Hands on with Microsoft’s own PC Cleaner and Utility Toolkit – Microsoft PC Manager

Microsoft PC Manager isn’t an overly well known tool. It came out in 2022 and according to the offical website it will “Safeguard your PC in a quiet and reliable way”. It’s not included in Windows, instead needs to be downloaded and installed… and it sounds like the many other tools (both well meaning and malicious) that have been around for many years; so what’s the deal with PC Manager?

The app downloads via the Microsoft Store and has a 4.5 rating from 22 reviews. Or, it has a 4.2 rating from 402 ratings depending which PC I checked from. A few clicks and you’ll have it installed on your Windows 10 or Windows 11 device.

I’ll take you through a bit of a journey on using the app. There is some good stuff in here, but at the same time a lot of it seems quite puzzling in what they’re trying to achieve and who the target audience is. I’ve been running Microsoft PC Manager for a while, but when I open it up, here’s what the home area looks like:

There’s a few things going on, but I do like the overall dashboard, and the reminder of what Windows Phone used to look like before it’s untimely demise. Let’s go through some of the options to see what’s going on.

PC Manager suggests that I have a lot of temporary files and should clean them up. The Deep Cleanup link scans the computer and offers up suggestions on what to delete. Not all options are ticked by default.

Options include areas like Windows Update files, Edge Cache, temporary files etc. For me, it skipped Windows Update files as they were in use. Unsure why, as I have no pending installs or reboots. Going back to the home screen, we see a new suggestion around making the PC more accessible.

The ‘Discover more tips’ takes me to a website that also calls out I can do these accessibility functions, with a button to tell Edge to go back to my Windows desktop and open the accessibility settings. Doing this doesn’t clear this home page ‘tip’ and there’s no way to close it, so I guess it’s stuck there until Microsoft decide to change what that banner is. The most ironic part is that after adjusting the text size, PC Manager becomes unusable. You can’t resize the PC Manager app – it’s stuck at it’s small size and can’t click on a corner to expand, and there’s no maximise window:

Moving down, we’ve got a giant Boost button. Clicking it generates a little rocket ship flying through that same button, and within a few seconds my memory usage has gone down from 68% to 53%, and all temporary files removed. Why those temporary files weren’t removed on the first step where I cleaned up unused files, I do not know.

Moving to the Health check, which I’ve never run before, it suggests two types of things, cleaning up files (again??) which this time are all ticked by default, and shows startup apps that can be disabled. For items to clean up, it shows the size – and for startup apps, it just says ‘High’ or ‘Unknown’ with no indicator on what that means. If you’re familiar with Task Manager through, you’ll probably know that’s the startup impact. Task Manager will also let you go straight to the executable in case you want to know more, but that’s not possible here.

I was about to click ‘Proceed’ but noticed the ‘Reset Edge defaults’ option – hovering over the question mark reveals that it will ‘Restore Search Engine to Bing’. So is it restoring multiple default options, as the plural suggests – or is it just changing my search engine back to Bing? Who knows, but it definitely does change the search engine to Bing. Recently, PC Manager was prompting with the suggestion to change the search engine to Bing https://www.theregister.com/2024/05/16/microsoft_pc_manager_bing/ – maybe there’s an argument to say Bing is safer with your data than Google (one that Google would dispute I’m sure) but it’s another layer of the confusing goal of this tool.

Moving on to ‘Process’, it purely shows the same applications I’d see in Task Manager, again with less details. It suggests to terminate application processes to speed up your computer, and also end these apps if needed. This must be confusing to someone who doesn’t know better – is it teaching people to end every app thinking their PC will be sped up? What defines an app needing to be ended? There is no indication on the impact of an app beyond it’s memory usage, and if I’m only now using 53% because of the magical Boost button, there’s no need to even do this.

The ‘Deep Cleanup’ area is the same as what was suggested at the start, so we’ll jump to the Startup area instead. Alright, now we’re seeing the same information that was in the Health Check area, except it does say that it’s a Startup Impact. Why did we even have the other area?

Jumping to System Protection, we have a big blue ‘Scan’ button for ‘Virus & threat protection’. This opens the same named area of Windows Security and triggers a quick scan.

Windows Update however triggers the update process from inside the app, and shows the progress there. There’s a lot of blank space on this page, so a tiny Windows Tip is used in that space.

