Windows 10: Creators Update

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The next big Windows 10 update, named Creators Update, is being rolled out to the public on Tuesday, April 11. We have a few tips on how to prepare your computer for the update, what’s new with this update, and what things have been fixed. You can click on a topic below to jump to that section.

surface book profileThe Windows 10 Creators Update will be the third major update for the operating system (OS) since it launched in June 2015. In keeping with Microsoft’s plan for 2 major updates per year, this update is the first major one for 2017. This is what Microsoft meant when they said Windows is now a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product. They do not intend to release a Windows 11 but instead intend to continue to update the current OS as time progresses.

A big difference in the OS update model is the gradual rollout of the updates instead of being released for everyone at once. There are two big advantages this provides the end user. 1: The update servers aren’t bogged down with millions of devices pinging it at once. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the update experience for iOS when a new version is released. 2: If an issue with the update is found, then the rollout can be paused until it’s fixed. Then the fix can be sent to those that installed the update, and those that didn’t update yet will never know there was an issue.

Prepare Your Computer

First, install all currently available Windows Updates. The last thing anyone wants to do is spend time installing updates on the same day a major update is released. Make sure you click on “Advanced options” and check the box to get updates for Microsoft products to make sure you get every update. I don’t understand why this is needed or why it was carried over from older versions of Windows.

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Click the “Check for updates” button, install any available updates, restart if needed, and then check for updates again. Countless times I’ve found additional updates are available after restarting my computers. While you’re in the update settings, click “Change active hours”. Active Hours tells Windows to not install updates or restart your computer during that time. Windows Home users will have a smaller available window of time than Pro users, but after the Creators Update you’ll get a much larger time range. More on that later.

Second, backup your files. You can use a cloud storage service like OneDrive, Google Drive, or Dropbox so you can have access to your files no matter where you are and on any device. External hard drives or USB flash drives are good options too. Backing up your files in the cloud and on a hard drive is the best way to go. This way just in case you can’t connect to the internet you will still have your files. Once you have your backup ready I’d recommend updating your backups once a month so you have to most recent version.

Finally, delete apps, programs, and files you are no longer using. The more storage space you have available the smoother and faster the update will go. The Creators Update is going to be pretty big, and the update process will need to manage those files.

Of course you can just delete the files you don’t need, and below are 3 other ways to free up space.

How to Delete an App

  1. Open your Start Menu
    • If you’re using the Start Screen option, click the icon in the top left corner that looks like a bulleted list to view all of your installed apps
  2. Locate the app you want to uninstall and right-click or long press on the app
  3. Click Uninstall from the menu that appears

Not all apps can be uninstalled. For example, the Calculator, Calendar, and Email apps can’t be removed.

How to Uninstall a Program

  1. Open the Start Menu and type Programs and Features and click on it in the search results
  2. Locate the program(s) you want to uninstall and click on it
  3. Click the uninstall button at the top of the list and follow the on-screen direction for that program

Free up Space with Disk Cleanup

  1. Open the Start Menu and type Disk Cleanup and click on it in the search results
  2. A window with a progress bar will appear. Once the scan is complete you will see a window with a list of files you can delete.
  3. We’re going to find more files to delete by clicking the “Cleanup system files” button in the bottom left corner.
  4. Once the second scan is complete you’ll see a longer list of files you can delete. Click the checkbox next to all of them
    • Note: If you see “Previous Windows Installation(s)” in the list you may or may not want to delete that. By keeping those files you’re able to roll back to the previous version of Windows 10 just in case your machine has an issue with the new version. If everything is running fine, then it is usually safe to delete, but you will no longer be able to restore to a previous version.
  5. Click the OK button and confirm you want to delete the files in the confirmation message that appears.

You can let Disk Cleanup run on its own. It will close itself when it’s done. Of course the more files there are to delete, the longer it will take.

Some of What’s New

Start Menu

surface book head on start menuJust like on mobile devices, you can now organize the apps on your Start Menu into folders. To create a folder, drag an app on top of another one and a folder will appear. Release the app to add those two apps to the folder. Now you can drag and drop additional app tiles into the folder. The Live Folder will display a preview of what apps are in the folder by displaying their app icons. Unfortunately you can’t name the folder like you can on mobile. Hopefully this small addition will come in a future update.

