The latest test build finally fixing the glaring flaw in superfluous backups, freeing up 25+ GB; Recycling Bin also gets a new look

On Wednesday Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) announced that its Fast Ring testers (including me) would receive a fresh Preview Build of its upcoming free major operating system upgrade, Windows 10.  My first attempt to snag the new Build 10061 didn't succeed, but nothing was lost but a bit of time, on the plus side.  It politely rolled me back to Build 10049.  And today another update came down the pipe, presumably with some sort of modifications that allowed it to install without a hitch.

I. Shockingly Fast Install

This time around, rather than downloading and failing due to insufficient space, Windows Update properly did a check of the free space and warned me that I would need to free up some hard drive space (5+ GB) to be precise) in order to receive the new build.  Given the semi-automated nature of the Build upgrades (via Windows Update), this was a critical improvement for many hardware configurations which come with a smaller allotment of internal storage.

And that wasn't the only improvement I saw early on.  With the second attempt, I immediately noticed another positive improvement over past builds -- a marked speedup in installation time.

Windows 10 Build 10061

Despite being similar in size to Build 10049, Build 10061 installed in around a third of the time.  Where as the Build 10049 install took a grueling hour and a half, Build 10061's entire installation process took around 30 minutes -- although results will likely vary based on hardware (presumably my install would be on the faster side, given that my storage is all solid state).

Windows 10 Build 10061

One nice convenience is that Microsoft appears to be front loading more of the install process.  Where as the Build 10049 launched within minutes of download, the Build 10061 sat for roughly 15 minutes "preparing for installation."  I'm not sure what that means from a technical standpoint (decompressing files?  hardware-specific configuration?) but the net impact seems to be that roughly half your "installation" time is spent in the Windows environment, with the other half (15 minutes) distributed roughly amongst the three phases of the native installation tool (which lasted roughly 5 minutes each).

Windows 10 Build 10061

The installation technically cut the time by a third, but it felt even more impressive, as the actual time spent in the native installer was roughly a sixth of the time that the previous installer required on my machine.

Why is this welcome?  Well, assuming you're going to install Windows 10 on your primary work machine, this means that much of the installation can be completed while you wrap up whatever important work you're doing.  Nice!

Windows 10 Build 10061

Windows 10 Build 10061

It remains to be seen how the Windows 10 Build to Build transition stacks up to traditional upgrades from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.  But I expect Microsoft would look to follow a similar approach when delivering upgrade packages to users who opt in when the OS launches this summer, (reportedly) near the end of July.  This means that despite the dizzying magnitude of changes in Windows 10, the upcoming release could potentially install as fast or faster than the far-smaller Windows 8.1 upgrade for Windows 8.

II. NVIDIA Drivers in Build 10061 -- a Quick Fix

The installation did hit one hiccup.  I'm mentioning it here not as a knock to Microsoft, but as advice to my fellow testers, as the fix I found was actually pretty quick and easy.  After booting into the new build, it was readily apparently that my high resolution display (2,880 x 1,800 pixels; 15-inches) was set to a dramatically downscaled resolution (1,024 x 768 pixel).

Windows 10 Build 10061

The problem made me chuckle actually.  After experiencing so much frustration with NVIDIA Corp.'s (NVDA) beta drivers for my GeForce 650M GT (drivers which I've ultimately had to roll back with virtually every release) Microsoft appeared to commiserate.  This time around it didn't install the NVIDIA driver, installing only the ubiquitous BasicDisplay driver adapter.

Okay, so utility compelled me to manually reinstall the NVIDIA driver, but it's the thought that counts right?

To fix this problem -- if you encounter it -- simply go into the Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > (Devices and Printers subheading) Device Manager.  Expand the "Display Adapter" device category and you should see the stand-in default driver.  Right click it and select "Properties."  

Windows 10 Build 10061

Once in the properties, simply go to "Update Driver".  It should correctly download and install the NVIDIA driver, a task that will necessitate one final reboot to get everything running in optimal order.

Windows 10 Driver Install

The only issue I encountered in this process were that the "scan for changes" option in the Device Manager doesn't detect the updateable driver.  On my hardware, only manually going into the Display Adapter > BasicDisplay properties and clicking "Update Driver" will properly fetch the update.  Second, when the properties initially comes up, it may appear to be blank.  I'm not sure if this was some sort of oddball one-time occurrence on my system or something more general, but the solution was to simply reopen the Properties pane via repeating the Right Click > Properties process.

III. Build 10061 Offers Critical Fix to Storage Bug, Other Improvements

After that hiccup and my restart I began to survey the new build.  So far most of the changes are subtle, including slightly crisper icons in the Taskbar's system tray.  In the subtle change department, you see a new icon for the desktop picker UI pane.  You also see that the search bar has been enlarged slightly and made flush with the top of the window.  The icon spacing on the taskbar has also gotten slightly wider.  Cumulatively these two changes give the illusion of a shorter taskbar, although its height is acutally unchanged.

Windows 10 Build 10061

One not-so-subtle exception though will be appreciate by some of you -- the Recycling Bin redesign we saw in the leaked Build 10056.  Now gaze upon it in extra large icon glory.

Windows 10 Recycling Bin

Honestly, I'm finding myself perplexed as while I initially found the (old) flattened Recycling Bin to being kind of cartoonish and garrish, it must have grown on me over time because I found myself pining back a bit for it.  Initially the new icon looks far more polished, but I may be in the minority who feels that the old icon went a bit better with the overally design language.  The new one, though, looks fine I'll admit.

So far I haven't had time to explore too many of the new features, but I did want to share one thing I feel is really great about Windows 10 -- the emerging beauty of the design language.  The truly great thing about Windows 10 is that it respects the traditional UI of Microsoft -- desktop, taskbar, and Start Menu included -- finally offering a truly evolution in Desktop UI design over Windows 7.

Customizability is key to getting a great looking UI.  In the shot below you see I picked the default "leaf" green/yellowish theme.  The default taskbar tone for this theme is a sort of unsightly assortment of yellow hues.  But since Windows 10 offers so much flexibility I was able to easily pick a far better looking tweak on the default color scheme -- a brown toned taskbar.

Windows 10 Build 10061

Some users reported in my piece on the last build that the lack of transparency in the taskbar was in fact a bug and that it was working properly on their machine.  Either way, Build 10061 seems to have fixed this, finally bringing glorious transparency to my configuration.

Windows 10 is looking good -- really good, in fact.  In my opinion this is best looking version of Windows Microsoft has ever produced.

And that brings me to a final point which small, and yet speaks volumes over Windows 10's maturing codebase.  I had frequently mentioned my battle with Windows 10's bugs, as it seemed to be making a inordinate number of copies of the NVIDIA driver (typing 20-30 copies) with each Windows Update.

Cumulatively these files took up 10-15 GB of space and the fact that they regularly regenerated made disk management on my 128 GB partition of an evenly subdivided dual-boot 256 GB drive an excercise in frustration.  But Microsoft has worked some magic behind the scenes and these files (which appeared to be as redundant and useless as they seemed) have disappeared.

The net result was I went from having around 3 GB free after downloading the 5+ GB installer, to having 30 GB free after the installer completed.  

Windows 10 Build 10061

It sounds nearly to incredible to believe, but it's true for me at least.  This reaffirms my belief that what I was seeing was actually a serious resource-consuming bug and not just an intended, but costly backup mechanism.  Clearly this will be a very important fix to some users and for others (myself included) it will eliminate one persistent headache seen on some hardware configurations with past Windows 10 Builds.

All in all I'd say Microsoft has hit Build 10061 out of the park, even if much work remains.

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