Windows 10 May 2020 Update – New icons and many small changes

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In July it will be five years since Microsoft introduced Windows 10. It’s still a bit early to think about that or to publish an extensive review, but what we can note is that Microsoft has not called the last major update for the anniversary Anniversary Update. The Windows 10 May 2020 Update is not a small, but a modest update, as we have seen more often in recent years.

In fact, the whole of Windows 10 is a more modest operating system than it was five years ago. The promise of One Windows was that it would be the ultimate platform that should run on any type of device. Within three years, Microsoft wanted to achieve 1 billion installations. It all turned out differently. Windows for smartphones and the Universal Windows Platform never really got off the ground, reaching 1 billion installs just this year , without a major milestone celebration.

It is now also clear that Microsoft no longer needs to stick the name Windows 10 on everything. For example, the HoloLens 2 no longer runs Windows 10 Holographic, but Windows Holographic . In addition, it looks like we’re going to see different versions of the operating system for different types of devices, judging by Windows 10X for dual-screen systems. Both versions run on Windows Core OS, which Microsoft itself has not yet officially revealed. Whether and when Windows 10 itself will run on Core OS is not yet known. Windows CEO Panos Panay showed a video with images of a future Windows version including a modified Start Menu on the occasion of achieving 1 billion installations in March.According to WinCentral , this is a Windows 10 version that runs on Core OS and should be released in 2021.

It is not that far yet and the Start Menu is therefore still unchanged with Windows 10 May 2020 Update. The changes aren’t as extensive as some of Windows 10’s first major updates, and last November’s update wasn’t even much more than a patch to improve stability and performance. But that doesn’t mean Microsoft won’t continue to tinker with its software. In the past we have described an update as a large package of small changes and that also applies to the May 2020 Update.

Quite a lot is being postponed due to the corona crisis and you might think that this could also be the case for major updates because of the problems they can cause and because ‘people have enough on their minds’. But Microsoft is just sticking to its release schedule. However, there are some changes to the support period of previous Windows 10 versions. For example, those who are still running the Windows 10 October 2018 Update of the Home or Pro version only have to update by November 10, 2020 instead of May 12, 2020. According to Microsoft, this should help reduce customer stress. Which can cause a bit of stress: the end of support for the May 2019 Update will follow a month later, on December 8.


With many feature updates, there is something visual that shows that Windows has been updated. Last year, for example, that was the light display mode and this year these are new icons. Microsoft creates the icons according to its Fluent Design design guidelines. The intention is to base all software of the company from Redmond on this. Mail, the calculator, Groove Music, ‘Your phone’ and Maps, among others, have been given a different icon. The icons are in line with those of Office and Edge, which already received a changed designation image.

Of course, a change of icons is not extensive or important, but it does give the software a fresher look and, as far as we are concerned, the designs are successful. They are colorful and clear, without being overly busy or distracting.

To search

Microsoft has made changes to the algorithm that the indexer uses to do its job. This is the engine behind Windows Search that maps files, documents, folders, metadata, Universal Windows app data, and other items. Quite a few users turned off the indexer, citing the impact on disk and CPU usage and other performance issues as the reason , according to Microsoft . So with last year’s May Update, Microsoft made indexing only documents, images, videos, and the desktop the default. More extensive indexing has since had to be activated manually.

With this year’s May Update, the developer tweaked the algorithm, causing it to stop or reduce its work if CPU usage exceeds 80 percent and disk usage exceeds 70 percent. The indexing also scales back for laptops that have less than fifty percent of their remaining battery capacity, as well as when energy-saving modes are activated.

In particular, users with systems that are still equipped with hard disks will benefit from the fact that the indexer no longer starts working if they are already putting a strain on their system. SSDs suffer less from indexing during use.

Quick search for weather and news

Microsoft will now show three search topics in the Windows 10 search window by default, but initially only in the US. Plus, this isn’t exclusive to the May Update. Versions from the October 2018 Update will get the feature, as Microsoft may add it via a server update.

