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Apr 06 2017

Windows 10: Creators Update Released [UPDATE]

At 6:00 AM PST yesterday, Yusuf Mehdi – Microsoft's Corporate VP for the Windows and Devices Group – finally confirmed speculations that had been hovering around the 'net for weeks: the next feature upgrade for Windows 10 will be distributed to users worldwide from the second Tuesday in April onward, a date that happens to coincide with the regular patch day.

The statement was part of Mehdi's latest contribution to the official Windows Blog, a piece that specifically touts the advantages this new OS build holds for "the creator in all of us." The key concept here is to enable users of varying experience levels to create their own 3D content and thus extend the platform's VR and AR capabilities in a way that will make them more attractive for home users. To achieve this goal, Redmond decided to recast a redesigned MS Paint (the onboard graphics editor that has been around since the days of Windows 95) as Paint 3D, an UWP-compliant app that helps designers to either produce new, original 3D models or modernize their existing 2D artwork in a way that resembles the latest revamped versions of the Peanuts and the Smurfs. According to Mehdi, 3 D allows us to "communicate ideas and express ourselves better" – a claim that still awaits proof. The ultimate goal here lies in the creation of a VR/AR platform that incorporates Windows 10 into all aspects of our daily lives. For the time being, however, a fully immersive experience of "Windows Mixed Reality" still requires adequate headsets from several prominent OEMs, which will hit the shelves later this year.

While Paint 3D may not rank very highly on professionals' most-favored upgrades lists, other expected improvements certainly do:

  • The Creators Update finally sets out to eliminate the mess that was Windows security management. To this end, it introduces Windows Defender Security Center, a kind of management console that joins all of a PC's security-related functions together under one hood. That way,, users can centrally monitor and control virus and threat protection, device performance and health, firewall and network protection, and app and browser security, along with enabling or disabling family-friendly settings. Like previous versions of Windows Defender, the expanded edition will be compatible with third-party anti-virus programs and security suites, so it's probably a good idea to keep them running – especially since Microsoft has repeatedly admitted that the onboard tool cannot compete with specialized software.
  • Privacy settings will receive a similar makeover: all relevant functions can now be managed via a central dashboard, allowing users to limit the amount of personal information that's transferred from their device to Redmond's servers. For example, they may now decide whether or not they share location information with Microsoft or allow apps to use unique identifiers in order to process personalized ads. At the moment, it's hard to determine how good and granular the dashboard controls will work; however, it's already clear that it won't be possible to completely block Microsoft's access to diagnostic data, e.g. about browser usage or typing habits – at least not via the new interface. Here, they can only choose whether they want to give Microsoft full or basic access. Judging from pre-release screenshots, it appears that all privacy-related functions are by default set up in pro-Microsoft fashion, so this dashboard is definitely worth looking at.
  • Microsoft's Edge browser already offers a number of attractive functions such as the integrated read mode that removes design clutter from websites and may occasionally serve as an ad blocker – unfortunately, it's relatively easy to circumvent. On the other hand, it's a little behind on several comfort functions that are standard in other browsers. The Creators Update adds advanced tab management with previews and an integrated e-book reader. What's more, Netflix customers will be happy to finally have a browser that lets them stream 4K video content to 4K monitors. On the security side, we get Windows Defender Application Guard, a tool that spots potentially malicious code from websites and isolates it into containers.
  • Other changes may appear rather minor, but will likely help to improve overall usability and accessibility. For example, the Creators Update permits users to directly connect to the Internet via VPN, without having to work their way through the VPN setup – a feature that was included with the initial release, but inexplicably scrapped in the Anniversary Update. Furthermore, Cortana can now guide users through the initial Creators Update setup and will also be available with Windows PE and RE during installation and repair sessions.
  • Both end users and administrators will benefit from the Unified Update Platform (UUP), a technology that's supposed to reduce the size of downloads in future feature/functional upgrades such as Redstone 3, which is expected in H2/2017. Essentially, UUP omits from these software packages all updates that have already been installed, thus shrinking the download size by up to 35% and appeasing users who can't afford to sit through hours- or days-long download and installation sessions. In addition, the Creators Update tackles the dreaded reboot issue – that is, Windows 10's bad habit of restarting a system as soon as an update has been downloaded, regardless of whether users are editing documents or running batch jobs like image tagging. With the Creators Update installed, users will be able to specify exactly when they want the installation/reboot to occur or put the entire process on hold for as long as three days by activating the new "snooze" functionality. Users of Windows 10 Pro and higher may even postpone updates and/or upgrades altogether for a limited amount of time – whether for 35 days, as initially announced, or for just one week, as more recent reports suggest, remains to be seen.
  • Finally, the Creators Update introduces a night light mode that substantially reduces a monitor's blue light emissions after sunset. The feature is particularly popular among smartphone and tablet users, as it reportedly minimizes eye strain and helps them sleep better.

All in all, this looks like a sensible collection of enhancements and improvements that will appeal not only to creative spirits, but to regular professional users as well. Now let's hope that this upgrade doesn't fall victim to the same problems and cause similar issues as the ones we've seen during some more recent patch days. 

[UPDATE 06-04-2017:] Meanwhile, Microsoft has decided to kick off the Creators Update rollout about a week earlier than expected. In other words, tech-savvy users who are eager to get their hands on the new version can now start the process manually with the help of an Update Assistant that was released on April 5. Details are explained on the Windows Blog. Apparently, the plan is to stretch the rollout phase in order to avoid potential server outages that might occur in case the Creators Update concurred with the regular Patch Day. However, GA is still planned for next week.


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