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Microsoft Weekly: Windows 11 activation and FIle Explorer changes, feature updates, and more

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In this episode of Microsoft Weekly, we look at the latest feature update for Windows 11, questionable File Explorer changes, no more Windows 11 activation with old keys, fresh Windows Insider builds, plenty of Surface updates, gaming news, and more.

Table of contents:

  1. Windows 11 news
  2. Updates are available
  3. Reviews are in
  4. Gaming news
  5. A blast from Microsoft’s past
  6. Random fact about Microsoft

Windows 11

Here we talk about everything happening around Microsoft’s latest operating system in the Stable channel and preview builds: new features, removed features, controversies, bugs, interesting findings, and more. And of course, you may find a word or two about older but still supported versions.

The Windows 11 Moment 4 update is finally available (KB5030310 or 22621.2361) with plenty of great changes and useful features. Check out our guide detailing how to upgrade to the latest feature update without waiting for Microsoft to install Moment 4 on your PC automatically. The update is available for manual installation only and will become mandatory in November.

As for Windows 11 version 23H2, it will arrive later this year as an enablement package with no changes to hardware requirements.

A picutre with a Windows 11 wallpaper and a big M4 sign

In addition to the new features in Moment 4, Microsoft unveiled a few extras:

Those living in the European Union might be tempted to try Copilot, Microsoft’s latest AI-powered assistant integrated into the Windows 11 Moment 4 update. Sadly, it is not available for EU residents yet. As it turned out, Microsoft has restricted access to Copilot due to the Digital Markets Act. Those upset with this can work around the limitation with one simple trick. As the meme says, the EU hates it!

By the way, if you do not like Copilot and want to remove it from your system, check out this guide describing how to turn off Windows Copilot in Windows 11.

Another weird thing in the Moment 4 update is File Explorer, namely its address bar. Users discovered that the redesigned app no longer allows dragging files and folders onto the address bar. Microsoft said few people actually use this tool, which is why it is no longer available.

A picture of the new File Explorer in Windows 11 with focus on the address bar

Although the Moment 4 update was the biggest Windows news this week, Microsoft also released a few extra optional non-security updates for Windows 11 and Windows 10:

Following the release of the Moment 4 update, the news broke out about Microsoft closing a loophole that allowed activating Windows 11 with old Windows 7/8/8.1 keys. Although those still work with the current Windows 11 version from the Stable Channel, old license keys are no longer valid for activating Canary builds (version 24H2 and newer). Besides, those still sticking to the good old Windows 7 and not-so-good Windows 8 cannot update to Windows 10 anymore—after eight long years, that path is now closed.

Windows Insider Program

Here are the latest preview builds released for Windows 11 Insiders:

  • Dev Channel: 23555 with minor improvements and bug fixes. Do not expect much from preview builds these days since Microsoft has just released a big Windows 11 feature update.
  • Release Preview: version 23H2 is now available for testing with only one Chat-related change.

Windows Insiders in the Dev and Canary Channels can download yet another big update for Paint. The app received the rumored generative AI support called “Cocreator.” It is available for insiders in the United States, France, the UK, Australia, Canada, Italy, and Germany.

Windows paint cocreator

This week, more information about Wi-Fi 7 support in Microsoft’s operating systems emerged. Contrary to the previous belief, it seems that Wi-Fi 7 and 6GHz network support might be exclusive to Windows 11 and whatever comes after it. Support articles published by Intel and Netgear revealed that you might need to leave Windows 10 behind to benefit from the latest Wi-Fi standard.

On the controversial side, we have KB5030211 installing the new Windows Backup app on systems running Windows 10 LTSC. Needless to say, IT admins are not happy about it. Although they do not mind Microsoft bringing the app to “regular” consumers with home PCs, installing Windows Backup on managed devices with no easy way to get rid of it is slightly irritating.

