Participants in the Windows Insider program now have new builds for their testing pleasure: Build 17101 of the Redstone 4 flavor distributed in the Fast ring and Build 17604 giving participants a taste of Redstone 5 in the Skip Ahead program. According to Microsoft, the company is now focusing on stabilization with Redstone 4, meaning we’re getting close to its release and the update is mostly locked and loaded from a feature standpoint.
If you’re not familiar with all the terminology, Microsoft code-names its major updates. Windows 10 was originally code-named as Threshold at release followed by Threshold 2 serving as the very first major update in November 2015. After those two releases, Microsoft moved to its Redstone code names: Redstone 1 launching as Anniversary Update, Redstone 2 as Creators Update, and Redstone 3 as Fall Creators Update.
Now we’re deep into Redstone 4 territory, but we have no clue what Microsoft plans to officially name this release although the rumor mill refers to Spring Creators Update. As the name indicates, Redstone 4 should hit Windows 10 this spring, hence why we’re now only seeing stabilization tweaks in the preview builds rather than new and upcoming Windows 10 features.
In July 2017, Microsoft began offering Insiders an optional “skip ahead” program for early testing of the next major update. In today’s case, the current Redstone 4 update slated to arrive this spring is now dubbed as RS4_RELEASE while testers can skip ahead and start testing the RS_PRERELEASE branch. These latter testers will also receive inbox app updates from the Microsoft Store.
“We are only allowing a small subset of Insiders in the Fast ring to opt in to Skip Ahead as we still need Insiders to hammer on RS4,” says Dona Sarkar. “Because many Insiders who opted in last time remained in Skip Ahead, the limit for Skip Ahead has already been met. If we open Skip Ahead up for more Insiders, we’ll let you know.”
But fear not: Microsoft does have a few new updates up its sleeves. Both builds now show design updates to seven emoji, and an expanded keyword-based emoji search for over 150 locals. The company also tweaked UWP File System Access, giving you better control over how Microsoft Store-based apps access your PC’s full file system. Thus, if an app tries to access the file system, you’ll get a consent popup allowing or denying access.
A new power scheme is coming to Windows 10 Pro for Workstations too. It’s called Ultimate Performance and builds on the current High Performance power policy by eliminating “micro-latencies associated with fine grained power management techniques.” The drawback is that this mode will consume more power given you’re pulling every ounce of performance out of the hardware. For this reason, Ultimate Performance won’t be available on battery-reliant PCs.
Finally, Microsoft now serves up a Windows App Preview Program as an alternative to the Skip Ahead program. You can test 10 apps under this umbrella such as Paint 3D and Microsoft Photos by going into these apps and selecting the “Join Preview” button in their Settings or About panels.