Microsoft: What have you done to my Windows 10?

Angry PC user

Maybe it’s my age, but I’ve found that I just don’t have the time or patience to play with Windows betas anymore. The bugs. The instabilities. The bricked PCs. I simply can’t get excited about once again playing guinea pig for Microsoft.

In fact, aside from a minor dalliance with a "Redstone" pre-release build late last year, I have effectively sat-out the entire Anniversary Update testing cycle. I figured, "Windows 10 (RTM) was working great for me. Why muck it up by installing some buggy preview edition?"

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So, it was with a true consumer’s (as opposed to rabid tech enthusiast’s) perspective that I approached this week’s big Anniversary Update release. Once the ISO images became available, I used the Media Creation tool to download the 64-bit version. Then I started the upgrade cycle, answered a few questions about downloading updates and what I wanted to keep, and turned in for the night.

The next morning, I was greeted with what appeared to be my normal lock-screen. However, when I tried to swipe it away to reveal the PIN code entry pad, the screen seemed to get stuck. It took me a few seconds to realize that the PIN pad was indeed visible, and that Microsoft had simply changed the lock screen behavior so that the underlying wallpaper remains while you enter your credentials.

As to why it made this change, I haven’t a clue. It seemed superfluous and unnecessarily confusing to a user accustomed to the original Windows 10 lock screen. Regardless, the discovery of this unexpected new behavior set the tone of the rest of my experience.

For example, it seems Microsoft’s engineers decided to shove the Action Center icon all the way to the right of the Task Bar (i.e. it "jumped over" the clock). Why? Who knows? But the shift has messed up my muscle memory -- I now have to consciously think of where the damned button is whenever I want to check on a notification or access a feature like Connect.

Speaking of Connect, Microsoft moved the list of target devices. Now, when I try to connect my Dell Inspiron 13 7000 Series laptop to my Microsoft Display Adapter -- something I do almost every day to watch downloaded movies or TV content -- the adapter is listed below the descriptive text (it used to be above it). Also, the icon seems smaller and the text more washed out. Basically, it’s now harder to differentiate items in the target list from the surrounding text and chrome of the Action Center UI.

Another annoyance: Toast bubbles are now "sticky". When I get prompted with a notification from certain apps, the corresponding Toast bubble seems to stay on screen until I either manually clear it (using its "x" button) or click the Action Center icon. On more than one occasion I had to close the bubble before I could interact with a button or control in an app that was "underneath" the Toast (e.g. the "Tweet" button in the Windows Store Twitter App). Very irritating.

Of course, the biggest changes seem to have occurred within the Start menu. Gone is the nice, clean-looking layout with its drill-down All Apps list and clearly labeled system functions. Instead, I’m now presented with a word-salad of every App and legacy Win32 program in one long, scrollable list. Meanwhile, the system functions -- like Power and Settings -- have lost their labels. Why? Again, I haven’t a clue.

And that’s the root of the problem. Windows 10 Anniversary Update is chock full of subtle tweaks and minute alterations -- a relocated icon here, a removed label there -- that feel entirely arbitrary. But while the changes may prove popular to a subset of Windows enthusiasts, it’s hard to put my finger on anything that the new version does better than the one it’s replacing.

If anything, the jumbling of once-familiar interface elements has made me a less satisfied Windows user. And if someone like me -- a 30-year tech industry veteran who has beta tested every version of Windows since 3.0 -- finds these changes confusing, heaven help the average consumer who wakes up to find that "a bunch of Microsoft gremlins came calling in the night and moved all their stuff around".

Image Credit: Ollyy / Shutterstock

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