Microsoft releases Windows 10 Preview Build 17074.1002 with AMD boot fix related to Spectre and Meltdown
A week ago, Microsoft released a new Preview Build of Windows 10 -- 17074. It was chock-full of new features and fixes, making it a wise upgrade for anyone in the Insiders program.
Sadly, it was discovered that Build 17074 had a huge bug -- it made some AMD systems unbootable. Yikes! Apparently, this was related to fixes for Spectre and Meltdown. True, this is pre-release software, so bugs should be expected, but losing the ability to boot can really ruin a user's day. Today, that bug is fixed, as Microsoft pushes out Build 17074.1002. It also fixes an issue where some computers would hang.
Microsoft today announces that it is expanding the availability of the Surface Book 2 to include all the markets where it currently sells Surface devices.
The Surface Book 2 was launched in mid-October of last year, making the 13-inch version available in more markets than its 15-inch counterpart. This latest move will slowly change that.
While the notorious Meltdown and Spectre chip bugs are still yet to pose a real threat in their own right, it's rather a different story when it comes to the patches designed to fix the problems. Microsoft had to pause the rollout of patches after reports that they were leaving some AMD systems unbootable.
Now the software giant has released two new updates -- one for Windows 7 (KB4073578) and one for Windows 8.1 (KB4073576) -- to fix the "Unbootable state for AMD devices" issue. But it's not all good news. These are updates that have to be manually downloaded and installed, and Microsoft has provided no instructions about how to use them.
However, according to the Firefox Hardware Report, a public weekly survey of the hardware and software used by everyone running the release channel desktop build of Mozilla's web browser, Windows 10 still has a long way to go until it catches up to Windows 7.
Windows 10 Insiders on the Fast ring have got used to weekly new builds from Microsoft, but just lately we’ve been having to go a lot longer between releases. There have been just two new builds in the past seven weeks, although both have been jam packed with new features and improvements, so it's easy to understand the reason for the delay.
Build 17074, the latest release for the Fast ring (and Skip Ahead), has a lot to offer users and shows the direction the OS is taking these days. Here’s what’s new.
Microsoft has released an updated version of PowerShell which adds support for macOS and Linux. PowerShell Core 6.0 uses .NET Core rather than the .NET framework, and this means it is able to break out of being a Windows-only tool.
The tool is described as a "new edition of PowerShell that is cross-platform (Windows, macOS, and Linux), open-source, and built for heterogeneous environments and the hybrid cloud." The arrival of the scripting tool on new platforms will be welcomed by those working in mixed environments.
Microsoft rolls out two Windows 10 feature updates a year. The Creators Update arrived last April, followed by the Fall Creators Update in October. In order to limit the number of issues that users experience, Microsoft staggers the rollout.
There is a problem with this approach, however. While it means -- hopefully -- fewer headaches for people updating to the latest incarnation, it also means that the update can take forever to reach all users. In fact, in the case of the Creators Update, a quarter of users still didn’t have it by the time its successor arrived.
The number of decent apps available in the Microsoft Store pales in comparison to those in the Apple App Store and Google Play. Big names drop out almost as quickly as new ones arrive, which doesn’t help.
In yet another bid to woo developers to the platform, Microsoft is introducing subscription add-ons for Windows 10 Anniversary Edition, and later.
Microsoft has ended mainstream support for Windows 8.1, more than five years after its debut. The operating system, which was offered as a free upgrade to Windows 8 users, has moved to the extended support phase, in which it will continue to receive updates, albeit in a more limited fashion.
During mainstream support, which ended January 9, Microsoft provided security and non-security updates and accepted requests for product changes. Extended support means that the average Windows 8.1 user will only receive security updates.
The Meltdown and Spectre revelations have people around the world concerned about privacy, but there has also been great speculation about the reduction in performance that patches might bring. Now Microsoft and Intel have opened up about the sort of slowdown PC users and server operators can expect.
Having previously tried to play down the negative impact that bug patches will have on systems, Intel's benchmark test now shows that -- depending on the tasks -- a slowdown of between 2 and 14 percent can be observed. Microsoft says that anyone with a computer dating from 2015 and earlier will notice a decrease in system performance.
Following reports that its Spectre and Meltdown fixes were leaving some AMD systems unbootable, Microsoft has stopped the patches from rolling out to certain devices.
The company is blaming AMD's failure to comply with "the documentation previously provided to Microsoft to develop the Windows operating system mitigations to protect against the chipset vulnerabilities known as Spectre and Meltdown."
Microsoft has had something of an on-off relationship with Bitcoin over the years, and once again the Windows-maker has chosen to drop support for the cryptocurrency -- at least temporarily.
It has been reported that Microsoft is uncomfortable with the fluctuating value of Bitcoin, as well as the increased transaction fees. As such, customers will no longer be able to add to their Microsoft account balances using Bitcoin.
As if the Meltdown and Spectre bug affecting millions of processors was not bad enough, the patches designed to mitigate the problems are introducing issues of their own. Perhaps the most well-known effect is a much-publicized performance hit, but some users are reporting that Microsoft's emergency patch is bricking their computers.
We've already seen compatibility issues with some antivirus tools, and now some AMD users are reporting that the KB4056892 patch is rendering their computer unusable. A further issue -- error 0x800f0845 -- means that it is not possible to perform a rollback.
The software giant provides Windows 10 for free to anyone using assistive technologies, and doesn’t require you to prove you have any kind of disability in order to make use of this upgrade offer. However, all good things must come to an end, and Microsoft is set to close this free upgrade route.
In the wake of the Meltdown and Spectre chip bug revelations, people around the world are wondering whether or not they are affected. Bearing in mind the number of chips with the flaw, the chances that your computer has a vulnerability are very high.
Microsoft rushed to get an emergency fix out to Windows 10 users, promising that Windows 7 and 8 users will be patched in the near future. The company has also released a PowerShell script that lets users check whether they have protection in place.