Microsoft releases big update to Windows 10 preview

Windows 10 on Microsoft Surface PC tablet
Credit: Microsoft

First new build since mid-November includes Cortana, supports Continuum

Microsoft today released the long-awaited consumer-centric preview of Windows 10, just two days after the company conducted a two-and-a-half-hour presentation that impressed analysts.

"Hey #WindowsInsiders, who wants a new build today?" tweeted Gabriel Aul, the engineering general manager for Microsoft's operating system group, using a hash tag to describe the preview program's participants.

On Wednesday, Microsoft said that the Windows 10 upgrade would appear in "the next week."

Aul expanded on the new build in a long blog post that went live shortly after he made his Twitter announcement.

The latest build of Windows 10 Technical Preview was labeled "9926" and followed several last year, starting with the Oct. 1 original. It was the first issued since build 9879 in mid-November, when Microsoft said it was taking a break because of the holidays.

"The gap between 9879 and 9926 is the longest you should expect to see with the program," Aul wrote. "We'll get new builds out faster moving forward."

Current testers of Windows 10 can retrieve the update via the Settings panel. Others can join the Windows Insider program by registering on Microsoft's website or download the new build in .iso format to install using a bootable flash drive or DVD disc.

The .iso files can be downloaded here, and for U.S. users, range in size from 3GB (32-bit version) to nearly 4GB (64-bit).

The large size was due to the fact that, as with previous new Windows 10 builds, today's did an in-place upgrade of the entire OS. It also requires apps to be reinstalled. At some point, Microsoft will switch to a lighter-weight process, but it has not said when that will be.

Cortana in Windows 10 Microsoft

Microsoft's voice-activated digital assistant, Cortana, comes to PCs and tablets in today's Windows 10 preview upgrade. 

Not all the features and components trumpeted on Wednesday were included in build 9926, as company executives warned several times during their presentation and demos. The most notable omission was the new streamlined browser, code named "Spartan," that Microsoft will designate as Windows 10's default. Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) was included with build 9926, however, and uses the revamped rendering and JavaScript engines that will also be called by Spartan.

But many of the things that Windows design chief Joe Belfiore talked up two days ago are in build 9926, including Cortana, Microsoft's voice-activated service that has until now been available only on smartphones; a revised, full-screen Start menu for hybrid touch devices; new Photo and Maps apps, which are among the "universal" apps that will be bundled with all versions of Windows 10; a beta of a redesigned Windows app store that will eventually be used by all Windows 10 users, whether from a phone or a PC; and support for "Continuum," Microsoft's technology for 2-in-1 devices that switches from notebook to tablet mode, or vice versa, when the screen is lifted from or restored to the keyboard.

Microsoft will follow build 9926 with the first aimed at smartphones and smaller tablets next month.

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