This month sees Windows Server 2019 finally reach general availability in Azure and appear in the Windows Evaluation Center, plus some changes to Internet Explorer in older versions of Windows.
It’s been a long wait since Microsoft first announced Windows Server 2019 availability in September but now you can download an evaluation of the new server operating system from Microsoft’s website here. October 2nd saw the bits briefly offered for download in the Evaluation Center, the Volume Licensing Service Center, and the Azure Marketplace, before being pulled due to a bug that could delete user data during an in-place upgrade.
As a reminder, Windows Server 2019 is the first version of Windows Server not to reach the Release-To-Manufacturing (RTM) milestone, which means that it isn’t ready for hardware until the first certifications appear in the Windows Server Catalog. Now at the end of January, some server products are listed as ‘Certified for Windows Server 2019’. Windows Server 2019 is also now generally available in Microsoft Azure.
For more details on the release of Windows Server 2019, see Windows Server 2019 Skips RTM, But What Does that Mean? on Petri.
Since January 2016, only the most current version of Internet Explorer (IE) available for supported versions of Windows received technical support and security updates. For Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows 10, and their equivalent server versions, that meant IE11. But Windows 8 Embedded and Windows Server 2008 still run IE10. To further consolidate the shift towards IE11, Microsoft will release IE11 for testing in spring this year via the Microsoft Update Catalog. Download availability will be expanded to Windows Update, and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) later in the year.
Microsoft says that its customers will have until January 2020 to move off IE10, after which time there will be no security or non-security updates, free or paid support, or online technical content changes. IE11 will only be provided in a form that supports the classic desktop experience, so Windows Server 2012 and Windows 8 Embedded customers will not be able to access the Modern IE tiled user interface.
While we’re on the subject of IE11, the browser has been updated to protect rogue applications from modify browser settings, much in the same way that Microsoft Edge does. More specifically, this feature seems to protect your default home page and search engine settings and it doesn’t apply to devices joined to an Active Directory domain, or Enterprise and Education SKUs of Windows.
Microsoft released four Insider preview updates to the next version of Windows 10 in January. Build 18309 focuses on improving the Windows Hello PIN reset experience and introduced password-less sign in to all Windows editions. Build 18305 first introduced support for setting up and signing in to Windows 10 Home with a phone number account. Microsoft says that you can create a phone number account by opening Word on an iOS or Android device and entering your phone number under Sign in or sign up for free. This release also sees Microsoft disable the Cortana voice-over by default on Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise, and Education SKUs during the Out-Of-Box setup experience (OOBE).
Build 18312 brought improvements to the Reset the PC user interface and changes to the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL), including options to manage WSL distros included with the wslconfig command line tool, the ability to import Linux distributions for sideloading, and an export to .tar option. Most notably in this release, all users will get Reserved Storage, a new feature aimed at ringfencing disk space to ensure Windows runs and updates smoothly.
Cortana and search are separated on the taskbar for all users in build 18317. Additionally, the Start experience now runs in its own process for better reliability. Start will also no longer suspend, making it launch faster in some circumstances. Other improvements in this build include the ability to install fonts by dragging and dropping them into the Settings app, and there’s a list of improvements for the Windows Console.
Finally, Build 18323 sees improved RAW image support, enhancements to the Light theme, and a whole load of general fixes.
On January 16th, an announcement on the Windows 10 Update History page read: “We are now starting our phased rollout to users via Windows Update, initially offering the update to devices we believe will have the best update experience based on our next generation machine learning model. Fully available for advanced users who manually select “Check for updates” via Windows Update.”
Build 18317 of the next semi-annual channel version of Windows Server was released January 22nd and must be clean installed. In-place upgrades will fail. Microsoft also released Windows Admin Center (WAC) Preview 1812. Windows Server gets composable (stacked) code integrity policies for supporting multiple code integrity policies in this build, allowing for several different scenarios when configuring Windows Defender Application Control.
WAC gets a dark mode and two new PowerShell modules for automating WAC when it is installed in server service mode. There is a new power configuration tab on the server settings page where you can configure the power profile. If the managed device has an Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) Baseboard Management Controller (BMC), WAC displays the BMC serial number and a hyperlink to its IP address on the Server Overview page. There are also improvements to the High-Availability deployment experience and script.
Finally this month, Microsoft announced that Cortana lists and reminders will now be integrated with Microsoft To-Do. For this to work, your Office 365 or Outlook.com account must be connected to Cortana under Connected services. Microsoft recommends that this new integration works best if Wunderlist is removed from your list of connected services. So far, I’ve only been able to get it to work with Outlook.com account but maybe you’ll have better luck synchronizing with Office 365.
For the few users and organizations clinging on to Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft has provided details of the upcoming end of support on December 10th, 2019. After that date, there will be no security updates, non-security hotfixes, free assisted support options, or online technical content updates from Microsoft for free. Only Windows 10 Mobile version 1709 is supported to December 10th. Window 10 Mobile version 1703, the last supported OS version for Lumia 640 and 640XL devices, will reach end of support on June 11th, 2019. For more information, check out Microsoft’s website here.
That is it for this month!