‘Default browser settings’ shows a single setting that shows you your current browser, and a Change button. The resulting screen really makes me think this isn’t a polished product.

‘Taskbar repair’ feels like it’s two options aimed at a hijacked computer that’s had a bunch of taskbar settings modified. For me, I had nothing to repair.

‘Restore default apps’ is a bit of a weird one – again, I feel like this may be targeted at a hijacked PC. The ‘Change’ button next to PDF documents just takes me to the Windows Settings Default apps page, and that’s for me to work out what to do from there. It does the exact same thing as the ‘Set defaults for applications’ link below it, which for some reason doesn’t appear as a button.

‘Pop-up management’ sounds interesting – I haven’t blocked any pop-ups yet, but hopefully one day I will. ‘Custom block’ I can’t really work out what it is from that name, and the information for it says ‘The shortcut key is , you can change it in the settings’. I get a feeling the shortcut key isn’t actually a comma, but isn’t set. The first time I clicked the ‘Select on-screen’ button , a message popped up about joining a program. I closed that to come back to it, but the next time I clicked the same button, it instead started functioning and wanted me to select a window to block. After checking from another PC, it was a feedback program where you could provide extra information to help improve PC Manager in the future around this feature. From what I can gather, you can pick whatever window that pops up to block that popping up in the future. Again, this feels like it’s targeted at a compromised computer, and I’m not sure hiding popups is a safe and secure solution when there’s malicious code running on the device, but maybe there’s more to it.

Moving onto the ‘Storage’ area, we again have that ‘Deep cleanup’ option that was on the home page. Makes sense to have it here too, so let’s check the other options.

‘Downloaded Files’, ‘Large Files’, and ‘Duplicate Files’ all open another PC Manager window which has tabs for the three functions. This one’s actually pretty neat. Although ‘Downloaded Files’ just takes you to your Download folder, it sorts by size, you can pick what sort of file such as Video, Audio, Picture etc. Large Files just looks for big files anywhere on your PC and sorts by size, with you being able to specify what a Large File is (default is >10MB, but you can change it to >50MB, >100MB, and >1GB ). You can’t be more specific on the location beyond which disk you want to check. Duplicate Files is the same, where it’ll scan one ore or more disks for identical files. There is a little ‘Smart select’ link you can click which choose which of the duplicate files to delete which is a bit hidden, and I could see someone accidently deleting both duplicate files for the results and being left with nothing.

The last option under ‘Storage’ is ‘Storage Sense’ which just takes you to the same named Settings page, but I already had the option enabled.

Next up is ‘Apps’. In this area, ‘Process management’ is the same as the ‘Process’ button, and ‘Startup apps’ is the ‘Startup’ button that both were on the ‘Home’ area. ‘Manage apps’ just takes you to the ‘Installed apps’ section of Windows Settings, and ‘Microsoft Store’ opens Microsoft Store. Microsoft Store excluded, the naming of pages and areas of PC Manager is a bit all over the place.

‘Toolbox’ is a bit more interesting. From first glance, it looks like it is a bunch of tools, which is a bit different from what the rest of the PC Manager app has been focusing on:

If you like little programs that hover over everything you’ve got open, then ‘Show toolbar on the desktop’ is the option for you. It contains the same links as per the six Windows Tools in this section, and you can choose which of the six you see as buttons. The 66% below is the available memory, and clicking it appears to do what that original ‘Boost’ button did. I am sure there’s some use case for wanting to see what your memory usage is all the time, but not care about other data like CPU usage, but I feel like that’s an edge case and maybe it’s time to get some more RAM.

The six Windows tools just open the relevant programs. Once I hadn’t realised was in Windows now, is Captions – and after testing a few Australian YouTube clips, I was impressed by it’s accuracy – worth checking out.

The ‘Web tools ‘ section has ‘Edge Quick Links’ are the same quick links you’d see when opening Edge, and ‘Bing Translator’ opens your browser to the same Bing Translator page. ‘Currency Converter’ just does a text search on Bing of that term, so you can use the inbuilt converter. Finally, the ‘Custom Links’ section is just an area you can add your own URLs into and display extra buttons for those links.