The three topics are weather, news and ‘Today in history’. One click shows the local weather, the most important news and history facts of the day in sequence directly in the search box. In fact, they’re just shortcuts to search terms like ‘web:weather’, and it seems the main purpose is to draw attention to the ability to search the web directly. The results can be further opened in Bing in Edge. By default, the search function uses Microsoft’s services and this could not be changed via the Windows Search settings. Microsoft wants to boost more topics via Quick Searches from time to time. It is hoped that the company will then make it easy to choose which browser and search engine the results will appear with.

New is the option to search by screenshot from the search window. You will then be given the option to crop your screen display, after which Bing will look for similar images and you may be able to find more information about what is depicted. So again it’s a shortcut, this time for ‘search by image’, but it can be useful if you’re working in a document, for example, and want to quickly find the origin of an image. Again, there is no option to choose another image viewer.

Cortana disconnected

Microsoft continues to struggle with Cortana, the voice assistant that has long lost the battle with the Google Assistant, Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa in terms of use. A year ago, Microsoft already disconnected Cortana from the search function and now the service can be used as a separate app in a separate window. The advantage of switching to an app is that it can be updated independently of the two major Windows updates per year. And the advantage of a window is of course that it can be dragged, enlarged and reduced.

The adjustment is part of Microsoft’s changed strategy for the assistant. It should no longer serve as a widely deployed assistant for numerous tasks, but is mainly aimed at productivity. Cortana should therefore mainly assist with Office tasks such as making appointments, working with documents and managing contacts. This is no longer necessary via speech. You can now also chat with Cortana via entered text.

Windows Search in the explorer

This feature actually came with the November 2019 Update. Given the limited size of that update, we have not published an article about it, but the addition is still worth mentioning; searching from the explorer, via F3 or the shortcut key combination ctrl+E, will from now on already show the results while typing. The search function works fast, results are clickable immediately, and the search function is powered by Windows Search and can therefore also search within OneDrive. For the extensive list of local results you have to press enter or click on the arrow, so that is an extra action compared to how it was and it is also quite confusing that you only search offline and no longer in OneDrive.

Fps in Game Bar

A small extension of the Xbox Game Bar concerns the addition of an fps counter. The Game Bar is the overlay that gamers can call up via the Win+G key combination, which gives them quick access to the most important settings and hardware statistics. Microsoft has gradually added more functionality to the Game Bar, and the fps indicator is a welcome addition if you don’t want to use a more extensive external application. Incidentally, this function was also available earlier, by updating the Xbox Game Bar app via the Microsoft Store.

Task management

The Performance tab of Task Manager can now display the temperature of the graphics chip, but only when using a separate video card. The Task Manager therefore does not display the temperature of a GPU integrated on the processor. In addition, users may need to update their graphics drivers as the feature only works when Windows Display Driver Model version 2.4 or later is supported.

Another small, but welcome change is that Task Manager now shows what kind of storage it is for the different drives listed, so whether it’s an SSD, HDD or removable storage such as an SD card. Especially when using a series of drives, it is nice to see at a glance what kind of storage it is.

Reset from the cloud

Windows 10 has long had the option to perform a system restore based on the existing installation files. As a result, a backup image of Windows with the associated storage is no longer required for recovery of the operating system and Windows immediately has current security updates after recovery. In addition, the ‘Download from the cloud’ function has now been added. It does not base the recovery on local files, but retrieves them from Microsoft’s servers.

The advantage of this is that recovery is also possible if the existing installation is corrupt. According to Microsoft, even faster recovery is possible, depending on the speed of the internet connection. In any case, it is easier than the previous option: download yourself and have it restored via a USB stick. Cloud reset can not only be performed via the Recovery menu, but also after starting in safe mode, i.e. the Windows Recovery Environment or Windows RE. This is of course useful if your PC no longer starts normally. Cloud recovery requires, for example, a laptop to be connected to the charger and users should expect to lose their apps.

Linux in Windows, version 2

When Microsoft introduced Bash on Ubuntu on Windows as an optional feature in the Anniversary Update, it was a special moment to say the least. The Windows subsystem for Linux proved to be a keeper and we have now arrived at Windows Subsystem for Linux 2.

