a major install. I use Treesize free to review any drive hogs on my computer, though as a reminder, you can’t rip things out of the directory of WinSXS without severely damaging your computer and maybe making it non-bootable.

The only supported way to clean things up is to do the following: Click on the search box and type in cmd. When it is offered up in the “Best match” section, right-mouse-click and select “Run as administrator.”

Type the following command and press Enter:

dism /online /Cleanup-Image /StartComponentCleanup

Personally, I’ve found a better better for a desktop or laptop where you can easily access the hard drive is to purchase a replacement drive that’s larger and migrate your data from the existing drive. Windows 10 will not complain or demand reactivation and your life will be easier not worrying about drive space. If you don’t have an SSD drive, this is a good time to get one. I don’t recommend using Windows 10 without one.

Though I’ve seen initial reports of Blue Screens of Death but the issue apparently affected only the initial Insider releases and was quickly fixed with the May patches. I’ve also seen a few reports of an old issue: the System Reserve partition is full, causing the upgrade to fail. The only way to resolve this is a complicated process of removing font files in order to squeeze down the space used.

The biggest improvements in 21H1 are a bit…underwhelming — to say the least. In Microsoft’s own documentation, the list includes a change that rolled out with 20H2: The servicing stack updates that are required to keep Windows 10 updating healthy are now included in the monthly updates. For those that installed updates from the Windows Update automatically, this is a change you won’t even notice; these updates were always silently bundled with the Windows updating process. Only users who manually went to the Update catalog site or used third-party patching programs will notice a difference.

What’s often more interesting to track is the impact of features Microsoft is removing or plans to remove in the future. On the “Windows 10 deprecated feature” page, the first item is the upcoming “death” of Internet Explorer (IE) 11 on June 15, 2022. Long planned for, the removal of support for IE11 merely means that it is being removed as a standalone and usable browser. It will still be part of the operating system and the underlying engine can be used by quite a few line-of-business applications. One platform that still uses it is the small business accounting platform QuickBooks desktop. Clearly vendors will have to recode such platforms before they we can completely remove IE from our desktops.

Overall, 21H1 so far looks like the kind of feature release we want all the time: something with no major side effects that installs quickly. That said, it’s a little too soon to be pushing it out to all computers yet. Just wait a bit. In fact, it has yet to be offered up to my Surface Pro 7, so even Microsoft thinks it needs a bit more time.

There is one new “feature” that isn’t as a result of the 21H1 feature release that Windows 10 users either love or hate. Called the “News and interests” taskbar, it was included with the May security updates on May 11. Microsoft isn’t pushing the feature out to everyone; so far, I’ve only seen it on machines updated via Windows update and not on a domain.

Microsoft

The News and Interests taskbar can be turned off if you want.

If you decide that you don’t want this feature, there are two ways to disable it:

First, you can right-click any blank space on the taskbar and select News and interests and then “Turn off.” (When you do so, the weather will no longer appear on your taskbar. ) You can also add a registry key to disable the feature. Click on search, then type in registry editor. Click to launch the registry editor and click on the UAC prompt. Now scroll down to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE, then on SOFTWARE, then Policies, then Microsoft, then Windows, and if you don’t have the key already, add Windows Feeds. On the right hand side of the screen right-mouse-click and add new Dword(32 bit value) of EnableFeeds with a value of 0.

Alternatively, you can download this registry key to add the information to your computer. If you later want the news and interest feature back, either remove the registry key or use this reg key download to automatically remove the block.

For now, I urge you to install the May security updates; I’m not seeing any major issues. But skip 21H1 for the time being to make sure it’s solid. As always, if you have issues, we can help over in the AskWoody forums.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.



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