Going further down the menu list, the ‘Restore’ button appears to look for default settings that have been changed, and lets you reset them back. In this case it’s detected that after testing a previous option’s tickbox of setting Bing as my search engine, “someone” has changed it away from that. This is yet another option that feels like it’s trying to remediate something malicious, but not actually fixing whatever caused it.

Last on the list is ‘Settings’. In here we have ‘Boost setting’ which is a Smart boost option – instead of having to click that Boost button, it will trigger a Boost when either 1GB of temporary files are detected, or high usage of RAM.

We also have “Shortcuts setting’ which while grammatically I can’t accept, the option also can’t accept Ctrl+F2 as being the shortcut combo for that previous ‘Custom block of pop-up management’ which raises two points: I knew it wasn’t a comma, and why is the word ‘of’ in that sentence? Strangely, clicking the box and pressing Ctrl-F2 made the error go away, and that key combo now works for ‘Custom block’.

Conclusions

That took a lot longer than I thought to go through all the options, but it brings me to a bit of a conclusion. I don’t know who this tool is for, or what it’s really trying to be. There’s elements that are aimed at your standard home user that maybe has a PC not running too well, and they can manage some bits and pieces themselves to try to improve their experience. But, there’s not really any safety rails in the potential mess they can cause by stopping all apps from starting up, deleting a duplicate file that might really need to be in the location it was in, or constantly killing off processes because they think that’s required to use their PC.

The toolbox function doesn’t need to exist – it could be in it’s own program, and be a lot more useful. The protection area does very little protection wise beyond triggering a virus scan, which should trigger regularly anyway.

The idea of what problems Microsoft PC Manager was built to solve I can see – that all in one PC cleanup/improvement program – but it’s partially black box, partially missing things like ‘What program is using all my CPU’. It feels like a side project that someone made which then lost momentum from what the end goal should be, and tried to do a bunch of things that were easier. The other question is, why isn’t this functionality built into Windows itself if it’s needed? I would rather see the core cleanup and repair type actions just be a part of Windows, than need to download an extra program to do it.

Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365 Enablement Experience

I’ve recently purchased Copilot for Microsoft 365 to play with on my own tenant, and wanted to share my experience. No, I did not use Copilot or any other AI to write this post :) Some of the below may sound picky, but I’m trying to be clear around names and functions as I found a lot of it hard to correctly define as I went. You’re going to see the word ‘Copilot’ a lot – sorry.

First, I’ll attempt to clarify that I’m only looking at Copilot for Microsoft 365. What is “Microsoft Copilot” is a harder question to get your head around, because Bing Chat for Enterprise/Bing Chat Enterprise is now just called Copilot. Copilot for Microsoft 365 is Copilot integrated into the Microsoft 365 apps – so think of Copilot as the AI solution itself, and “Copilot for X ” as anything else as Copilot being integrated with, and able to use some of the data in it, as well as giving answers more contextual to that solution (but not limited to!).

I found this really good graphic of Microsoft Copilot but can’t find the original source!


Alright, so looking at the options below we have Copilot which is free, Copilot for Microsoft 365 which you pay for per user and integrates into Microsoft 365 apps… and there’s also Copilot Pro which gives you integration with some of the Microsoft 365 apps and a few extra base Copilot perks. Copilot Pro is for consumers and targeted at individuals, you can’t buy this against a business account.

In my own tenant of 1 active user, I purchased Copilot for Microsoft 365. I had to do this for a year because it was either that, or 3 years. My tenant is quite old, US based, and also has some trial/unique test licenses applied from Microsoft.

Just for reference too, Copilot for Microsoft 365 data and processing stays within the service boundary, and is not read or used by Microsoft in any other way.

Source: https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365-copilot/extensibility/ecosystem

Note that despite the official diagram above’s title is “Microsoft 365 Copilot”, that was the name at launch and it is now “Microsoft Copilot for Microsoft 365”

The purchasing and assigning of Copilot for Microsoft 365 is somewhat of a non-event like most other licenses. I was able to buy a single license, as Microsoft reduced the 300 minimum requirement in December 2023. From the Microsoft 365 admin center, you have the following subservices available:

From the user side, I just noticed the Copilot options turn up as soon as I went to check them. The first thing I wanted to work out, was how do I interface with Copilot when it’s app agnostic? Here’s where the fun started;

https://copilot.microsoft.com, https://www.microsoft365.com/chat/, and https://bing.com/chat look pretty much the same, two have a ‘work’ option to make sure you’re processing data in your own tenant and not giving sensitive information back to Microsoft in other ways… and the third requires a work login to access – so what’s the difference?