You will be able to hide the app list when you open the Start Menu. By default the Start Menu will display the app list and tiles, but you can toggle a setting that will hide the app list and only display your tiles when you open the menu. If you do this, you’ll be able to access your app list by clicking the icon in the top left corner that looks like a bulleted list. This setting isn’t for everyone, but it gives users of Windows tablets and phones the same user experience they get on their mobile devices.

Hiding the app list does make the Start Menu feel more like the Windows 8.1 start screen, but remember hiding the list is an option you must turn on. If you don’t turn it on, then nothing will look or feel different for you. As our resident Windows Mobile user, I will probably turn this feature on. I don’t use the app list very often. I add tiles to my start screen for apps and programs that I want quick access to.

Action Center

Just like the Start Menu, the overall look and feel of the Action Center isn’t changing with the Creators update. However, there are some nice additions to it. For example, when an app is updating you will see a progress bar in the Action Center. Before you had to keep the Windows Store updates screen open to see an app’s update status.

A Night Light toggle has been added (see below for more details), and Cortana’s notifications can display as larger text to help reminders stand out in a sea of notifications.

Night Light

If you’ve used f.Lux or similar software, Night Light works pretty much the same way. Our electronic devices put off a blue tint, and late at night that coloring can trick our brains into thinking it’s not time to go to sleep. Turning on Night Light will shift your devices coloring to have a warmer/red-ish tint to it. Supposedly this helps us “night owls” get to sleep easier after we use our laptops, phones, etc.

Night Light is off by default, so you’ll need to go into your settings to enable it and tweak it to what works best for you. In the settings, you’ll be able to adjust the intensity of the color shift, and you can set it turn on at a specific time each day or at sunset where you currently are. Of course you can choose to manually turn it on whenever you want via the new toggle in the Action Center we mentioned earlier.

Edge Browser

edge tileEdge is still a very new browser, but it has come a long way in less than 2 years. The latest addition is Set Tabs Aside. You’ll like this feature if you prefer having a lot of tabs open at once, or if you get easily distracted. By selecting Set Tabs Aside you’ll save all of your current tabs in a queue so you can check them out later. Yes, you can save multiple sessions just in case you start opening a lot of tabs again. This feature is also great for users with laptops or tablets that don’t have a lot of RAM. It will prevent your device from slowing down because your device isn’t trying to retain all of the tabs and the web pages’ content. You will need to reload the web pages when you restore a session because the page data isn’t stored.

Here are three small but still useful additions. Microsoft has added an API so developers can enable you to pay for things online by using your Microsoft account. Flash will be disabled by default to increase security, but you can turn it on in the settings. BTW, you can disable Flash in Edge now in the browser settings. Finally, you’ll be able to stream Netflix in 4K in Edge. Edge is the first browser to be able to do this, but you’ll need to plug into a 4K screen to get it…of course.

Cortana

She will now help you fight the Swarm! Ok not really, but Cortana will become more automated with this update than requiring you to tell her everything to do. Keep in mind, you can enable or disable any of these features, and if you’re really afraid of digital snooping you can disable Cortana completely.

I’ll quick fire through these. You can setup a new Windows 10 machine using just Cortana and your voice. She (yes I personified a feature) will remind you to pick up where you left off when you were working on a Word doc, sending an email, etc. Never forget to finish that project your boss told you they needed for an important meeting. Cortana can also scan your emails, calendar events, etc. to see if you promised to do something and remind you or add an event to your calendar. Again, features can be disabled if Cortana seems too pervasive. You can disable her now if you want to.

Windows Update

Yes, even the update service will get new features and tweaks, and Windows 10 Home users are going to love this! Active Hours has been extended to be an 18 hour window, and your computer will no longer automatically restart after an update is installed. These prompts will give you the option to restart now, pick a time to restart, or to snooze the alert. You will be warned several times before a restart occurs. Yes, that means a restart will happen, but now you will be notified so you won’t lose any work or progress in your game. TL;DR Don’t keep hitting snooze or a restart will happen anyway. Set a time for it to happen or just get it over with.

windows 10 update alert window
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After the Creators Update, Windows Update will stop downloading a full copy of Windows for each major update, and it will only download the necessary files. This is a great addition for those on a data cap, and it should greatly reduce the update and install times after the Creators Update.

Windows on desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile devices will all use the same updating service. Microsoft is calling it the Unified Update Platform. Hey, no one said Microsoft was good at naming things (Edge, Vista, Zune). This new platform is what enables the faster, smaller downloads.

