After a long break, Microsoft released build 10041 of Windows 10 to members of the Windows Insider Program on March 18, 2015. This article follows an earlier Windows 10 article of mine to help you determine if Windows 10 is ready for my favorite tablet, the Surface Pro 3. Windows 10 build 10041 is the fourth build released to the public and each one gets a little better. This build doesn’t have a lot of new features, but it does include more visual refinements. This article will tell you everything to expect when running Build 10041 on your Surface Pro 3 so you can decide if Windows 10 is ready for you and if you are ready for Windows 10.
Microsoft had made this build available via Windows Update or ISO on the Windows Insider site. Previously build 10041 was only available if you were running a previous build of Windows 10. That meant if you have never installed it before, you had to install Build 9926 first and then upgrade. Windows Update will now push the build to you automatically if you are in the Fast ring. As of the release on March 25, 2015, Microsoft is also pushing the build to those in the Slow ring as well. If you aren’t familiar with the ring concept, there is a Fast and Slow setting that you can choose under Settings -> Update and Recovery -> Preview Builds. Note that this setting moved under Windows Update -> Advanced options in build 9926 and newer. Those in the Fast ring will get new builds sooner than those in the Slow ring.
If the build doesn’t show up for you automatically yet, you can go to Windows Update and check for updates. After your PC is up-to-date with other patches, you’ll start downloading the new build. The installation will then begin when you reboot. Build 10041 even has a new installation screen (figure 1) that gives you a bit more detail as you progress.
Figure 1: Installation of Windows 10 Build 10041 on a Surface Pro 3.
You should be up and running in around half an hour. This is a full build of Windows 10 so that means you will have a slightly longer wait when you login as Windows has to reprovision your account.
As I mentioned above, build 10041 doesn’t have a lot of new features (compared to build 9926) so I will only highlight some of my favorite ones. I think build 10041 seems to be a bit more stable than previous builds.
My article demonstrating build 9926 showed the latest look of the Start menu. Build 10041 shows the Start menu with transparency (figure 2). Microsoft also made the All apps link a little easier to touch. I still notice some lag when I use All apps but it has improved. This build also pins links for File Explorer, Documents and Settings at the top of the Start menu for quick access.
Figure 2: The new Start screen in Windows 10 build 10041 features light transparency.
Lock screen / sign-in
The lock screen benefits from some additional changes as well. Besides your usual lock screen photo, you’ll see new text telling you that you can unlock the device by holding the Windows button and pressing Power. The Windows 10 team also added a feature that pushes custom imagery to your start screen for members of the Insiders Program.
The sign-in experience has some new visual improvements. You’ll see your photo now inside of a circle (figure 3) and it has a nice clean look.
Figure 3: A picture of the new Windows 10 Build 10041 login screen.
New network fly-out
Microsoft has experimented with a number of ways to select a wireless network in Windows 10. In early builds, you selected a wireless network from the Settings app. Now, they have brought it back as a fly-out in the Action Center (figure 4). I personally welcome this change as it makes it easier to pick networks.
Figure 4: The Network selection fly-out in the Windows 10 Action Center.
New Text Input canvas
In lieu of a touch-screen keyboard, you can use the new Text Input canvas, which reminds me a lot of what we had on those old Windows Mobile devices like the iPAQ. Remember those had a stylus, too, although it was just a glorified plastic stick, which is much different from what we have today. The Text Input canvas lets us enter text using handwriting on the Surface Pro 3 and I found it works pretty well. You can find the Text Input canvas by activating the on-screen keyboard and then click the Keyboard icon in the bottom-right corner. The Text Input canvas is incredibly difficult to capture with a screenshot, so I included a picture (figure 5). I’m impressed that it can even recognize my bad handwriting. If you use your Surface Pro 3 in Tablet mode a lot with the pen in your hand, this might be a good way to do input as opposed to tapping on the on-screen keyboard.
Figure 5: Using the new Text Input canvas with Word Preview for Windows 10 Technical Preview.
