Everything New in Windows 10’s May 2019 Update, Available Now

Windows 10’s latest update is the May 2019 Update, which is version 1903 and was codenamed 19H1 during development. It features a light theme, speed improvements, and lots of polish. There are no crazy new features like My People or Timeline. And it’s out now.

Microsoft previously called this Windows 10’s April 2019 Update, but it was delayed. The stable update began rolling out on May 21, 2019 and became available to everyone as of June 6, 2019.

How to Get the May 2019 Update

Microsoft is using a batched rollout strategy for this new update, so it’s not going to be available to everybody immediately, but it should be available soon. Here’s how to get it.

Open up Windows Update, and you’ll either see the option for “Feature update to Windows 10, version 1903”, or you’ll have to click Check for Updates. If you still don’t see the option, click Check for Updates, and then reboot your PC, and then try the process again.

Update: According to Microsoft’s Mike Ybarra, everyone should now have the option to update to Windows 10 version 1903 via Windows Update.

Even if Windows Update doesn’t offer the update to you yet, you can download Microsoft’s Update Assistant tool to install it manually. This will give you the update even if Microsoft isn’t confident it’s ready for your PC yet.

Microsoft

Big Changes to Windows Update

Microsoft announced it’s making big changes to the way Windows 10 updates. You’ll have much more control over the way Windows 10 installs updates—or not.

Specifically, Windows 10 will no longer automatically install big updates like the May 2019 Update and October 2018 Update every six months without your permission. Now, you’ll see a notification and it’s your choice when you want to install the update.

Don’t want to install the update? That’s fine. You can keep using your current version of Windows 10 for as long as it’s supported with security updates—that’s 18 months after release. But, once every 18 months, you will be forced to update to keep getting security fixes. This is much better than once every six months, and it gives you a lot more control.

On top of that, Microsoft will now let Home users pause updates—just as Professional users can—for up to 35 days. You must pause in seven day periods, but you can pause up to five times. And, after you check for updates in Windows Update, Windows won’t automatically install them—you’ll have a choice to pause the updates, if you like.

RELATED: Microsoft Abandons Windows 10’s Constant Forced Updates

Speed Improvements (Thanks to Better Spectre Fixes)

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The news of Spectre shook the industry at the start of 2018. Spectre is a design flaw in CPUs, and it allows programs to escape their restrictions and read other programs’ memory spaces. Microsoft patched Windows to help block Spectre attacks, but the resulting patches reduced your PC’s performance in some scenarios—especially on PCs from 2015 and earlier, which don’t have the CPU features needed to speed up the fix.

Now, a change in the April 2019 Update looks set to practically eliminate those performance penalties and speed your PC back up. Specifically, Microsoft is enabling “retpoline” and “import optimization.” All you need to know is your PC should get faster, and you won’t even need to think about it. But here’s a detailed document from Microsoft explaining how these optimizations work if you’re interested in the details.

RELATED: Windows 10’s Next Update Will Make Your PC Faster, Thanks to Better Spectre Fixes

7 GB of Your PC’s Storage Reserved for Updates

Microsoft

Windows Updates can fail to install properly if your PC doesn’t have enough free disk space. This can be a problem on inexpensive devices with only a small amount of built-in storage.

Microsoft is solving the problem by commandeering about 7 GB of your PC’s storage and making it into “reserved storage.” This space is used for Windows Updates, but programs can also store temporary files here. When Windows needs the space for updates, it deletes the temporary files and performs the update. So space isn’t completely wasted, as files that would have normally used space on your computer will just sit in the reserved storage space.

The exact amount of storage space used depends on the optional features and languages you have installed, but it starts at about 7 GB.

RELATED: Windows 10 Will Soon “Reserve” 7 GB of Your Storage for Updates

A Light Desktop Theme

Microsoft

Windows 10 now has a shiny new light theme. The Start menu, taskbar, notifications, action center sidebar, print dialog, and other interface elements can now be light instead of dark. Windows 10’s latest update even features a new default desktop wallpaper that matches the new theme.

Technically, Windows 10 now has two separate options: Windows mode and app mode. The old default theme, which combined a dark taskbar (dark Windows mode) with light apps (light app mode) is still an option. You can choose any combination of the two settings.

File Explorer’s icon has been tweaked to have some brighter colors, and it now looks better with the new light theme.