A Windows Backup app logo

To finish the Windows 11 section, here is a new unconventional laptop called LG Gram Fold. It is a 17-inch Windows 11 tablet with a foldable display capable of turning into a 12-inch laptop. LG Gram Fold will rival the recently announced HP Spectre Foldable with a relatively similar price tag. Sadly, LG Gram Fold will only be available in South Korea, and those living there should prepare to shell out 4.99 million won or roughly $3,700, a hardly shocking price considering that the foldable PC market is still in its infancy.

lg gram fold

Updates are available

This section covers software, firmware, and other notable updates (released and coming soon) delivering new features, security fixes, improvements, patches, and more from Microsoft and third parties.

Mozilla Foundation released a feature update for its desktop browser. Version 118 is now available in the Release Channel with automated web content translation (local processing), font improvements, video effects support in Google Meet, and other changes to make your non-Chromium browsing better.

A Firefox logo with number 118 behind it

In addition to a substantial feature update for Windows 11, Microsoft announced several improvements for OneDrive. Work and school customers will soon get new tools for preventing accidental file deletions, better shortcut management, updated sync settings, and more.

There are also new official virtual machines with Windows 11 and various developer tools. Version 2309 is now available for download from the official website, letting everyone try the latest Windows 11 updates (Moment 4 is not there yet) without purchasing a license key or installing the operating system locally. You can use Microsoft’s virtual machines without activation for 90 days.

Microsoft continues updating Bing Chat and its components with new features and technology (after failed negotiations with Apple about selling Bing to the Cupertino company). This week, the company rolled out DALL-E 3 support, giving users access to the latest version of OpenAI’s image generator.

However, it is worth noting that modern AI chatbots are still extremely far from perfect. According to a report published by Malwarebytes, Bing Chat sometimes serves malicious ads to its customers. One example of such behavior is the service giving a link to a malicious website instead of serving a legitimate website of the requested software.

Here are other notable updates released this week:

  • PowerToys 0.74 with Text Extractor 2.0, stability fixes, and other minor changes for multiple utilities.
  • Windows Subsystem for Android 2309 Preview with graphics improvements, .cer support, new APIs, security patches, and more.
  • Groupy 2.12 with improved compatibility, better tab management, and enhanced localization.
  • Skype Insider 8.105 with reworked chat management, better conversation pinning, and more.
  • ExplorerPatcher 22621.2361.58.1 with taskbar fixes and patches for explorer.exe crashing on Windows 11.
  • WingetUI 2.1.0 with performance improvements, source filtering, custom source support, and more.

Microsoft was very busy updating its Surface devices with new firmware this month. This week, five more Surface models received the September 2023 update:

And here are the latest drivers released this week:

Finally, here is our weekly Microsoft 365 Roadmap recap detailing the upcoming features, such as dictation support in Outlook for the web, offline support for the new Outlook for Windows, branded launcher screen support for Teams Premium users, SharePoint List templates, and more. We have also prepared a roundup of features added to Microsoft Teams in September 2023.

Reviews are in

Here you will find software and hardware reviews published on Neowin this week.

We got a chance to review the GEEKOM Mini IT13 this week. It is a small desktop computer with serious horsepower under its compact, well-built aluminum case. The PC features a 13th gen Intel Core i9, 32GB of RAM, and up to 2TB storage, with plenty of ports to connect your accessories, monitors, and external devices.

geekom mini it13

On the gaming side

Learn about upcoming game releases, Xbox rumors, new hardware, software updates, freebies, deals, discounts and more.

Starfield opens the gaming section with an update delivering performance improvements and bug fixes, something the game cannot have enough of. Version 1.7.33 fixes characters, star stations, vendors, missing suns on AMD-powered systems, stability issues, and more.

Starfield screenshot

Kerbal Space Program 2, another space-exploring game, made it to this week’s news headlines. However, unlike Starfield, the headlines are not-so-positive. Gamers discovered that the early access game is flooding the Windows Registry with tons of junk data. Developers have already acknowledged the problem and promised to release a hotfix.

