Software

Windows 10 Creators Update: The smart person's guide

Everything you need to know about the latest major upgrade to Microsoft's flagship OS.

If you own Windows 10 and haven't heard of the Creators Update, this feature will walk you through everything you need to know about Microsoft's second major upgrade to Windows 10.

This guide and accompanying video will tell you how to prepare for the changes heading your way and how to enable the most useful new features.

SEE: All of TechRepublic's smart person's guides

Executive summary

  • What is the Windows 10 Creators Update? The second major update aimed at bringing new features to Windows 10.
  • Why does the Windows 10 Creators Update matter? For improvements to the OS' security, privacy and management tools, as well as tweaks to the Edge browser, the Cortana virtual assistant and the introduction of a new 3D Paint app.
  • Who does the Windows 10 Creators Update affect? Practically every home and business user of Windows 10, including all major editions: Home, Pro, Enterprise, Education, Mobile and IoT Core.
  • Who are the Windows 10 Creators Update competitors? Windows faces competition on the desktop from Google's Chrome OS and Apple's macOS, as well as from the growing popularity of Google's Android OS on phones and tablets.
  • When is the Windows 10 Creators Update happening? For most people it will begin rolling out on Tuesday 11 April, and is expected from May 1 for firms that license Windows in bulk via the Volume License Service Center.
  • Where is the Windows 10 Creators Update available? It will automatically be pushed out to most users, but can be downloaded using Windows 10's Update Assistant tool.
remix3d.png

The Creators Update's new Paint 3D app also offers access to Remix 3D, an online store of user-created 3D models, which can be downloaded, edited and 3D printed.

Image: Nick Heath / TechRepublic

What is the Windows 10 Creators Update?

The Creators Update is the second major update to Windows 10 to introduce new features to the OS. The Creators Update tinkers with the look, feel and performance of the OS, improves security, privacy and how updates take place, tweaks virtual assistant Cortana and the Edge browser, and adds a new Paint app for creating 3D content.

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Why does the Windows 10 Creators Update matter?

Because the Creators Update is heading to pretty much every PC, and many mobiles, that run Windows 10. However, the extent to which it matters depends on your priorities.

For many businesses, the most important changes will probably relate to security and management. Improvements in these areas include better protection against remote code execution attacks in the Windows Edge browser, refinements of Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection's ability to detect and respond to network attacks, a better Windows Analytics Dashboard for monitoring and managing Windows PC estates, a new tool for in-place UEFI conversion, easier Window 7 to Windows 10 upgrades, simpler Azure Active Directory joins, and improved MDM capabilities.

Another plus is Windows 10's switch to differential updates, which will typically reduce the average download size of upgrades by about one third, due to the OS only downloading the new files each install needs.

Windows 10 Enterprise, Education and Pro users get to delay quality updates, for example, cumulative fixes, for up to 30 days after their release to a servicing branch, and feature updates, such as the Anniversary or Creators Update, by up to 365 days. Once again, Home users play second fiddle to Enterprise, only able to Snooze updates to put off installs.

Tim Brunt, program manager for Personal Computing & Technology at analyst firm IDC, said giving admins greater control over updates will be "a great benefit to some organizations and could help easier transitions to companies who are still sitting on the fence about migrating to Windows 10".

However, despite being trumpeted as a 'Creators' Update, only a couple of the new features are likely to appeal to content makers.

Chief among these is probably the 3D Paint app, which allows users to more easily create and share 3D scenes and models. While the app is easy to use and will no doubt generate a slew of 3D content, perhaps the most impressive Creators Update addition, an app that lets Windows 10 phones easily scan 3D models of real-life objects, is MIA.

Forrester principal analyst J P Gownder said the update lays the groundwork for Microsoft's future plans to turn Windows 10 into a platform for mixed-reality headsets, such as the HoloLens, and to position the OS as a platform for creative professionals running Microsoft's Surface Studio PC.

"There's a cohesion — thematically and feature-wise — to this new Windows 10 update. The idea of empowering 'creativity' whether you're a student, an artist, or an architect, has a lot of appeal, and plays well with Microsoft's latest hardware innovations, like Surface Studio," he said.