RELATED: Windows 10’s Next Release Includes a Light Theme

Windows Sandbox for Professional Users

Windows 10 now has a built-in “Windows Sandbox.” It’s everything we’ve always wanted: an integrated, isolated desktop environment where you can run software in a container without affecting your host operating system. When you close the Sandbox, all the software and files in the sandbox are deleted. It uses hardware-based virtualization to keep the software confined to a container, just like Microsoft’s Hyper-V. The hardware available to the sandbox—for example, GPU, networking, or shared folders—and other settings can be customized via config files.

The Sandbox is only available on Professional, Enterprise, and Education editions of Windows, so Home users will have to pay to upgrade from Home to Pro to install and use the sandbox.

RELATED: How to Use Windows 10’s New Sandbox (to Safely Test Apps)

A Less Cluttered Default Start Menu

Microsoft is cleaning up the default Start menu. The default Start menu is now just a single column and is much simpler. Yes, it’s not perfect, and it still has Candy Crush Saga—but at least that game is buried in a “Play” folder.

You won’t see these changes on an existing PC. But, when you start using a new PC or start using a new user account on your current PC, you’ll see a cleaner Start menu.

RELATED: Windows 10’s Next Update Makes the Start Menu Less Terrible

You can also unpin the default groups of tiles more quickly if you’d rather have a cleaner Start menu. Windows now lets you unpin groups of tiles by right-clicking them and selecting the “Unpin Group From Start” option. You don’t have to remove tiles one by one anymore.

RELATED: Windows 10’s Next Update Lets You Unpin Crapware Tiles in 6 Clicks

Windows 10 Lets You Uninstall More Built-in Apps

If you want to uninstall more built-in apps completely, now you can. Windows 10 always let you uninstall some built-in apps like Solitaire, My Office, and Skype, but now it also lets you uninstall built-in apps like 3D Viewer, Groove Music, Mail, Paint 3D, and more.

This doesn’t extend to all apps. There’s still no way to remove the Edge browser or Store app, for example. But you can remove most apps.

RELATED: Windows 10’s Next Release Will Let You Uninstall More Built-in Apps

Cortana and the Search Bar Are Separating

Windows 10 has a search bar that’s integrated with Cortana, but they’re separating. In the April 2019 Update, the search bar functions as a normal search box, and there’s a separate Cortana icon on the Windows taskbar. You can leave the search box on the taskbar and hide the Cortana icon or hide the search box and leave Cortana. Of course, you can also hide both.

The Search interface has a new start design, and it features options like “All,” “Apps,” “Documents,” “Email,” and “Web” after you click it. This is different from previous versions of Windows 10, which showed Cortana whenever you clicked the box and waited for you to type a search to present these options.

Unfortunately, the standard Windows search bar still integrates online search results with Bing, so it doesn’t just search your PC. There are more options, too—you can even disable SafeSearch for results in the search bar, and Windows will show you previews of adult content, for some reason.

But this does point to an interesting way forward and a decrease in the relevance of Cortana—now, you could leave the search bar on the taskbar and disable the Cortana icon, putting Alexa in its place.

RELATED: Cortana Is Leaving Windows 10’s Search Bar, But Bing Stays

The Start Menu Searches All Your PC’s Files

The Start menu’s search box is getting a lot more useful, however! The file search feature in the Start menu can now search for files anywhere on your PC using the Windows search index. In previous versions of Windows 10, it only searched libraries like Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, and Videos, and your Desktop. The search will still be quick thanks to the index.

This is an elegant solution and makes a lot of sense. The Windows search indexer has been around for a long time and was always ignored by Windows 10’s Start menu for some reason, but Microsoft has finally seen the light. You can configure which locations are indexed and searched from within the Settings app.

To enable this, head to Settings > Search > Searching Windows and select “Enhanced (Recommended)” to make the indexer search your entire PC. “Classic” indexing mode, which just searches your libraries and desktop, is still available as an option. You can also customize search locations to choose the precise folders indexed by Windows.

This interface now features “top apps” as well as recent files you open. When you open the Search box, you’ll see a list of the “Top apps” you’ve used the most right at the top of the pane for easy launching.

RELATED: The Next Version of Windows 10 Will Finally Fix Start Menu File Search

Passwordless Login

Microsoft

Microsoft is pursuing “a world without passwords.” You can now create a Microsoft account without a password online. That account is linked to your phone number, and Microsoft will text you a security code whenever you try to sign in.

On the latest version of Windows 10, you can now sign into Windows 10 with these passwordless accounts and set up a PIN or other Windows Hello sign-in feature to secure your computer. The account doesn’t have a password you ever have to type.

