A big change is coming to Windows on PCs that have 3.5 gigabytes of RAM or more.
It's not uncommon for PCs today to be outfitted with several gigabytes of RAM. A quick scan of an online retailer's desktop computer listings yields several budget models with at least 4GB of system memory and even midrange systems with up to 16GB of RAM.
The latest Windows 10 build (14942) for Windows Insiders includes a significant, reliability-enhancing change to how background service hosts work on PCs with 3.5GB of RAM or more. Service hosts, groupings of preinstalled services, have been split into individual processes, announced Dona Sarkar, Microsoft software engineer and head of the Windows Insider program.
Appearing as svchost.exe in older vintages of the Windows operating systems, service hosts are background processes that historically—and unhelpfully, some would argue—littered the Windows Task manager. Microsoft collected background processes as a RAM-saving measure, but now in the era of multi-gigabyte PCs, being frugal with system memory is no longer required.
By splitting service hosts into separate processes, build 14942 helps improve system reliability, said Sarkar.
"When one service in a service host fails, all services in the service host fail," she explained in a blog post. "In other words, the service host process is terminated resulting in termination of all running services within that process." Now, as the consequence of the change, individual failures are contained to the buggy service.
In addition to increasing reliability, the new approach has some perks for help desk personnel tasked with troubleshooting users' PCs. The Windows Task Manager now offers better visibility into background processes, allowing IT personnel and even Microsoft's own engineers to pinpoint quickly problems to specific services, said Sarkar.
Touchpad users should notice that their clicks and gestures register more reliably as well. Microsoft has enhanced "detection and disambiguation of left and right clicks, making two-finger taps and clicks a bit easier, reducing false positives in our two-finger tap detection and improving our pinch to zoom detection," added Sarkar. The company also tweaked its algorithms to help prevent accidental zooming when users intend to pan across a canvas instead.
The Start menu gains an option that allows users to collapse the app list. Also new is a revamped Photos app with full-screen mode for individual photos, a lighter theme and a horizontal navigation bar that provides quick access to the Albums and Folders views.
The Active Hours feature, which allows users to block off an hour range (12 hours by default) that prevents Windows from restarting a PC for updates, has been enhanced for the Pro, Enterprise and Education editions of the operating system. Now users and IT managers using MDM policies to manage their devices can set active hours of up to 18 hours (12 hours remains the upper limit for Home edition users).