Honestly I’m not sure. I tried working this out but failed – maybe there isn’t one? It will save what you searched, and that history will be visible across all three chat solutions:

I was going to use this example question of ‘how many emails did I get yesterday’ as my next point of frustration – when I have been testing this for the last few days, it’s incorrectly told me each time that I’ve received just 1 email. Then when asking it about another email I received in that yesterday timeframe, agreeing that also was received yesterday. When questioning it around the discrepancy, it stopped the conversation.

However, it looks like that’s already been resolved:

I am glad it’s now not giving an incorrect answer, but I did expect it to be able to actually answer this question with a correct number. We’ll move on to finding some information I know is in there:

I asked to see ALL the emails where I’ve passed a Microsoft exam. It found one from 2008, something else irrelevant to exams, and then 6 other emails for me to check out.

Note that I have a bunch of emails that should quite clearly be picked up, such as this one from February this year and I found by doing a search of the word ‘Exam’ on my mailbox:

How about certifications then? For some reason it did find a much newer email about a Certification renewal (the word ‘Exam’ wasn’t on that one). When I asked to ‘show me more emails’ it proceeded to just do what I asked out of context, and showed me 5 example emails from my mailbox unrelated to the previous query.

These experiences are frustrating – partly because I can see the amazing potential Copilot has (honestly I can!), but also how it can consistently miss the mark of my expectations around it. It could be that my expectations are too high – but if they are, then it’s Copilot’s job to set them correctly as part of it’s answer system. And no, putting a label saying ‘AI-generated content may be incorrect’ at the bottom of everything doesn’t quite cut it.

OK, how about asking Copilot for Microsoft 365 about files? Asking it what I accessed last is correct, and matches what I see on the ‘My content > All’ section of Microsoft 365. However, that fell over quickly when I asked it was folders were in the root of my OneDrive – it claimed it’d have to do a search for that (why don’t you just go search then?), as well as showing me an ini file I’d opened 6 days ago for Diablo IV – and for reference, that was the 7th last file I’d accessed. Asking it to search for the folders resulted in it telling me that now it had done that search but couldn’t list the folders. Taking it’s next suggestion, I asked it to list the contents of a folder called Work – I’d created it a few days ago and it has only ever had 1 file in it. The results came back incorrect again, claiming the presentation2 file which as per the first result, was in a folder called ‘Documents’ and not in a folder called ‘Work’.

OK, enough digging for data.

My other surprise on purchasing the Copilot for Microsoft 365 license was receiving a call at about 5am, which although I woke up to, did not answer in time. I called it back, heard a recording saying it was Microsoft, and assumed it was a scam call. Checking my emails later, I noticed that a case had been logged in my name at 1:06am called “Getting started with Copilot, we’re here to help.”

I logged onto the support area of the Microsoft 365 Admin portal, and yes there was a ticket under my name, with my mobile phone number (including the +61 area code for Australia) that had been logged for me. Yes, I have notes on this experience:

  1. Although Microsoft Support can be used for both break/fix and advisory calls, it should not be used as a marketing tool to proactively ensure a customer is getting value from something they only just purchased. In other words, don’t shoehorn a solution to a problem you see, into a different system not designed for that.
  2. Don’t list it as the customer doing the action themselves if you automate something on their behalf.
  3. Don’t put down on my behalf that I’d like a phone call about the ticket you logged pretending to be me.
  4. Have a look at the customer’s timezone and call them during business hours.
  5. Who came up with the incident title? At least start with ‘Auto generated’ – you’ve used the title as a way to communicate to me when that’s very much not what the title of an incident is supposed to do.
  6. After calling me and waking me up, don’t send an email asking me to respond, but if I don’t you’ll call back again, but claim to do so ‘again’ during business hours.
  7. Don’t use the Status of ‘Feedback’ when it really isn’t – I’m probably not going to have feedback a few hours after enabling the service (but give me a few days to write up a blog post!).

Support also advised me that “A ticket is logged when copilot is purchased” and proceeded to give me a bunch of links about Copilot for Microsoft 365 anyway. Seems like that could have just been the email they sent without all the other noise.