Of course, this isn’t mandatory. It’s just a new, optional type of account you don’t have to create.

RELATED: Microsoft Wants to Kill Passwords, Starting With Windows 10

A System Tray Icon for Windows Update

Windows Update now has a notification (system tray) icon for updates. You can head to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options and enable the “Show a notification when your PC requires a restart to finish updating” option to enable it.

After you do, you’ll see a Windows Update icon with an orange dot in your taskbar’s notification area when you need to reboot your PC for updates. It’s a nicer way of getting alerted to a required reboot than a full-screen message; that’s for sure.

RELATED: Windows 10’s System Tray Gets a Restart Icon for Updates

Desktop Apps in Virtual Reality

Microsoft

Microsoft’s “Windows Mixed Reality” platform provides a virtual reality environment for Mixed Reality headsets. It previously let you run Universal Windows Platform (UWP) apps from the Store in the virtual environment. Now, an enhancement means you can launch any classic Windows desktop app—also known as a Win32 app—and use it on a virtual reality headset.

This isn’t very practical today, but could be a great feature when super high-resolution virtual reality headsets arrive.

RELATED: Everything New in Windows 10’s May 2019 Update, Available Now

A New Update Naming Scheme (For Now)

Vankherson/Shutterstock.com.

Microsoft keeps changing Windows 10’s update naming scheme. Windows 10’s October 2018 Update was named Redstone 5 during development, and the previous four were also “Redstone” releases with different numbers. Now, to make things even simpler, the April 2019 update was named 19H1, as it was scheduled for release in the first half of 2019.

This sounds simple, except Microsoft has already abandoned the new naming scheme and is about to change the naming next time around. The releases after 19H1 will reportedly be codenamed “Vanadium” and “Vibranium,” as the Windows 10 team is aligning its naming with the Azure team.

RELATED: Get Ready for Windows 10 “Vanadium” and “Vibranium”

Zoom (and More) in the Console

Windows 10’s console now lets you zoom in and out. Just hold the Ctrl key and scroll with your mouse or trackpad. With the default Consolas font, text in the console scales nicely and doesn’t look pixelated, no matter how much you zoom in. The aspect ratio of the frame stays the same so text won’t overflow onto different lines, either.

There are also some new experimental console features you can adjust. Right-click any console window’s title bar, select “Properties,” and click the “Terminal” tab to find them. For example, you can configure the text entry cursor’s color and shape.

RELATED: Windows 10’s Next Update Brings a “Zoom” Feature to the Console

More Automatic Troubleshooting

Windows has had troubleshooters for a while, but you had to know what type of problem your PC was having and then navigate to the correct troubleshooter. Now, you can just navigate to Settings > Update & Security > Troubleshoot. You’ll see a list of recommended troubleshooters that Windows thinks might fix your problem.

In fact, Windows automatically tries to fix some problems in the background now. Here’s what Microsoft says about that:

Microsoft can automatically fix certain critical problems on your Windows device to keep it running smoothly. For example, we may automatically restore default settings for critical services, adjust feature settings to match your hardware configuration, or make other specific changes required for Windows to operate normally. Critical troubleshooting happens automatically and can’t be turned off.

Windows can perform recommended troubleshooting in the background, too. To control whether this happens, head to Settings > Privacy > Diagnostics & Feedback. Under Recommended Troubleshooting, select “Ask me before fixing problems,” “Tell me when problems get fixed,” or “Fix problems for me without asking. By default, Windows 10 is set to ask.

Notifications Hidden in Full-Screen Apps

Windows 10’s next update can also hide notifications while you watch videos or use any other full-screen app thanks to an improvement in Focus Assist. Focus Assist can already hide notifications while you’re playing any full-screen game, but now it can work when you’re using any app, whether that’s a video player, full-screen spreadsheet, or web browser after you pressed F11.

RELATED: Windows 10’s Next Update Will Hide Notifications While You Watch Videos

Easy Access to Linux Files

Microsoft

Microsoft’s Windows subsystem for Linux seems some changes, but the most exciting one is the ability to access Linux files from within File Explorer or any other application. You can just type “explorer.exe .” into the Bash shell and File Explorer will open with the current Linux directory.

Unlike older ways of accessing your Linux files, this offers full read-write access without the worry of breaking anything. Just head to the following address in Explorer: \\wsl$\<running_distro_name>\ . In other words, for Ubuntu, head to \\wsl$\Ubuntu\.