Mixed reality is Microsoft's name for headsets that can believably project digital objects into the real world, for example, placing a 3D rendered chessboard on a real-world table.

For game streamers, Microsoft has introduced a simpler option for broadcasting gameplay, although serious streamers are likely to already have alternative arrangements in place.

Elsewhere there are useful incremental updates to the Edge browser, such as being able to save and restore entire browsing sessions, although Edge still lacks the extensive library of third-party add-ons available for other major browsers. Virtual assistant Cortana also gets smarter, now helping to set up PCs and, if you opt in, scanning Office 365 and Outlook emails to automatically set reminders.

Microsoft has also started doing more to protect user privacy in Windows 10, fuelled by threats of enforcement action by regulators, introducing a prominent new menu that lets users toggle off a lot of the OS' data collection, as well as shedding more light on what data is gathered and why.

Overall it's a decent update but one that stands out more for its incremental tweaks and behind-the-scenes improvements to matters such as security, updates and privacy, rather than for spectacular new features. There's a good chance that the average Home user who doesn't use the Edge browser may barely notice any difference.

Steve Kleynhans, research VP with Gartner, said: "For most users the Creators Update is actually going to seem pretty minor. There are a lot of under-the-covers improvements, and some new features that appeal to specific communities of users—gamers, people interested in 3D creation—but there isn't a single new feature that just leaps out at the typical user."

Additional resources

Who does the Windows 10 Creators Update affect?

Home and business users, with improvements for every major edition of the OS: Home, Pro, Enterprise, Education and IoT Core. However, not all phones running Windows 10 are going to be eligible for the Creators Update.

And due to the necessarily cautious pace of upgrades in businesses, most employees who use Windows 10 will see the update at home before it reaches their office.

Despite the business-focused improvements in the Creators Update, implementing it may not be a priority for firms just starting to deploy Windows 10, according to Gartner's Kleynhans, who believes some organizations may jump straight to the next major update to the OS, codenamed Redstone 3 and due later this year.

"A lot will depend on where the organization is with their Windows 10 roll-out. Few will want to introduce the variable of a new update right in the middle of their migration project, so some companies will undoubtedly elect to postpone and potentially skip this one and hold out for Redstone 3," he said.

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Who are the Windows 10 Creators Update competitors?

It depends on the sector. In the home and education, Windows 10 is facing a threat from easy-to-use and cheap Chromebooks, which are proving increasingly popular in schools.

Relative to the latest version of macOS, Windows 10 has been judged in some quarters as outclassing Apple's efforts, both in existing features and direction of travel. For its part, Microsoft claims that "more people are switching from Macs to Surface than ever before", although it's produced no figures to back up this claim, and though the recent launch of the MacBook Pro only generated relatively modest sales, PC sales have been falling for the past five years.

Windows most interesting challenger is Android, and while Android phones and tablets aren't about to replace Microsoft's flagship, the mobile darling has now overtaken Windows as the world's most popular OS, according to some figures.

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When is the Windows 10 Creators Update happening?

For most users the Creators Update will begin to be made available from Tuesday, April 11, via Windows Update, with the staggered rollout expected to take several months.

The update is also available to MSDN/TechNet subscribers running the Enterprise, Education and IoT Core edition as of April 5. Organizations that license Windows en masse via the Volume License Service Center are expected to be able to get the update from May 1.

However, the Creators Update may not be deployed in businesses for some time. Last year's Windows 10 Anniversary Update was made available via the servicing branch typically used for widespread enterprise deployments more than four months after its release to Home users.

Eligible Windows 10 phones are due to receive the update starting April 25.

Additional resources

Where is the Windows 10 Creators Update available?

For those who are happy to wait until 11 April, the Creators Update will be rolled out to Home and other users automatically, over the course of a number of months.

If you can't wait for the update there are a number of options. The first is to become a Windows Insider, the name Microsoft gives to those testing early builds of the OS. Insiders have had access to the Creators Update release for a little while now, and the program is open to everyone with a Microsoft account.

Another alternative for those wanting early access is to run the Windows 10 Update Assistant. This tool isn't available to those running the Enterprise or Education editions.

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About Nick Heath

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic. He writes about the technology that IT decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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