There was one good link in there which was about Copilot prompts – worth a quick look but seriously, why isn’t this just linked at the top of the Copilot prompt area? There’s a lot of white space this link could go in.

I’ve had a few others claim similar experiences when enabling Copilot for Microsoft 365 including Microsoft MVP Karen Lopez:

Yikes.

I know I’ve banged on about frustrations here, but my general point is to try and set realistic expectations around the current state of Copilot for Microsoft 365. It is not a magical answer to doing most your work for you. It is really good at writing responses for you as either starters, frameworks, or mostly done content to fine tune. It’s really good at summarising emails. It’s really good at responding to something you don’t want to spend time on – I was ‘invited’ to attend free LinkedIn Workshops to help me put content on that platform, and clicking reply brings up a great Copilot experience – auto answer type buttons depending on the response I want to give, an area to get Copilot to help me draft a response, or I can just start typing and Copilot stays out of the way.

Although I can’t think of many situations that a poem would be my response, it’s one of those options you have to try:

So yes, these sorts of functions are hugely valuable just for these sort of use cases on email. It also does a lot of great stuff in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, along with Outlook as above – but those deserve their own posts. Copilot, and in turn Copilot for Microsoft 365 is going to get better at a hugely accelerated rate, and the items that are less focused on purely the language side of LLM and a bit more data based will be valuable. And, despite my criticisms above, I still think everyone should buy or at least try this to learn, get ready, and understand what is actually possible right now in our era of AI – just make sure your environment is ready for it with the right controls, processes, and security in place.

Lenovo Go Wireless ANC Headset Review

New job = new headset. I’m fussy about headsets and comfort, and I find many headsets I’ve tried give me earaches. Actual pain from those irregular ovals that stick out your head (a.k.a ears). I also wanted a quality headset with good noise cancellation, so I can focus without hearing those annoying sounds of the world around me, like birds chirping or the man next door who uses his blower vac for a few hours every single day.

Anyway, looking at how much a headset would cost that are Microsoft Teams certified, are wireless, have a proper mic boom (I’ve had less than great experiences with several headsets that don’t have the boom, they always pick up way too much background noise) and have decent noise cancelling (ANC) abilities. Pretty much every option I could find was somewhere between $300-$500AU. There was a standout exception to this, Lenovo’s Go Wireless ANC Headset.

The price of the headset on Lenovo’s AU website at the time of writing is $229AU, so I ordered one. A few days later it turned up. The box itself is pretty well presented, with that modern expectation of the unboxing being a good experience (thanks Steve Jobs). Inside the box is the headset itself, a dongle, and a 1.3 m USB-C to USB-C cable. I thought that was it, until I decided to check under the plastic mould…

and behind the plastic mould was a sleeve for the headset! Always check behind the plastic mould :)

Let’s check out the specs of the Lenovo Go Wireless ANC Headset:

Tech Specs (from Lenovo AU)

Capacity610 mAh
ColorStorm Grey
Cable Length/Type1.3 m
Weight230 g
Warranty TypeCRU
ControlsPower/Bluetooth, Volume + / -, ANC on/off, Teams button, Mute / Unmute, Call control
Distortion< 3%
Driver40 mm
Frequency Range20 Hz – 20 kHz
Impedance32 Ohm
Power Requirement5V, 1A
Sensitivity107 +- 3 dB
Audio InputBluetooth 5.0, USB digital audio
BrandLenovo Go
OS RequirementsWindows 10
Packed Weight762 g
Agency ApprovalsCB, CE, BQB, FCC, RSS, MIC, VCCI, AITI, SRRC, cTUVus, ICASA, IFETEL, WPC, SDPPI, SIRIM, NTC, IMDA, KC, NCC, MIC, DWLF&M, NTRA, ANRT, NCC, KVALITET, TRA, RAMATEL, ANATEL, SUBTEL, KC, UKCA
Package TypeRetail
Packed Dimensions (L x D x H)227 mm x 87 mm x 255 mm / 8.94″ x 3.42″ x 10.04″
Warranty PeriodOne Year
Maximum Operating Temperature40° C
Minimum Operating Temperature0℃
Maximum Relative Humidity (%)90%
Battery Charging Time1.5 hours
Included AccessoryLenovo USB-A Bluetooth Audio Receiver, USB-C to USB-C cable, Pouch
Microphone2 microphones for ENC, 4 microphones for ANC
Play Time35 hours
Wireless Operating Distance10 m
Connection TypeBluetooth 5.0, Wired USB-C Cable, USB Receiver

Calling out some of the more important specs – up to 35 hours play time is pretty good. The box calls out a 22 hour talk time, but you’re way over a full working day on the phone which is the important part – plus the USB-C connector means it should be the same plug as everything else you’ve bought in the last few years.