RELATED: Everything New in Windows 10’s May 2019 Update, Available Now

Notepad Improvements, Once Again

Yes, Microsoft is still working on Notepad—even after all the improvements back in the October 2018 Update. If Notepad closes when Windows is rebooting for updates, Windows will reopen Notepad and restore the unsaved content after the reboot.

Microsoft has also made changes to the way Notepad handles encodings. The status bar now displays the encoding of the open document. Notepad can now save files in UTF-8 format without a Byte Order Mark, which is now the default. This makes Notepad more compatible with the web, where UTF-8 is the default, and it’s also backward compatible with traditional ASCII.

Notepad will now have an asterisk in the title bar when the current file has been modified and not saved. For example, if you’re working on a file named Example.txt and make some changes, the title bar will say “*Example.txt” until you save the file.

New shortcuts are available, too. Press Ctrl+Shift+N to open a new Notepad window, Ctrl+Shift+S to open the Save As dialog, or Ctrl+W to close the current Notepad window. Notepad can also now save files with a path longer than 260 characters if you set a larger MAX_PATH on your system.

There’s also a new Help > Send Feedback option that will open the Feedback Hub to the Notepad category so you can provide feedback to Microsoft.

Blue Screens of Death in Some Games

This update contains a change that causes some games to crash Windows with blue screens of death (BSOD) due to their anti-cheat software. Most—but not all—games have fixed the issue. This was known as a “green screen of death” or GSOD bug because these error screens are green and not blue in Insider builds of Windows 10.

If you launch a game that hasn’t yet fixed the problem in the final release, it will freeze your system with a blue screen. The anti-cheat programs were probably doing terrible things to the Windows kernel and this change probably makes Windows 10 more stable and secure, but it’s a shame that some gamers will stumble into blue screens of death.

We hope all anti-cheat software developers clean up their act and patch this issue quickly. From what Microsoft has said, this issue will be rare.

RELATED: Windows 10’s “Stable” April 2019 Update Will Cause BSODs in Some Games

More Improvements and Changes

Microsoft

The official release of Emoji 12 is coming in March 2019, and Microsoft has added new emoji to Windows 10 in preparation. As always, you can press Windows + . (period) to open the emoji panel anywhere in Windows 10. They’re also available on the touch keyboard.

Windows 10 now supports kaomoji in the emoji picker, too. Kaomoji is a Japanese term that translates to “face characters. For example, (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ is a popular kaomoji.

And, when you open the emoji panel, you can now click or touch and drag it to move it around.

Microsoft

Windows 10’s Game Bar is getting more powerful, too. It’s transforming from a bar into a full overlay complete with Spotify integration, a performance widget with system resource usage graphs,  a built-in gallery for screenshots and videos, an Xbox social widget with a friends list and voice chat, and a customizable user interface. Microsoft’s Xbox blog has a lot more information on it.

The Storage Settings page has been redesigned a bit, too. Head to Settings > System > Storage to see a breakdown of how your space is used. You can click each category to find actions that will help free up space.

The Settings > Time & Language > Date & Time screen gains a “Sync Now” button to immediately synchronize your clock with an internet time server. It also shows you when the time was last synchronized and the address of your system’s current internet time server. This helps if your time is wrong for some reason—like, for example, if Windows doesn’t correctly change your clock for DST.

The Settings app can now configure advanced IP settings for Ethernet connections. For example, you can configure a static IP address or set your favorite DNS server. Previously, this required using the Control Panel. Head to Settings > Network & Internet > Ethernet, click your Ethernet connection name, and click “Edit” under IP settings to find these options.

Windows Update has had “Active Hours” since the Anniversary Update. You can tell Windows when you’re using your PC, and it won’t automatically restart your PC during these hours.

In the April 2019 Update, you can enable a new “Automatically adjust active hours for this device based on activity” setting and Windows will automatically set your active hours, so you don’t have to think about them. This option is available at Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Change Active Hours.

There’s now a new, globe-shaped icon that appears when your PC doesn’t have any Internet connection. This replaces the previous individual icons for Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and cellular data connections.

Windows now has a microphone status icon, too. This icon appears in your notification when an application is using your microphone. You can mouse over it to see which application is using your mic. Click it to open the Settings > Privacy > Microphone screen.

Microsoft

The Windows Security app—Windows 10’s built-in antivirus and security application—now has a redesigned “Protection History” pane. It shows you more information about detected threats and available actions. For example, in addition to threats detected by the Windows Defender antivirus, it also shows you blocks initiated by Controlled Folder Access.

