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, scheduled to arrive in Spring 2017. Here's your complete guide to Windows 10.
You can also jump straight to leaked information on Redstone 3.
Update 15 February: Microsoft seems to be on track with the Creators Update as 'rs2_release' builds now exist. RS2 stands for Redstone 2 - the codename for Creators Update - and these are the 'feature-locked' versions. The most recent version, dated 4 February is build 15031, and Microsoft has now revealed that it has added a couple of new features at the last minute: 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.
Windows 10 UK release date: When is the Creators update coming out?
Windows 10 Creators update UK release date: April 2017
Microsoft has been working on the next big update to Windows 10 for some time and it was revealed in October 2016. The latest information comes from MSpoweruser which says the update has been slightly delayed until April 2017 and that its version number will be 1704. This is actually a date: the fourth month of 2017.
It could still change, but the update is scheduled to be 'finished' by mid- to late January and then tested and bugs fixed before its public release.
How to get Windows 10 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.
Windows 10 Creators Update new features: 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.
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.
Watch out Twitch, Microsoft are out to get you! With the Creators update, you'll be able to set up a live stream using Beam. You will be able to interact with users easily and will also be able to create tournaments with friends!
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.
Game Mode appears to do a similar thing: prioritise the game that's running and devote as much processing time, RAM and other resources to making it run as fast as it can. This could be a boon only if you have an older PC, but we'll have to wait and see. Microsoft says that "Our vision is that Game Mode optimises your Windows 10 PC for an improvement in overall game performance."
Other updates for gamers include built-in Beam streaming. Beam is Microsoft's alternative to Twitch, and the option will be added to the existing game bar, which you can pull up in Windows 10 when running a game by pressing Windows-G.
Plus, there will be a gaming section in the Settings app which will consolidate all the game-related Windows settings.
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 Creators Update is codenamed Redstone 2, but already there are rumours of the next big Windows 10 update: Redstone 3. Part of this 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.
Update 15 February: 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.
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Windows 10: Previous 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".
Windows 10 UK price: How much does Windows 10 cost?
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.
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.