GeForce NOW, NVIDIA’s cloud streaming service, received 27 new games this week. You can now play Cyberpunk 2077: Phantom Liberty, Quake II, Warhammer 40,000: Battlesector, Amnesia: Rebirth, and other titles without investing in a modern Xbox or gaming PC.

However, those into first-person shooters with relatively capable gaming computers can check out Counter-Strike 2, Valve’s latest creation and the successor to the critically acclaimed Counter-Striker: Global Offensive. As it usually goes with hot new titles, be sure to install the latest graphics driver to get the most out of your PC hardware.

Counter Strike 2

Moving from good news to less exciting, we have the upcoming release of Cities: Skylines 2. This week, developers announced a surprising delay, pushing the console launch from October 24 to Spring 2024. However, the PC version is still coming next month. Colossal Order said that the studio needs more time to reach its quality targets, hence such a drastic delay.

Mojang also announced that Minecraft Dungeons would no longer receive new content and updates. In a blog post on the official Minecraft website, the studio revealed that Minecraft Dungeons amassed more than 25 million players. After multiple DLCs and content updates, Mojang is ready to end Minecraft Dungeons support to give its team “the freedom to keep exploring the types of games they are passionate about.”

Minecraft Dungeons Echoing Void screenshot

On the hardware side, Microsoft updated its Design Lab with new options for top cases, allowing gamers to personalize their controllers with new shimmering variants. Note that the new gradient options will bump the final price by $9.99.

Xbox Design Lab Shift design

Also, Xbox owners can download a new software update for their consoles. The second September 2023 update delivers a better OneDrive integration, allowing you to move, manage, and bulk upload captures from your Xbox to OneDrive. There is also a new way to quickly get up to date on any new content or in-game events.

Finally, here is a small weird PSA for Xbox owners: do not try insider trading using Xbox 360 chat. The FBI has arrested a man allegedly involved in insider trading and sharing information using online chat on Microsoft’s old Xbox 360 console. The FBI still got the crim, even though he thought no one could trace his conversations.

Deals and Freebies

Here are the games you can get for free or with notable discounts this week. The Epic Games Store is giving away Soulstice, an action RPG, and Model Builder, a simulator that lets you assemble scale models in a virtual hobby room.

Epic Games Store double freebies

This week’s Weekend PC Game Deals series includes indie bundles shoot ’em up festivals, free events, and big deals for popular titles.

A blast from Microsoft’s past

John Callaham’s weekly “Look back” series provides throwbacks into the past, detailing the company’s products, partnerships, mishaps, and successes from years ago.

John’s “Look back” articles from this week are about Microsoft’s Office apps, namely Excel and Word. On September 30, 2023, the world’s most popular spreadsheet manager turned 38. What started as a program for Macintosh amid the sea of popular alternatives eventually became one of the most successful cross-platform Office apps.

Microsoft excel box

As for Word, released on September 29, 1983, Microsoft initially planned to call the app “Multi-Tool Word.” However, the company decided to go for a shorter name and include a free demo with the November 1983 issue of the PC World magazine. Microsoft Word was the first software bundled with print media.

Microsoft word with mouse

Another mind-boggling fact about Word from 1983 is its price. What now costs $6.99/mo and includes a few more Office apps would set you back almost $500 40 years ago.

Random fact about Microsoft

And here is a randomly selected piece of trivia about the company, Windows, and other Microsoft-made things.

Although Windows ME, released in 2000 and superseded by Windows XP in just one year, is mostly considered a flop, it introduced several important features and system components we still use. For example, we often recommend creating a restore point before messing with Windows’ internals using ViVeTool or similar apps. Did you know Windows ME was the first to offer the System Restore feature? It also introduced System File Protection, a silent background process guarding protected files from modification or corruption.

windows me

However, despite offering new utilities to safeguard your PC experience, Windows ME was infamous for its instabilities and frequent crashes, leading to a poor reputation among users and relatively quick demise compared to other, far more successful releases.

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