Windows 10 version 1903 heads for the finish line

Enlarge / Who doesn't love some new Windows?Peter Bright / Flickr

It's clear that Microsoft is in the very final stages of development of Windows 10 version 1903, the April 2019 Update. The fast distribution ring has seen two builds arrive this week after two last week, bringing with them no new features but a slowly whittled-down bug list following the development pattern we've seen in previous updates. In the past, the company has tried to release Windows 10 feature upgrades on Patch Tuesday, the second Tuesday of each month, meaning there's just under three weeks left to go.

A little alarmingly, a couple of long-standing issues with the release still appear to be unresolved. A green-screen-of-death error caused when games with BattlEye anti-cheat software are used has been a feature of the 1903 previews for many months, and Microsoft is still listing it as unresolved. The scope and impact of this bug was so significant that the slow distribution ring didn't receive a preview of 1903 for much of its development process; Microsoft felt that it was too likely to affect too many people to be usable. This is eminently plausible, as BattlEye is used by PUBG and Fortnite, among other games. The company finally relented in February, pushing out a new build on the slow ring but blacklisting any systems with the offending third-party software.

The bug was first listed as a known issue with build 18298, released on December 10 last year. Microsoft says it's working with BattlEye to resolve the problem, but there has been no visible progress so far. BattlEye boasts of using a kernel-mode component as part of its anti-cheat software. Running in the kernel means that it's harder for cheat software to hide from or otherwise interfere with what BattlEye does, but with this comes the temptation to mess with operating system data structures and functions that aren't documented, which then leads to system crashes when the operating system is updated.

Similarly, a second long-standing bug is still ominously appearing on the list of known defects—Creative X-Fi sound cards are (vaguely) "not functioning properly." This problem has been around almost as long as the BattlEye issue; it was first listed as a known flaw in build 18305, released on December 19 last year. As with the BattlEye issue, Microsoft says that it's working with the third party responsible—in this case Creative—to address the problem. But it has also been three months, with no apparent sign of any resolution.

At some point, something's gotta give. It seems unlikely that Microsoft would be willing to roll back whatever kernel changes were made that are upsetting BattlEye; doing so at this stage would arguably undermine and invalidate much of the preview testing that has taken place for this release. The extended period without a slow release already means that this testing is going to be a bit thinner than has been the case for previous feature upgrades. On the other hand, a feature upgrade that breaks PUBG and Fortnite isn't likely to fly, either.

Microsoft really needs a feature update that's problem-free and deployed without incident as the first step toward rebuilding confidence in the company's development and update processes. If Creative and BattlEye can't get their houses in order, it seems that Redmond is going to have to wait a little longer for its trouble-free release.

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