• Mark Hodgkinson

“Windows Feature Experience Pack” on Windows 10?

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

Windows 10 now has a strange specification named “Experience.” Standard desktop versions of Windows 10 say you have the “Windows Feature Experience Pack” installed. Here’s what we know.

Windows 10 Mystery

If you head to Settings > System > About and scroll down to “Windows specifications,” you’ll see a line named “Experience.” It likely says you have the “Windows Feature Experience Pack” installed.

This section also tells you what edition of Windows 10 you have installed, which update version you have installed, when it was installed, and your OS build number.

We know what all those mean—but what is a “Windows Feature Experience Pack?”

Unfortunately, Microsoft won’t explain it!

We think we can explain a lot of this anyway.

Some Windows 10 Features Are Part of the Pack

The Windows Feature Experience Pack is listed as one of many “Features on Demand”. For example, good old Microsoft Paint is now a “feature on demand.”

This particular feature comes preinstalled with Windows. Microsoft says it “Includes features critical to Windows functionality” and says you should “not remove this package.”

The same documentation says the Windows Feature Experience Pack was first introduced in Windows 10 version 2004—that’s the May 2020 Update

The pack currently includes features like a snipping tool for taking screenshots and a text input panel. Rather than being part of the base version of Windows 10 itself, these features are part of this “pack” that is preinstalled. Microsoft may move more features from Windows 10 itself to this “features on demand” pack.

Take a look at this: The Microsoft Store has a listing for a “Windows Feature Experience pack” and a separate “Windows 10X Features pack.” This suggests two things.

Faster Updates for Windows Components?

As of October 2020's update, there’s no indication this feature experience pack is being updated through the MS store yet.

If Microsoft were though updating the feature experience pack via this method, the company could update the software inside the pack more often than once every six months.

A Single OS For All Microsoft’s Devices?

Microsoft is working hard on Windows 10X. This was going to be designed for dual-screen devices, but now looks like it will initially just be a more “modern” version of Windows that confines traditional desktop applications into containers.

This could mean the same underlying operating system differing only in their “Feature Experience Pack.”

In other words, this could help advance Microsoft's Windows Core OS goals: Having a single Windows core operating system that powers all devices, with different experiences installed on top of them.

Imagine if Xbox could run Windows 10 with the “Xbox Feature Experience Pack,” or a future Windows Phone could run Windows 10 with the “Windows Phone Experience Pack.”

Hints About a Future, not for today though.

As of Windows 10’s October 2020 Update at the end of 2020, you should ignore the “Experience” line in the Settings screen and forget about the “Windows Feature Experience” for now. It doesn’t really mean anything.

Its presence is an artifact of Microsoft’s development process: The company is always experimenting internally, and signs of that experimentation are appearing in the released versions of Windows 10. This information may be important for Microsoft engineers who are experimenting and troubleshooting, but it doesn’t mean anything to Windows users outside Microsoft.

Now wouldn’t it be nice if Microsoft just came out and said that in the first place......

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