The first version of WSL was a compatibility layer within Windows, allowing Linux binaries to run without the need for a virtual machine or emulation. This is a lightweight solution that does have some drawbacks, such as the lack of support for a Linux kernel, which means that containers cannot be run, for example. In addition, there are limitations in terms of I/O and performance.

At WSL2, Microsoft takes a completely different approach. The subsystem now contains a virtual machine that runs not only the Linux usermode, but also a WSL 2 Linux kernel developed by Microsoft itself. This open source kernel is updated via Windows Update. The advantage is that the performance is much higher when installing packages, among other things, and that containers such as those from Docker can now also run. Compared to traditional virtual machines, the start times are much shorter and the system consumes less memory. This will also make it possible to access Linux files from WSL from the Explorer , with the mascot Tux showing that these are files in the Linux environment.

WSL2 is therefore a major upgrade compared to WSL, although it remains a limited subsystem that, for example, can only be operated via the command line by default and does not offer a graphical interface. Either way, for developers, the extensive integration is probably a nice option to have.

More and more notification management

Microsoft continues to tinker with the “do not disturb” features. First there was Silent Hours, with which you received no notifications at all at certain times. That became Concentration aid for more control over which notifications are allowed to pass through, and that control has now been expanded. For example, you can now immediately determine for each notification window that that app will no longer send any further notifications. In addition, you can go to the notification settings for that app via each notification, for example to switch off the sound for those notifications. Those settings now visually show what it looks like if you leave notifications via banners in the action center activated.

At the top of the action center there is now a link to the general settings for notifications. There you will now also find an option to determine in one go that no notification may be accompanied by sound. Do you want the last few apps that have been bothering you to stop sending you notifications? Then you sort the list of apps here by ‘recent’ and you can manually turn off the notifications.

The ink workspace

Windows Ink Workspace began with the 2016 Anniversary Update by ambitiously bundling apps primarily for stylus use on the side of the screen. Microsoft claims to have “streamlined” the workspace based on feedback, but the company has mostly cut back and while it’s still called Ink Workspace, it shouldn’t really bear that name anymore.

Clicking on the stylus icon now brings up two buttons. One of them takes an image of the full screen and opens Snip & Sketch for further editing. The other lets you open the Whiteboard app, or at least, you’ll have to install it from the Microsoft Store first. Whiteboard offers basic drawing capabilities, but is also intended for text and images with the distinctive feature being the ability to collaborate. The functionality partly corresponds to that of SketchPad and if you use it, you’re out of luck, because that application has been deleted. Not every stylus user will like Whiteboard as much, because the functionality is a bit less for quick doodles, but since it is a separate app, Microsoft can expand the functionality.

Network info

The status page in the network settings now shows a little more information about the connection. If the user is connected via both WiFi and an Ethernet port, Windows 10 will show both connections, with the way in which the internet is connected, of course. The status page also shows the amount of data that has been downloaded via the network connection in the past thirty days, with the message that a limit can be set for data bundles. That limit can be set with the click of a button. That was already possible, but it is now all neatly bundled on one page.

Each virtual desktop has its own name

Windows 10 has extensive options for creating virtual desktop environments, but one simple option was still missing: giving each desktop its own name. Windows 10 simply called them Desktop 1, Desktop 2 and so on. That has been addressed, because you can now enter names yourself by clicking on the name. They remain after a reboot.

The calculator in the foreground

The calculator has not only received a new icon, but a new button has also been added. This allows you to keep the calculator ‘on top’, so always in the foreground. The calculator then enters a simple mode. Therefore, it does not work with the calculator’s Scientific or Programming modes. It is a useful addition for people who have to enter a lot of numbers.

The bandwidth for Windows Update

In the ‘Advanced options’ of Delivery Optimization you could already set a percentage of the bandwidth that Windows was allowed to use when downloading updates. According to Microsoft, Windows itself already optimizes the bandwidth used for this, but you can overrule that manually . New is that you can also enter limits in actual Mbit/s amounts used when downloading updates in the background and foreground. This way you can limit the impact on your network.

