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It may be Build time for Microsoft, but it's also build time for Windows Insiders, as the company is rolling out a new update for Dev channel, bringing us to Windows 11 build 23466. This is one of the biggest updates Microsoft has released to Insiders in a long time, and there are a ton of new features. These include a new backup and restore experience so you can get your apps up and running on a new PC more quickly. It also brings back taskbar ungrouping, a faster storage drive for developers, and more.
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Backup and restore
As announced yesterday, Microsoft is improving the backup and restore experience for WIndows 11 and making it more useful. With this build, the company is adding a Windows Backup app, which makes it easier to backup your settings and apps to the cloud so that you can restore them more easily.
Restoring your apps is getting better, too, as Windows 11 is now able to remember where your apps were pinned, so that when you restore them on a new PC, you'll find them in the same place as before. You can also back up Windows settings and preferences (though it's not clear what kinds of settings can be synced), as well as credentials for things like Wi-Fi passwords.
For now, if you want to test this, you'll need two PCs with this build, one to create the backup and one to perform a clean install of this build so you see the restore experience. You can always use a VM or reset your current PC after creating a backup, too.
Another feature Microsoft announced yesterday is Dev Drive, a new type of storage drive based on the Resilient File System (ReFS), which is designed to improve performance for heavy I/O operations. In addition to using this new file system, Dev Drive also triggers a new performance mode for Microsoft Defender/Windows Security. This reduces the performance impact of Microsoft Defender without sacrificing security.
Microsoft is finally addressing one of the main complaints people had with Windows 11, which is the inability to ungroup taskbar icons. Indeed, WIndows 11 forces all app icons on the taskbar to be grouped together for the same app, and you can't see labels for each individual window until you mouse over the group for that app.
With this build, Microsoft is bringing back taskbar ungrouping, meaning you can once again see all your individual app windows on the taskbar, along with the respective labels. You can turn this feature by going right-clicking an empty area of the taskbar and choosing Taskbar settings, where it will be under Taskbar behaviors.
Voice access typing improvements
On the accessibility front, Microsoft is improving the dictation experience for voice access. Now, you can use two new commands, "correct (word)" and "spell (word)" to get the right words and spelling. The "correct" command will show you a series of alternative options for a word that may have been misheard (such as "serial" instead of "cereal"). The "spell" command lets oyu spell out each character in a word, which is useful for things like usernames or unusual names.
There are a few other and arguably smaller improvements in this build, too. For starters, Chinese users can now download more natural-sounding voices for Narrator. Natural voices were first made available in English a while back, but now, those using Narrator in Chinese can also choose between female and male natural voices.
Another improvement has to do with notifications, with Microsoft now detecting when you don't interact with notification from a given app for a long time. If Windows 11 notices you usually ignore notifications for an app, it will send a notification of its own, prompting you to turn off notifications for said app so it doesn't bother you again.
Over on the Start menu, Microsoft is testing a new ranking model for determining recommended content shown in the bottom section. This new model takes into account the file extension and other information, so you may not always see your files in the same order as before. On the taskbar, Microsoft is also re-enabling a feature that showed the search experience when hovering the mouse over the search bar on the taskbar. This had initially been removed due to a bug. Microsoft is also noting that the new version of File Explorer based on the Windows App SDK (WinUI 3) is now fully available to Dev channel Insiders. The UI changes shown earlier this week aren't available as part of this yet.
What is changing in terms of design are some emoji in Windows 11. Microsoft says it listened to feedback to improve the recognizability of the emoji. For example, the alien emoji is now green, and the " high five" emoji is a little more detailed so it's easier to identify.
Otherwise, there are some smaller things that were also available in a Canary build released earlier this week. That includes improved functionality for Passpoint Wi-Fi networks, support for WPA3 when using the instant hotspot feature in Phone Link, and the ability to view advanced network adapters and Wi-Fi security keys in the Settings app. Other improvements include the ability to join Bluetooth Personal Area networks in the Settings app, more options in the Data Usage page, including the ability to set weekly and daily data limits, and updates to the Startup Apps and App execution alias pages to show more information and look more consistent. The Windows Security dialog shown when running certain apps has also been updated.
Fixes and known issues
Aside from all of these additions, this build also comes with the usual array of fixes, which you can find below:
We fixed the following issues for Insiders previewing the Windows App SDK version of File Explorer
- Fixed an issue which could cause File Explorer or the Control Panel to become unresponsive to clicks after invoking the context menu.
