All the things
Windows 10 doesn’t behave like the Windows of yesteryear. Instead of a monolithic operating system replaced by a successor in a year or two, it’s more of a living, breathing entity—one that’s constantly changing with the release of massive new “named” updates.
Even more fresh features are on the way in the Windows 10 Creators Update, which starts rolling out on April 11. Let’s dig into the goodies Microsoft has planned this time around!
Editor's note: This article has been updated repeatedly. The most recent update added the Creators Update’s release date and removed features that won’t make the final release.
The launch of Windows 10 was marred by two major controversies: the heavy-handed, downright nasty forced-upgrade push, and deep-seated privacy concerns. Well, Microsoft’s aggressive user migration ended when the free-upgrade offer expired, and the Windows 10 Creators Update addresses privacy concerns with a new privacy dashboard.
The good news: The simplified dashboard is easy to understand and manage. The bad news: It limits your options to allowing Microsoft minimal or “full” access to your PC, eliminating intermediate options that were there prior. Check out PCWorld’s Windows 10 privacy dashboard coverage for the full skinny.
Gamers will find a lot to love in the Creators Update—especially if they’ve learned to stop worrying and love the Windows Store. (If you’re not playing the likes of Minecraft, Forza Horizon 3, or Gears of War 4, there’s a lot less to be excited about.)
Gamers will find a lot to love in the Creators Update. Symbolically, it elevates gaming to first-class status in Windows, adding a dedicated Gaming options section to the OS’s Settings app.
The Creators Update adds some intriguing new game-centric features as well. The most notable is Game Mode, which shifts your hardware’s resources around to maximize gaming performance and reduce frame rate stuttering when you need extra oomph. In our testing, it doesn’t move the needle much in dedicated gaming PCs, but Game Mode can make unplayable games playable in laptops and other resource-constrained systems.
Beam game streaming
Microsoft’s also baking the ability to stream your live gaming sessions to your Xbox Live buddies and the Beam website right into Windows. Even better, the Windows 10’s native Beam support—which can be activated at any time using the operating system’s Game Bar—makes game broadcasting dead simple, removing all the technical hurdles associated with Twitch streaming.
The Creators Update’s new Paint 3D app supercharges the Paint we all know and love (okay, tolerate) with 3D image manipulation. Paint 3D’s loaded with tools and filters that make 3D image manipulation easy-peasy, and it can even help you convert 2D images into 3D objects. Microsoft’s updated app also hooks into Remix 3D, a new website loaded with 3D images created by other Windows 10 users.
Check out PCWorld’s Paint 3D tutorial to start creating awesome 3D scenes of your own in no time. And fear not: The classic Paint app still lives on in the Creators Update as well.
Much-needed Windows Update improvements
The tweaks Microsoft introduced to Windows 10’s updating system have bugged the hell out of many users, as there’s no way to decline updates, and those forced updates have a nasty tendency of resetting your PC at inopportune times. The Creators Update adds two new features to make updates more tolerable.
First, Windows 10 Professional, Education, and Enterprise users will be able to defer new updates for up to 35 days, as well as decide whether they want to include driver updates in the downloads. (Sorry Windows Home users, you’re still the update guinea pigs.) Just as welcome, you’ll be able to set your Active Hours—a defined time frame when Windows won’t install updates—as an 18 hour window, rather than the 12 hour window supported today.
Finally, the Creators Update shifts to Microsoft’s new Universal Update Platform, a set of behind-the-scenes changes in Windows 10 that reduce the processing power needed to update, shrink the size of update files, and streamline updates.
Windows Hello uses biometric sensors such as Intel’s RealSense cameras to automatically log you into your PC as you sit at it. Dynamic Lock uses your phone's Bluetooth to do the opposite; when you walk away from your PC, the Windows 10 Creators Update automatically locks. Adios, Win + L.
Check out PCWorld’s detailed guide to activating and fine-tuning Dynamic Lock for the full low-down on this helpful addition.
Along the same lines, the Windows 10 Creators Update includes the Windows 10 Holographic Shell. The Holographic shell adds support for augmented and virtual reality apps, so if you dropped $3,000 on a HoloLens developer kit, it’ll work with Windows out of the box.
But the Windows 10 Holographic Shell will open less princely VR avenues as well. A slew of Microsoft’s hardware partners are working on affordable Windows 10 VR headsets that cost as little as $300—though surprisingly, none will be available when the Creators Update launches.
Cortana monthly reminders
Cortana’s getting all sorts of helpful new features in the Creators Update. One of the tiny quality-of-life upgrades that might help hardcore Cortana users most? The newfound ability to schedule recurring monthly reminders.