New “Spartan” browser not included
Unfortunately, Microsoft’s new next-generation browser, code-named “Spartan,” did not make it in this build. If I had to guess, we’ll see it in the next build.
With new builds, some issues get fixed. However, with new builds comes new issues.
Lower fan speed equals better battery life
For several builds, we saw issues with poor battery life on the Surface Pro 3. Instead of 9 hours of battery life, I would end up getting 3 if I was lucky. A lot of this was due to a synchronization process that was constantly running taking 30% of your CPU time or more. This also caused the fan to be running loudly a lot of the time. The Windows 10 team improved this in build 10041.
When you install a new build, the first day is usually the hardest on battery life. That’s because lots of system processes are playing catch up because you just installed a new operating system. Once I got through the first day, I can say that CPU utilization is lower and as a result, battery life is better. With the improvement, I think this is a major step for increasing the viability of users installing Windows 10 on their Surface Pro 3. This could get worse in the next build but it’s a good sign for now.
Connected Standby on the Surface Pro hasn’t worked for several builds. Build 10041 is the first build where it appears to work. I’ve turned my screen off with the Power button and thrown my Surface Pro 3 in my bag several times and it actually worked. The device went into a low-power state like expected and it came back on as expected. For me this was one of the most significant issues in Windows 10. I am glad to see this working better and hope it stays that way.
With Build 9926, the brightness control disappeared from the Action Center, which made it quite difficult to manually adjust your brightness. In Build 10041, unfortunately, it did not come back. However, if you click the Brightness icon now, it takes you to the Settings menu (figure 6) where you can now adjust it. It’s not ideal but I expect we’ll be able to do it directly from the Action Center in a future build.
Figure 6: You can control the brightness in the new Settings app in the Display menu.
Build 9926 allows previous notifications to be viewed from the Action Center. Unfortunately, sometimes these notifications would get “stuck.” When that happened, you wouldn't get any notifications until it happened to started working again. Usually this was fixed whenever an email came in and Outlook notified you. Build 10041 fixes this issue and now notifications don’t get lost any more. This will keep your notifications list much shorter now.
With any new build, new issues arise. Some have already been fixed this week as a result of some recently released patches.
Occasionally, Windows 10 will notify you that you need to enter your credentials (figure 7). When you click on the notification, it will open your default browser and prompt you to log in to account.live.com. If your default browser is not Internet Explorer then it won’t satisfy Windows and you’ll continue to be prompted in the future.
Figure 7: One of the notifications in the Action Center to prompt me for credentials in Windows 10 Build 10041.
The Windows Blog mentions that there might be a few issues with the lock screen and logging in. I’ve seen this a few times, but Microsoft may have already resolved it. I haven’t seen any issues since I have installed a recent patch, but only time will tell.
OneDrive is going through a lot of transition right now so to see an issue here is no surprise. Along with Windows 10 build 10041 I am also running the new Office 2016 Preview on my Surface Pro 3 and sometimes the Office Document Cache crashes. When this happens, things don’t get synchronized up to OneDrive. Once a document gets in a “stuck state” (figure 8) I haven’t been able to fix it. I think this is more likely an issue with Office 2016 rather than Windows 10, but it’s something to look out for.
Figure 8: OneDrive error in the Windows 10 Action Center.
Is build 10041 ready for you?
Like build 9926, I would say this is the best build to date. Of course there are issues, but they are becoming less significant. You might want to keep an eye on OneDrive and make sure your files are syncing, but I’ll say that with every build. With Connected Standby and the battery life issues fixed, it’s worth trying out Windows 10. Obviously, I don’t mean this for every user out there. Rather, I am specifically talking to the IT pros and developers that are looking to see what is coming up in the next operating system.
If you do decide to proceed with the install, you can get it by joining the Windows Insider Program. Be sure to read the Before you Install link and have backed up your data or have it in the cloud somewhere. You never know when you might run into an issue.