Windows Security now also has a new “Tamper Protection” option. When enabled, this setting protects important security settings. For example, it limits changes to many of the options controlled by the Windows Security app unless you open the app and make the changes. This prevents programs from changing them in the background. To enable this setting, head to Windows Security > Virus & Threat Protection > Virus & Threat Protection Settings.

You can set a default tab in the Task Manager. This tab will open whenever you launch the Task Manager. To do so, use the Options > Set Default Tab in the Task Manager.

The Task Manager now displays the high DPI awareness of the processes on your system, so you can see more information about which applications will work properly with high DPI displays. To find this option, open the Task Manager, click the Details tab, right-click the headers at the top of the list, click “Select Columns,” check “DPI Awareness” in the list, and click “OK.”

Microsoft is also enabling the “Fix Scaling for Apps” option by default. This will help fix blurry applications on high DPI displays. This was added to Windows 10 back in the April 2018 Update, but Microsoft left it disabled by default to be conservative.

The sign-in screen now has an “acrylic” background to blend in with Microsoft’s new “Fluent Design System. Previously, it had more of a blur—it’s a different visual effect.

Speaking of Fluent Design, Microsoft is also adding shadows to Microsoft Edge’s context menus and other parts of the operating system.

The Start menu’s design has been tweaked a bit, too. It has more “Fluent Design” touches and icons in the menus. For example, the Sleep, Shut Down, and Restart options in the menu now have icons.

The Windows Hello options at Settings > Accounts > Sign-in Options have been redesigned. All available sign-in options are now in a single list, and each option has an explanation under it.

You can also now set up Windows Hello to work with a physical security key (like a YubiKey) directly from the Settings app.

Microsoft

The brightness tile under quick actions in the Action Center is now a slider, which makes it a lot easier to quickly change your display’s brightness level. You can now right-click a quick action tile and select “Edit Quick Actions” to quickly edit your tiles right from the sidebar without opening the Settings app, too.

The touch keyboard now lets you input more symbols. To find them, tap the old “&123” button to see symbols and numbers, and then tap the new “Ω” button see additional symbols. These symbols are integrated into the emoji picker, too.

Microsoft

That same touch keyboard now helps you type more accurately by dynamically adjusting the targets around each key. So, if you frequently mistype a letter by tapping a little to the left or right, it’ll learn. This happens invisibly, under the hood.

Windows now lets you choose a cursor color and size. You can make the cursor larger and change its color, making it easier to see. Head to Settings > Ease of Access > Cursor & Pointer to see available options.

Windows Insider Webinar

Windows 10’s setup and upgrade error messages will finally become more useful, offering specific information about problems and solutions rather than cryptic error messages like “Something happened” and “For more info go to KB0000000.” If applications or settings on your system are causing problems, you’ll see descriptive error messages with suggested actions.

RELATED: Something Happened: Windows Setup Error Messages Will Finally Be Useful (Maybe)

Even More Changes!

There are always tons of new changes in these Windows 10 builds. Even this isn’t a complete list! But here are a few more:

Other new features include support for additional languages throughout the operating system. For example, SwiftKey’s typing intelligence now supports languages like English (Canada), French (Canada), Portuguese (Portugal), and Spanish (United States). If you write in Vietnamese, the touch keyboard now supports Vietnamese Telex and Number-key based (VNI) keyboards. Windows now also contains an Ebrima font that supports ADLaM documents and web pages, which is the language of the Fulani people, who predominantly live in West Africa. The touch keyboard now supports the ADLaM language as well as the Osage language spoken by Oklahoma’s Osage Nation.

Removed: Friendly Dates

Until May 1, development builds of Windows 10 version 1903 displayed “friendly dates” in File Explorer. So, rather than dates like “1/23/2019”, you’d see dates like “Yesterday,” “Tuesday,” “January 11,” and “February 16, 2016.”

These were enabled by default. You could disable them by right-clicking the top of the columns in the File Explorer window and unchecking “Use friendly dates.” However, Microsoft removed this feature completely. It may return in a future Windows 10 update.

Removed: Account Banner in Settings

In development builds, you’d see a banner at the top of the Settings app’s “home page” with your Microsoft account and links to common tasks like Your Phone, Windows Update—and Microsoft Rewards, for some reason. This feature appears removed from the final builds—but, as always, it may return in the future.

Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor in Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for nearly a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than 500 million times---and that's just here at How-To Geek. Read Full Bio »