The USB receiver is USB-A which is probably best for most laptops, you’ve got 1 or 2 USB-C ports that will either be used for power or a full dock, and usually at least one spare USB-A if not more. Or, go Bluetooth if you’d rather not use the receiver, but I find an office full of Bluetooth devices can cause interference on any Bluetooth headset and the connection over the dongle more reliable.

Something I need to get in the habit of, is putting the mic boom up to mute. The headset will announce when you do this, and to me this is a better way of doing it rather than a keyboard shortcut or trying to accurately click on the ‘mute’ option in Microsoft Teams if you’re about to cough or sneeze on a call.

Let’s check out the buttons:

Source: https://www.lenovo.com/au/en/p/accessories-and-software/audio/headsets/gxd1c99239?orgRef=https%253A%252F%252Fwww.google.com%252F#tech_specs

All pretty standard buttons here – I can honestly say I’ve never used the Microsoft Teams button but I probably should. If you were wondering what this button does like I was have a read of this guide: https://support.microsoft.com/en-au/office/use-the-microsoft-teams-button-on-your-certified-teams-device-ed5ec8f0-6f09-46aa-b80c-3372de084a98
TL;DR version – button is contextual. It’ll bring Teams to the front window if it’s not, it’ll join a meeting if you just had an alert come up saying one started, and if you hold it down during a meeting, it’ll raise your hand.

The ANC mode works quite well for a headset that’s on the ear rather than over the ear, and the ability to toggle this to talk-through mode with the ANC button means you can switch from focusing on work, to clearly having a chat with someone who walks up to you. It also makes you feel like a spy when noises are amplified and you can hear someone across the room talking. There’s a third option of plain ‘noise cancellation off’ which I’d probably rather as a separate button, as you have to pass this option each time you want to go back to ‘noise cancellation on’. You also can’t rapidly press the button twice to skip, and instead have to wait until it starts announcing what the new mode is before you can press it again.

The headset itself is very comfortable to wear – when I first put it on I thought it was slightly too tight for my head but after a few days use it doesn’t feel like it’s squeezing me anymore, and more just sitting snugly.

I’m available at a headset model – here’s just a taste

The headset itself feels like it’s made of high-quality components – the ear pads are a very soft leather-like substance, and has a general sturdiness to the entire device. The metal extenders go a fair way out so this should accommodate the largest of heads too.

Sound quality wise it’s crystal clear to me – but I’m also not an audiophile so couldn’t judge how good the music playing abilities of the headset are, beyond also sounding good to me.

All in all, it’s a good headset that will live in my work bag and get used when I’m not WFH – it connects up quickly when I need it to, and should last a long time.

Cloud.Microsoft is coming (and already here a bit)!

Microsoft has been planning to migrate Microsoft 365 services to a new domain – cloud.microsoft – for over a year.

Back in April 2023, Microsoft announced the upcoming change with a starting sentence: “…today we’re excited to announce that Microsoft is beginning to reduce this fragmentation by bringing authenticated, user-facing Microsoft 365 apps and services onto a single, consistent and cohesive domain: cloud.microsoft.”

As pointed out to me by Microsoft MVP Karl Wester-Ebbinghaus, who in turn was reading this post from Dr Windows aka Martin Geuß, there is now an update on the Microsoft 365 Message Center called “Product transitions to the cloud.microsoft domain – February 2024” Message ID MC724837 (published on March 5th which is still almost February). It calls out that the new domains are starting to go live, in parallel with existing domains – meaning you won’t get redirected to the new ones yet.

A list of services that are already running on a cloud.microsoft domain are documented here: https://learn.microsoft.com/microsoft-365/enterprise/cloud-microsoft-domain which at the time of writing looks like this:

List of live cloud.microsoft subdomains as of 12/03/2024

As Microsoft has exclusive rights to the .microsoft top-level domain, any content on here can be held at a pretty high standard. Make your own decisions around what you may allow from the single .microsoft doamin, or the initial sub-domain of cloud.microsoft. You may need to add the domain/subdomain to allow lists.