The Windows Store’s getting an ebook section in the Creators Update. You’ll actually read the books in Windows 10’s Edge browser, however, which is also picking up a dedicated Books section and the ability to read ebook file formats like ePUB. Bookmarks, variable font sizes, and Cortana-assisted word lookups are all supported.
Edge tab preview bar
That’s far from the only update coming to Edge in the Creators Update. Clicking a new chevron located to the right of your tabs in-browser will pop open a bar containing rich visual previews of each tab. You can scroll through them all with a touch, a touchpad, or your mouse.
Life on the Edge
That’s not the only Edge improvement. Most notable: the Creators Update fine-tunes Edge’s media-playing capabilities, making it the only browser that can play Netflix videos at 4K resolution.
A new “set aside tabs” feature (pictured) lets the browser stash all your open tabs for recollecting later, assisting with tab management. Microsoft’s browser can also make Flash content click-to-run, launch InPrivate windows straight from Edge’s jump list in the task bar and act as “a portal for interacting with 3D digital content” while you’re wearing a HoloLens headset.
Start menu folders
Now this might wind up being handy. With the Windows 10 Creators Update, you’ll be able to drag your Start menu apps on top of each other to create folders that expand when clicked on, just like in Windows 10 Mobile.
See the icon-packed tile in the middle of the upper row in this picture? That’s a folder.
Start menu folders, expanded
And here’s what the aforementioned Start menu folder expands to when clicked or tapped.
New Display settings
PC enthusiasts will find a lot to like in the Windows 10 Creators Update’s various settings. The revamped Display options now hold the ability to adjust your screen resolution and adjust the amount of blue light emanating from your screen at night, like the beloved f.lux app. The feature’s aptly called Night Light.
Touchpad and Surface Dial settings
Windows 10’s Mouse & Touchpad settings have been split into separate sections to greatly expand the number of touchpad options available. Inside the Touchpad Settings’ depths you’ll find all sorts of tools that let you customize exactly what actions you want your three- and four-fingered gestures to enable. It looks seriously handy
The main Devices page in Windows 10’s Settings has been tweaked to show all the devices connected to your PC in one centralized location, from mouse to keyboard to Surface Pen. It’s a major quality-of-life improvement over having to scrounge across numerous sub-menus to find info on all your PC hardware.
Better theme support
The Windows 10 Creators Update packs enhanced options for people who want to customize the look of their PCs. Theme control has been moved into the Personalization section of the Settings app, and now you can choose Theme accents from the entire color spectrum rather than a handful of predefined options. Don’t worry; if you pick a garish combination, Windows will warn you that it’s difficult to read. You can also buy new themes from the Windows Store.
Now you're playing with PowerShell
The Creators Update pushes the tried-and-true Command Prompt into the background in favor of the fuller-featured PowerShell. Now, when you right-click the Start button or an open space in File Explorer, you’ll see options to launch PowerShell instead.
Fear not! Command Prompt isn’t being discarded, just de-emphasized. It’ll still be installed and you’ll be able to open it manually if you’d like.
Windows Defender overhaul
Windows 10’s default antivirus app receives a fresh new coat of paint in the Creators Update, along with new scanning options, reports on your PC’s performance and health, and more.
Defender’s also adding a link to Refresh your PC, a (mostly) nuclear option that has lurked deep within Windows’ settings since Windows 8. Refresh reinstalls and updates Windows, wiping most of your apps but keeping your personal files and settings intact. Approach it cautiously, but Refresh may be just what the doctor ordered when a particularly nasty malware strain ensnares your computer.
Green Screen of Death
RIP Blue Screen of Death—at least for Windows Insiders. Microsoft’s changing the background color of its infamous crash dumps to green for Windows Insiders, making it easier to identify when an error happens in a preview build rather than a production build of Windows 10. Fits the Minecraft vibe, eh?
Windows 10 stroke eraser
Think of it as a Crtl + Z for your doodles. To be honest, it’s surprising Microsoft launched Windows Ink without this feature.
This Creators Update addition caters to the business crowd.
Streamlined virtual private network (VPN) support makes it possible to easily activate a connection without opening your network connections once Windows knows your VPN credentials; while a new Quick Create option makes it easy to deploy Hyper-V virtual machines lickity-split.
Finally, all these new features and functions gobble up precious storage space, and yet another new feature helps to free it back up. A new option in Windows 10’s storage settings—which is off by default—will automatically delete unneeded items when you’re short on space. The initial version eradicates temporary Internet files and anything you’ve had in your Recycle Bin for over 30 days.
Go even deeper
Believe it or not, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The Windows 10 Creators Update packs in all sorts of additional extras, from advanced audio tweaks to even more granular privacy and control options. Check out PCWorld’s guide to the Windows 10 Creators Update’s 17 best hidden features to go even further down the rabbit hole.