No you cannot disable Windows Updates all together after this update, and that’s a good thing. It keeps the user-base on the same version of Windows, and that makes it easier and quicker for Microsoft to patch security holes. It also removes a troubleshooting step. Be honest, how many of us have been asked or have asked someone to fix their computer and all they did was update Windows? I’ve lost count.

Gaming on Windows

Windows is by far the most used OS for desktop/laptop gaming. Windows 7 holds the #1 slot right now, but with Game Mode and Beam integration Windows 10 might dethrone it. Streaming your session to Beam can be done using the built-in tools and no additional tools. It will also connect to your Microsoft account when you set it up.

With the Game Bar (where you’ll find Beam streaming) you can create local clips and screenshots too. Yes, it will work with older titles as well, and you can access your gaming settings right from the Game Bar. Tweak your gaming experience to what works best for you and your rig from one place.

Game Mode will enhance your gaming experience by devoting more resources from your graphics card and CPU to your game. This should result in faster load times, sharper images, and higher, more consistent frame rates. Yes, Game Mode works with games from Stream, Origin, and similar services. It isn’t limited to games from the app store.

Privacy & Security

Windows 10 has been criticized for making it difficult for users to adjust their privacy settings, but the Creators Update brings them to the forefront. If you’re doing a clean install or an upgrade from an old version of Windows, you’ll get a prompt at the end of the update to select your privacy settings. The prompt also details what each setting does and how it could benefit the user or Microsoft. All of the data they collect is anonymous, and Microsoft has teamed up with Apple and Google to fight for consumer data privacy.

There is a new Windows Defender Security Center that displays the health of your device, and it has easy access to quick scan, firewall settings, and family settings. This is similar to most commercially available anti-virus services. Windows Defender has been given a facelift as well. You’ll get health reports, alerts for when Defender needs to perform a scan, and of course you’ll be notified when it locates a potential problem. You’ll also get prompted if a scan finds nothing. Pretty standard features, but it’s nice to see Microsoft showing this feature some much needed attention.

My favorite new feature in Defender is Fresh Start. If your computer is in bad shape because of a virus, you could use the Fresh Start feature to restore your machine to how it was on day one, but any “bloatware” installed by the manufacturer won’t be reinstalled! Fresh Start will give you the out of the box Windows 10 experience. Keep in mind that Fresh Start will erase all of your installed programs as well.

Windows Hello

windows helloThis is by far my favorite feature of Windows 10 from day 1. You’re able to sit down in front of your computer, and it will recognize your face and log you in faster than you could type in a password or scan a fingerprint. Take a deep breath. None of that data is stored on a server. It all happens locally on your machine. It cannot be fooled by holding up a photo or by having your twin try using their face. Windows Hello will also recognize different users of the same machine and log them into their account.

All that being said, after the Creators Update you’ll get signed in even faster! When you’re setting up the feature, the settings screen will show you more details, and it will show you exactly what it is looking at.

Dynamic Lock

Pair your phone with your device over Bluetooth and your computer will automatically lock itself after a couple minutes when you’re out of range, and it will unlock when you’re back in range. You can’t configure how long the time out is, but it’s a nice version 1 for the feature.

For IT Pros

You can lock users into only being able to install app from the Windows app store. Don’t worry, you can install programs your clients need and then enable the feature. All of the programs already installed will still be usable. This feature could also be handy for parents with young kids. It would prevent them from installing some malicious program from that random pop-up message they saw.

Conclusion

Wow, you stuck around until the end! Believe it or not, the Creators Update does include more new features and fixes than what I listed, but the name of the update seems like more of a marketing gimmick than an accurate description of new features. There are some creation oriented apps, but that’s about it. There are a lot of features included in the update, but if nothing else this update shows that Microsoft is continuing to listen and act on user feedback. If something isn’t working or you want a new feature, open the Feedback Hub app and let Microsoft know.

That’s not to say there is nothing worthwhile in this update. The changes in the Windows Update restarts and privacy alone should be enough to get you to update/upgrade on day one. I didn’t mention the battery life improvements or the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth improvements. I would say that if you’ve been holding off on moving to Windows 10, the Creators Update now gives you the version of Windows 10 you’ve been waiting for.

 

Are you going to upgrade on day 1? What feature are you most excited about? Let us know in the comments section below.



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