Windows 10 Creators Update Review

Posted on April 10, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 21 Comments

Windows 10 Creators Update Review

This week, Microsoft will publicly release its third major version of Windows 10. But don’t be fooled by the name: The Creators Update offers very little in the way of new functionality for creators. Indeed, it’s a fairly minor upgrade overall.

The original version of Windows 10 arrived in mid-2015, offering a nice return to the PC focus that prevailed at Microsoft before the “touch-first” insanity of Windows 8. It was a solid release out of the gate—with a few iffy bits, like Microsoft Edge and the Universal Windows Platform (UWP)—and of course the promise was that Microsoft’s “Windows as a Service” (Waas) vision would keep us all up-to-date with fixes and security updates, plus regular feature updates.

The first such feature update, called the Fall Update, arrived in November 2015. This was a minor update that focused mostly on fit-and-finish work, and it addressed feedback from the initial release.

The second feature update, called the Anniversary Update, was a much bigger release. So big, in fact, that it was the only new version of Windows in 2016. (It arrived mid-year, as it name suggests, about one year after the initial release.) It provided major new features related to Windows Ink, Tablet Mode, Edge, Cortana, Xbox and gaming, notifications, and more.

Unfortunately, the Anniversary Update also suffered from a number of reliability issues, undermining confidence in WaaS as the deployment time stretched out to several months. (Indeed, I had a new HP computer that didn’t get this update until February 2017.)

So this is the world into which the Creators Update arrives. The central promise of Windows 10 remains solid—it works well, and does so across a stunningly diverse array of hardware form factors—but we have … worries.

Fortunately, the Creators Update is a much smaller and less impactful release than it predecessor: This one is much more like the Fall Update, and is full of refinements, not major new platform features. That said, Microsoft is promoting a few Big Box features in this release. But these features—3D apps and a foundation for some coming virtual reality/mixed reality future—aren’t all that interesting to mainstream users. And like most of you, I will mostly ignore them going forward, at least for now.

So. What does the Creators Update—which increments Windows 10 to version 1703—bring to the table? These are the most important features to know about.

Improved control over your privacy. No matter how you acquire the Creators Update—on a new PC or by upgrading an existing Windows 10 install to this new release—you will be prompted to review and configure privacy features in a way that is clearer and more transparent than at any time in the past. To be clear, I don’t feel that Windows 10’s underlying data collection—which is a requirement for WaaS—is egregious or anything to worry about. But Microsoft is wise to address this need, given the attention that it’s received from regulators and other privacy watchdogs from around the world.

Improved control over software updates. While Windows 10 is still a bit confusing in this regard, those with Windows 10 Pro or higher can now pause updates using a clear and concise interface in Settings. (Those on Windows 10 Home are screwed, sorry.)

Deeper Cortana integration. From initial Setup through the day-to-day experience of using Windows 10, Microsoft’s digital personal assistant is a more central, useful, and unavoidable than ever before. And that’s true whether you agree to let Cortana access your personal information or not.

Raise your hand if you asked Microsoft to add an e-book store and reader to a web browser you weren’t using to begin with.

Microsoft Edge improvements. Tied as it is to major Windows 10 versions, Microsoft’s new browser isn’t advancing as quickly as it needs to. But like previous feature updates, the Creators Update adds a ton of new Edge functionality nonetheless, including a new e-book store and reader, new tab management features, and more.

Gaming improvements. Gamers will want to upgrade to the Creators Update immediately: This version brings a new Game Mode feature that optimizes performance for games, plus Beam broadcasting integration.

App improvements all around. While these aren’t strictly tied to the Creators Update—the cadence at which apps are updated compared to OS updates is more mysterious than the Bermuda Triangle—the so-called in-box apps that Microsoft includes with Windows 10 have all been updated: Mail, Calendar, Groove, Movies & TV, Maps, Paint, you name it, all of them have improved substantially since last summer. That said, I still feel that UWP is the soft underbelly of Windows 10 and that these apps can and should be much better, and be treated as showcases that demonstrate to developers and users alike what is possible. They are most certainly not that.

Paint 3D: It’s the next Media Center, that app you run once, and usually by mistake.

New 3D features. In one of the few nods to the update’s name, the Creators Update includes several 3D mobile apps: Paint 3D for creating 3D images and printing them on a 3D printer, View 3D for viewing them, and an underlying Windows Mixed Reality platform for viewing 3D imagery with a coming generation of MR headsets. (There’s also a Remix 3D website for sharing 3D images.)

New and improved security features. While there is still some confusion around this, a new Windows Defender Security Center works much like the old Security Center/Action Center did in previous Windows versions: It provides a central dashboard for managing all of the security and reliability functionality in Windows. It also provides a new home for the Refresh Windows tool, now called Fresh Start, which lets you perform a clean install of Windows, minus the crapware from your PC maker. Nice!

Fit and finish work. Like previous Windows 10 versions, the Creators Update includes a ton of fit and finish updates that make the system seem more refined and modern. Key among them is Night Light, which works like F.lux by reducing the blue light emitted by your PC’s display at night, Start folder support, Dynamic Lock for automatically locking your PC when you walk away with your phone, “new” (OK, reintroduced) support for themes, and more.

As you must know, I’ve been busy documenting all of these new features in a series of Windows 10 tips here on Thurrott.com, and of course I’m updating the Windows 10 Field Guide for the Creators Update as well.

But like millions of other Windows Insiders, I’ve been testing the Creators Update for several months. And there’s just not a lot of “there” there: Certainly, none of the few new creation features are interesting to most users, and none of the other changes are particularly major. That is absolutely fine—Windows 10 is a mature platform, after all—except for one inconvenient truth: There are still some areas of concern here, and none of them are addressed by the Creators Update.