- Fixed an issue where File Explorer and taskbar weren’t responding to light and dark mode changes (until explorer.exe was restarted) if you had this version.
We fixed the following issues for Insiders with Gallery in File Explorer:
- Added icons for the entries in the Collection dropdown in Gallery.
We fixed the following issues for Insiders with the modernized details pane in File Explorer:
- Fixed an issue where Narrator wasn’t saying anything when opening and closing the details pane.
- Fixed an issue where the taskbar in multi-monitor setups would show the indicator for an app window having focus on your screen when it actually didn’t.
[Search on the Taskbar]
- We fixed the issue causing some users to see content flicker before the content finishes loading when the search flyout is opened.
- We fixed an issue causing search to crash on launch for some Insiders in the previous build.
- Fixed an issue which was making the Notification Center and Notification page in Settings crash when switching do not disturb status for some Insiders in the last few flights.
- The search icon should be easier to see now when using a contrast theme.
- Pressing enter when keyboard focus is on one of the sections (like Memory) in the Performance page should now actually switch sections.
- Made the navigation pane a bit narrower. As part of this change, when necessary, the text will be wrapped now.
- The creation of live kernel memory dump file submenu has access keys now.
- Resizing Task Manager from the top of the window should work now.
- Fixed an issue which was causing Settings to crash randomly sometimes when navigating away from certain pages.
- Fixed an issue which was causing explorer.exe to crash when selecting “learn more about this picture” in the previous flight.
Of course, there's also the usual slew of known issues, which are to be expected with anu pre-release software. There's a fairly long list this time around, so it's worth checking out before making the jump:
- [NEW] On a reboot, additional filters beyond AV might be attached to your Dev Drive. To check what filters are attached, please run ‘fsutil devdrv query :’ in Windows PowerShell. If you are seeing more than your AV filters, you can run ‘fsutil volume dismount :’ and then ‘fsutil devdrv query :’. After those steps, you should only see your AV filters.
- [NEW] There might be variable performance on different hardware. If you notice slower performance on your machine, please file feedback!
[Search on the Taskbar]
- [NEW] Insiders who have the new hover behavior for the search box and search highlight gleam will see an empty tooltip displayed momentarily while the gleam is hovered. This might also occur for Insiders who don’t have the new hover behavior – the empty tooltip may be displayed when the gleam is hovered.
- Narrator customers may not be able to navigate down the left side panel of the search flyout.
- Text scaling may not work in the search flyout.
- [NEW] Insiders may experience a File Explorer crash when dragging the scroll bar or attempting to close the window during an extended file-loading process.
Insiders who have Gallery in File Explorer will see the following issues:
- Gallery may require clicking twice on the node in the navigation pane for initial load.
- Live updates (including filtering) are currently disabled and require using the Refresh button as a workaround.
- Thumbnail loading performance for dehydrated cloud files and memory usage in large collections are known issues we are focused on improving. Please capture Performance traces in Feedback Hub for any performance-related issues. Rebuilding your Indexer can help if thumbnails are missing for cloud files; Search for “Indexing Options” and look in Advanced settings to find the rebuild tool.
- Photos from OneDrive for Business currently must be hydrated to work properly.
- Some file types (e.g., HEIC) might not be rendered correctly or performantly.
Insiders who have access keys in File Explorer will see the following issues:
- Access keys will appear inconsistently if no button is pressed. Pressing a button will cause them to reappear.
Insiders will have issues with the following commands on recommended files in File Explorer:
- Clicking on the Share command will currently bring up the Windows share sheet (non-OneDrive).
[Taskbar & System Tray]
- [NEW] If you drag and drop a window in Task View to a different Desktop, the icon for that app may not appear in the taskbar.
- [NEW] The copy button for quickly copying two-factor authentication (2FA) codes in notification toasts (first introduced in Build 23403) is currently not working in this build. A fix is coming in a future flight.
[Backup and Restore]
- [NEW] Backups of a PC that was set up using a restore may not show up in subsequent restores.
- [NEW] Restore of solid color desktop backgrounds are not yet supported.
To try all of this, you'll have to be a Windows Insider enrolled in the Dev channel, and then you can simply check for updates in the Settings app. Otherwise, you can download the new build manually here. Beware that Insider builds are unstable, as mentioned above.