What the above changes also mean for me personally, is a lot of ongoing work on MSPortals.io to keep it up to date, as well as keep the old links on there while they still function:

I’ll do my best to keep MSPortals.io as updated as possible, but if you notice anything that needs an update, please contact me or use the GitHub option on the site to submit an update.

Other notes and take aways from the message center post:

It appears the planned end-dates of non cloud.microsoft URLs for Microsoft 365 services is somewhere between June 2024 and September 2024.

Follow the guidance on Microsoft 365 URLs and IP address ranges and there should be no network administrative impact to these changes.

Update documentation and communicate the change to end users – this can be a good chance to train or rehash what domains are, which helps in user understanding of phishing attempts (both web based and email).

If you have any tools build that connect to Microsoft 365 services (3rd party, or internally developed) make sure they’re aware of the upcoming changes and have a plan to update.

Microsoft Learn GitHub and Feedback Updates

Microsoft is changing the way feedback will be provided for Microsoft Learn content.

Microsoft Learn is an impressive resource for IT staff interacting with Microsoft technologies. It was first launched as docs.microsoft.com which came out all the way back in 2016. Before that, TechNet and MSDN were the sources of official Microsoft documentation, but they were incredibly lacking in both quality and quantity of information. It’s why most people relied on third party websites to find out how to ‘really’ do something in the Microsoft space – which is why it was great to see Microsoft spend time and money in something that gave them no immediate return on investment.

Microsoft Learn was built on customised GitHub architecture, allowing huge transparency on when documentation gets updated, what changed, and a way for customers to question and/or correct what they’re reading. It was also a pseudo feedback method where you could see what others may be complaining providing constructive criticism about when looking at a product yourself – similar to what Feedback Portal does for each product (which is still in beta, and replaced the decent third party UserVoice service) – but when you’re looking at feedback on a particular documentation page on a specific thing, the feedback you’re seeing is particularly relevant, rather than searching through an entire product’s history of feedback.

History lessons aside, Microsoft is now rolling out a change on how feedback works. It’s a bit of a mixed bag from what I can tell, so here’s the breakdown:

From the updated information on Provide feedback for Microsoft Learn content, there will be a few different options on what’s possible around providing feedback based on what page it is.

All pages will have the new feedback experience where you click the thumbs up Feedback button:

This will let you anonymously provide feedback. A single text box that you can write your thoughts on and submit into a black box:

I don’t like this because there’s no visibility, accountability, or any way I can actually engage with Microsoft. I can see why Microsoft wants this, but the old GitHub feedback method meant you could get a response, converse, clarify etc. That is completely gone with this method and personally I doubt I’d bother using it beyond a Yes/No response and maybe a 1 line. It doesn’t provide the customer with any real incentive to bother.

There is some good news however. Some pages will be configured to take you to the relevant Product Feedback page, and some will take you to a Q&A page for the product or community site. If these were widely implemented, it would go a long way to fill the above feedback gap.

Also, you can still use the pencil icon to submit changes and view page history… “for any repository that already had this capability enabled.“.

That implies any new repository (likely for any new product that doesn’t have it’s own content on Microsoft Learn yet) will not have this capability. Except, I can already see a repository that doesn’t have this capability – Purview related content. Check out any Purview page on Microsoft Learn such as Learn about data loss prevention | Microsoft Learn and you’ll notice there is no edit pencil, and feedback at the bottom of the page only has the new experience:

Compared to other pages such as this Publish on-premises apps with Microsoft Entra application proxy – Microsoft Entra ID | Microsoft Learn where the callout of the deprication of GitHub Issues is.

It is also worth noting that open source products will have a more open feedback experience using GitHub. A list of products that support this is available here and appears to be the same as the way we’ve been using feedback across the entire Microsoft Learn platform for a while.

Overall, I’d be guessing that the existing solution creates a lot of noise for Microsoft to manage based on the amount of feedback they’d get, and this is a way to stop it. If we see improvements in the other two-way feedback mechanisms, including Microsoft staff engaging more on these platforms, I can see it working well enough. Let’s hope that happens!