Windows 10 (reviewed) was released on 29 July 2015 and was followed by the free Anniversary Update on 2 August 2016. The next big Windows 10 update is the Creators Update, another free download scheduled to arrive on 11 April 2017.
We're now in the final few weeks of waiting for Microsoft to fix the bugs and make the last few tweaks before releasing the Creators Update to the public.
Microsoft is now advertising the update in the Windows Update section of the Settings app, with a message saying, "Good news! The Windows 10 Creators Update is on its way. Want to be one of the first to get it?" and a link which takes you to the Windows Insider website, offering the option to join the Insider programme and download the preview of the update.
This is completely free, but we'd recommend waiting until the finished public version is out on 11 April, especially if you'll install it on your main PC or laptop.
We've also had a chance to get a closer look at the big new features for PC and Xbox gamers in the Creators Update - click here to find out what to expect.
When is the Windows 10 Creators Update release date?
Windows 10 Creators Update UK release date: 11 April 2017
Microsoft has been working on the next big update to Windows 10 for some time and it was revealed in October 2016. Progress appears to be on track and 'feature-locked' versions of Creators Update are currently under testing. According Microsoft, the rollout will begin on 11 April.
This might mean you'll have to wait longer, as the release will be staggered to avoid overloading the download servers, but if there's a way to install the update manually (as opposed to the method explained below), we'll update this article to explain how to do it.
How to get the Creators Update
Assuming your PC is already running Windows 10, you should receive the Creators Update automatically, since it's an update and updates in Windows 10 are installed when they're available. However, you can check for updates manually by going to Start, Settings (the cog icon), Update and Security, Check for Updates. The Creators Update will be available in the same place.
If it's like previous major updates, you should also be able to download and install the update manually. To do this you'll need a USB flash drive with at least 4GB of space, a portable hard drive or writable DVD. Now, download the tool from Microsoft. Choose Create installation media for another PC, then select the language, edition and whether you want 32- or 64-bit. You can then use the tool to copy the files to a bootable USB drive or a bootable DVD. Once this is complete you can boot from the drive or disc and follow the on-screen instructions to install the Windows 10 update.
What are the new features?
Here's a selection of the main features to look forward to when the Creators Update arrives in April:
Microsoft has detailed some more changes to its Edge web browser. Chief among these is native support for mixed reality and, specifically, WebVR. Websites are increasingly offering VR content, and when the Creators Update is released, Windows 10 users will be able to view this content in Edge without having to install a plug-in. In fact, talking of Extensions Microsoft has given developers of add-ons access to more features and functions in the browser and - with a bit of luck - we'll start to see the library grow. Currently the list of Extensions is relatively short.
Another update to Edge is the ability to save and restore groups of tabs. The idea behind this is to reduce clutter and improve performance for people who tend to have a lot of tabs open. Instead of keeping lots of pages open, you can save a group of them, 'set them aside' and then return to them later on without having to search through your history or try to remember what you were looking at. It's not a killer feature for everyone, but for some it will be a compelling reason to use Edge over another browser.
3D content was a focus for Microsoft, with Windows 10 focusing greater on 3D content, which spans to Paint and Powerpoint too! And yes, Paint got a fresh lick of paint - pun intended.
You can now create 3D shapes in Paint and share them directly with your social followers, or SketchUp network - better still, print them directly on your 3D printers, nifty. Here's a brief look at how it will work:
Arguably the biggest new feature is the new Windows Holographic interface. Microsoft announced that Dell, Lenovo, HP, Asus and Acer will be making affordable VR headsets for Windows 10 which will cost as little as $299 (~£250). There's not much known about the interface, but we'll add more here as soon as we can.
Blue light reduction
Android, iOS and Amazon's mobile operating systems all have a feature which reduces blue light at night, so it's not too surprising that Microsoft is planning to add such a feature to Windows. If anything, it's long overdue.
Pin people to the taskbar
This might seem trivial to some, but to others will be extremely useful. You will now have the option to pin 'people' to the taskbar, enabling you to quickly drag and drop files to your contacts, by taking these files to the taskbar!
Coming soon to Windows is the ability to buy and read ebooks. It appears that Microsoft will add ebooks alongside apps, games, music, movies and TV sections within a unified Windows Store.
Insider Preview Build 15002 adds dozens of new features one of which is an interesting app throttling control. It's not available to all users yet but it gives priority to the apps in focus, and deprioritises background apps so they use up too many of your computer's resources.
The Settings app will feature a new Gaming section, which will consolidate all the game-related Windows settings into one easy place. Most of those will be familiar, but there will also be two major new features:
Game Mode appears to do a similar thing to app throttling: prioritise the game that's running and devote as much processing time, RAM and other resources as it can to making it run as fast as possible. For example, if you're running a multi-core CPU, it might delegate background tasks to two specific CPU cores, leaving the others to focus entirely on running the game.
The aim is to boost overall game performance, especially frame rates, which should be both higher and more consistent. While it will most obviously be of benefit to gamers with older or lower-spec computers, power users could see a benefit too, especially if they're running apps like Discord or broadcasting their session while they play.
While there are third-party applications that offer similar functionality, Game Mode will take running order priority, optimising performance before those apps get a chance to.
Game Mode will default to enabled at the OS level, though can be switched off at any time. Despite that, it will still need to be manually activated for each game using the Game Bar, which you can pull up by pressing Windows-G. - though Microsoft says it's working with publishers and developers to allow some games to ship with Game Mode on by default.