Go passwordless

Microsoft is on a mission to eliminate passwords, as are more companies by the way, because something needs to change in authentication . Windows 10 now offers the option to make a device completely passwordless. That means each account must select an alternate login method. Microsoft naturally prefers its Hello facial recognition if the device supports it, but a fingerprint and PIN based on Hello is also possible. According to the company, a PIN code is more secure than logging in with a Microsoft account, because it is not stored on a server, but is bound to the device and is stored encrypted on a TPM chip. The pin can now also be used when logging in in safe mode, so that a password is not required here.

Restarting programs

You can set Windows per app whether they are allowed to start automatically when Windows starts. In addition, some open programs open automatically after a restart independently of this. That can be useful, but also annoying. Previously, to avoid this, you had to go to the rather obscure setting “Automatically complete setup of my device based on my login information after an update or reboot.” This has been clarified with the May Update 2020 and you can indicate under the heading ‘Restart apps’ in the login options whether Windows should automatically save and restart the apps when logging out and restarting.

DX12 Ultimate

Windows 10 May 2020 brings the DirectX 12 version to Ultimate. That sounds tough, of course, but the changes compared to DX12 are mainly interesting for developers. This is an extension of the API for, among other things, ray tracing and efficiency improvements that AMD RDNA 2 and Nvidia Geforce RTX GPUs can use. In practice, this concerns the techniques DXR 1.1 , Variable Rate Shading , Mesh Shader and Sampler Feedback.

Fast bluetooth pairing

A change that also sounds a bit more exciting than it will be in practice for most users is the ability to pair quickly. In fact, it is an optimization of a function that is already in 2018: Swift Pair for bluetooth. It made quick pairing with Bluetooth devices possible and Microsoft has now removed some steps, so that this can be done completely in the notifications, without having to go to the Bluetooth settings. The problem is that support is still very limited. In fact, Microsoft only speaks of support for its own Bluetooth Keyboard, Bluetooth Mouse, Surface Ergonomic Keyboard, Surface Precision Mouse, Microsoft Modern Mobile Mouse, Surface Mobile Mouse, Microsoft Arc Mouse, Surface Arc Mouse, and Surface Headphones. It seems that more devices are getting support.Galaxy Buds+ from Samsung handle Swift Pair.

Configuration files for the Sandbox

The functionality of the Sandbox has been extended with support for configuration files. The Sandbox is a separately activated component of the Pro and Enterprise versions of the operating system that allows safe trial executables in an isolated and compact Windows environment without the need for a vhd or iso. Users can now open certain XML files in the Sandbox configuration environment. It involves four aspects: enabling and disabling the virtualized GPU, enabling and disabling network access to the Sandbox, sharing folders and being able to automatically execute scripts within the environment when logging in. Be careful when sharing folders on the host machine with the container desktop, Microsoft warns, as this is how malware within the Sandbox can infect files and folders on the host.

Quickly add events from the taskbar

And while we’re at it: via the calendar fly-out of the taskbar, which can be called up by clicking on the time, you can now easily create reminders or other agenda items. This can be done immediately before the day itself or for a moment in the future by clicking on a day. The initial entry is through a single field and once you enter the reminder you will be given the option to add a time and location. You can also choose ‘more details’ and then you will come to the more extensive options that the Calendar app of Windows 10 offers you. This option also came with the November 2019 Update, but you may have missed the addition.


If we want to see a trend, it would be that the developer continues to decouple apps from the operating system in order to update them faster. This will not only happen with Cortana, but will also happen with Notepad, for example, and of course Edge on Chromium is a ‘separate’ program. You can remove more and more parts within Windows 10 that were previously baked into the operating system. On the other hand, Microsoft often tries to persuade you to add those apps. You can see this with the Edge ‘advertising’ , but also with Whiteboard in the Ink Workspace, for example.

Anyway, Microsoft has polished its operating system a little bit in many different areas. There’s something for the eye, there’s something for the power user, even Linux users are served and the average user gets some improvements here and there. It’s not all spectacular, except perhaps for the Windows Subsystem for Linux 2, but with two feature updates per year, Windows still gets enough attention from Microsoft even after five years.

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