Another big update for gamers is the new built-in Beam streaming. Beam is Microsoft's alternative to Twitch, and the option will be added to the existing Game Bar.
Microsoft promises sub-second latency for Beam, which not only means less lag, but also opens up the potential for one major feature: interactivity.
That means that streamers can add buttons to their streams to allow viewers to interact, even making it possible for them to do things like change lighting effects or even spawn enemies in compatible games - Minecraft is one early example.
Beam has some fairly simple configuration options (see below), and anyone can sign up for a free account by visiting Beam.pro. This can be linked to an Xbox Live account, but you don't need an Xbox to use Beam - it's available both on console and PC.
Also new is the ability to pause updates not just until you're not using your PC or laptop, but for up to 35 days (but still not in the Home version).
A brand new Security Centre basically brings a lot of Windows security features together and makes them accessible from one easy-to-use dashboard. Much like an internet security suite, it presents several icons for different types of security and then marks them with a green tick if that area is ok. If not, you'll see a warning that action is required. It's said to play nice with third-party antivirus, so Microsoft isn't forcing you to use Windows Defender (check out our best free antivirus to see how Windows Defender scores).
The last features to be added to the Creators Update are Picture-in-Picture and 'Dynamic Locking'. The former is actually called Compact Overlay window, and will be familiar to anyone who has used the floating video window on an iPad or macOS Sierra. In fact, more and more apps are getting this function: YouTube lets you watch a tiny video while browsing for others on your phone and you can now do the same in the Facebook app.
Here's how it will look in Windows 10, and any app developer can add the functionality to their Universal Windows Apps:
A second newly-announced feature is Dynamic Locking. This will automatically lock your Windows 10 machine if your connected Bluetooth phone isn't detected in range. It means that if you walk away from your laptop, tablet or Bluetooth-equipped PC with your paired phone, it will lock it after 30 seconds and turn off the screen.
One of the latest Insider preview builds includes a couple of new features: support for 360-degree videos in the Films & TV app, and a new setting that can prevent the user installing Windows apps unless they're from the Windows Store.
This is similar to the GateKeeper feature in macOS (and the 'unknown sources' setting in Android), and is intended to help prevent malicious programs being downloaded and installed. Clearly, this will also benefit Microsoft as it will drive people to use the Windows Store, but it can be disabled easily enough.
Interestingly, as reported by WinSuperSite, Microsoft is seemingly going to push critical updates to Windows 10 PCs even if they are set to a 'metered' internet connection. This is one trick that many users employ to prevent updates being automatically downloaded. It appears that this won't work - for critical updates at least - after you install the Creators Update.
The Creators Update is codenamed Redstone 2, but already there are rumours of the next big Windows 10 update: Redstone 3.
At a conference in Australia, Microsoft revealed a little more detail on when we can expect the follow up to the Creators Update. The slide below roughly shows that it is scheduled for release right at the end of 2017. This may not happen, but it is the current plan. You can jump straight to leaked information on Redstone 3.
Part of the update will be some graphical changes, and these have their own codename: Project Neon. As MSpoweruser reports, the changes won't be major, but will introduce blurring (called "Acrylic") and animations that make things simpler and more consistent. Ultimately, it's a lot like the Aero interface introduced in Windows Vista, and the blurring and animations you see in iOS, such as when you scroll up and emails or text run behind a title bar, and when the title bar shinks and even disappears when you scroll down a web page.
The updates will change the look and feel of some of Windows 10's native apps, such as Groove, shown below, but will also be opened up to developers. The whole idea of Project Neon is to make a modern interface which will work across all Windows devices, including HoloLens as well as phones and tablets. However, unlike the mistake that Microsoft made with Windows 8, such changes shouldn't detract from the user experience on PCs and laptops.
The latest leaked image, from Tom Hounsell who runs buildfeed, gives a clearer idea of how this will look. Note the lack of a title bar in Groove, the light theme, and also the light Taskbar at the bottom.
Previous Windows 10 updates
The Creators Update follows the Anniversary Update as a free update to Windows 10 users. The Anniversary Update included improvements to Cortana, Windows Hello and Ink.
Since its launch, Windows 10 has had its fair share of teething troubles, with some people claiming Microsoft launched an unfinished product too early just to hit a deadline. Windows 10 is different from previous versions of the operating system: it's now a service rather than a standalone piece of software, and runs across multiple platforms. In practice, that means it will be getting regular updates and changing over time.
Think of it more like Google's Chrome web browser: you don't worry about which version you're running. Instead automatic updates bring improvements and new features regularly. So it is for Windows 10; we won't be be waiting for a Windows 11 - we might instead have to get used to calling it simply "Windows".
How much does Windows 10 cost in the UK?
Until 29 July 2016 Windows 10 was a free upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8, though you had to pay to upgrade from XP or Vista. Since that deadline has passed Windows 10 Home now costs £99.99 and Windows 10 Pro costs £189.99, both from Microsoft's online store.
Once you have Windows 10, the updates are free - this includes the Anniversary and Creators Updates. See also: How to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 10.
Network connection problems
Windows 10 version 1607 is known to cause internet connection issues - here's what to do if you're affected.
Microsoft has confirmed that an update to Windows 10 (version 1607) has cause an issue which prevents their PC or laptop connecting to the internet.
Both Microsoft and internet service provider,Virgin Media have advised users to reboot PCs and laptops as a way of fixing the issue. A patch, KB3206632, has since been released to fix the bug so if you're still having issues click on Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update and then Check for Updates.