So while no one was asking for a Microsoft e-book store whose wares are only viewing in Edge on Windows 10, many have been asking for a viable apps platform and a store full of high-quality apps. Many, too, have been asking for a viable, full-featured web browser that either works on mobile platforms too or perhaps at least provides Favorite and password sync with popular mobile browsers. And many have legitimate concerns about the reliability issues that have dogged Windows 10, plus the rampant in-box advertising that I feel cheapens this product at a time when it needs to be as classy as possible.

There’s nothing wrong with the Creators Update, per se. Indeed, Windows 10 version 1703 is the best version of Windows that Microsoft has ever made, as it should be. But with these fundamental issues still dogging the platform, I’m curious why Microsoft would pretend to focus on “creators” and then ignore that audience while doing nothing to address long-running issues.

So on that note, I’d like to see a return to fundamentals for the next release, which is currently code-named “Redstone 3.”

There’s no need to recommend the Creators Update: You’re going to get it whether you want it or not. But my advice to anyone concerned about quality issues is to wait 2-4 weeks to see how the rollout progresses. And, yes, I have documented exactly how you can do so, no matter which Windows 10 product edition you’re using.

The Windows 10 Creators Update will begin rolling out publicly on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. Cross your fingers.

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Comments (21)

21 responses to “Windows 10 Creators Update Review”

  1. Avatar

    rfog

    We don't have eBook support in Spain. Sigh!


    We can open and read ebooks but not access to the store and/or have a list of saved ones inside Edge. Weird.

  2. Avatar

    Maxpayne

    After Windows 7, this is the most stable and feature filled version of windows operating system Microsoft has released. The interface and overall performance has improved a lot in this new version. Incorporating Cortana to the operating system was a great move.

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  3. Avatar

    Waethorn

    Just ran into a really bizarre bug.


    I installed Windows 10 CU as a clean install on an Acer Aspire desktop that had AU already installed and activated. I ran into an issue with the system BSOD'ing with a "WHEA_UNRECOVERABLE_ERROR" when it ran previous builds just fine. So I thought I'd get a BIOS update for the system, which had never been done before. So I grabbed the BIOS update. Acer's updater failed the compatibility check, but I decided to bypass the BIOS ID check (I don't like to live so dangerously when it comes to BIOS updates, but I've run into this scenario before with Acer). The system ID in the BIOS changed the model number, so I'm guessing they reused the same BIOS from another similar model. However, Windows activation failed - probably as a direct result of this issue. Anyway, I tried reactivating, but it said it couldn't activate and wanted a Microsoft Account instead. It even said "This Windows 10 Home system has a previously-activated Windows 10 Home product key for Windows 10 Home". Well, duh! I just didn't want to bother putting in a Microsoft Account to reactivate it. I even tried entering in the Windows 7 product key on the machine, but it wouldn't activate it, citing that it "couldn't contact Microsoft activation servers" even when it had full Internet access.


    I decided to just wipe it again and install with the Windows 7 product key and it activated fine after that.


    So watch out with BIOS updates, since it can cause activation to fail unless you've previously registered the activation by using a Microsoft Account to log in, which I think is completely ridiculous.

  4. Avatar

    Waethorn

    I notice these changes:


    1) Right-click Start Button (do they even call it that anymore?) menu includes "Apps & Features" instead of "Programs & Features". Opens Settings instead of Control Panel.

    2) Control Panel in Start Button right-click menu is replaced by Settings.

    3) Microsoft's new "Device Partner Center" which replaces the admittedly old-fashioned OEM Partner Center is a complete mess of Metro-style tile navigation. Missing is Creator Update deployment information for System Builders and IT Pro's.

    4) The new Windows ADK 1703 includes a gimped version of Windows ICD, now just called Windows Configuration Designer, which no longer supports bare-metal install or USB disk creation. IT Pro's that used ICD to simplify deployment are going to HATE going back to WinSIM, which is the only GUI tool that Microsoft includes for bare-metal deployment now, and it never supported the automated creation of USB installation media, nor does it now. WinSIM dates back to Windows Vista deployment and hasn't been updated much since. This is a MAJOR STEP BACKWARDS.

  5. Avatar

    Chris Payne

    Indeed, the Creator's Update is very disappointing. Why all the hype and fancy name for something that should've just been released as a minor update, as Paul mentioned? It doesn't address "creators" at all.


    Now, I'm sure there were a ton of behind-the-scenes things that MS did with this update to make things better for themselves (more unified codebase, performance fixes, missing APIs, etc), and that's fantastic - I'd love to hear about these. But this is definitely not a consumer focused release... so many things MS said they would do for us, and so little of anything implemented.


    I just wish MS would telegraph a bit more (and more accurately) about the Windows development/release timeline. Give us an Intel style tick-tock plan (or tick tock tock as it were). Instead, everything is unpredictable and underdelivered. Apple mostly got this cadence right, and I think that's a large reason why they build up such a base of customers - predictability.

    • Avatar

      BinBinLives

      In reply to Chris Payne:

      Timelines and release plans would require them to exist in the first place. And based on the lack of any meaningful new features in these "major" updates, it doesn't appear they have a clue. Just a crew of millennials in charge of the shell team now, adding trivial and half-baked social features and phone apps for devices they aren't even selling.

  6. Avatar

    Waethorn

    Everything seems to be much faster in this build including boot-up, general navigation, and multitasking.


    I run this on more modest machines. I don't use Core i5+ systems with super-speed SSD's because of two reasons:


    1) I want to get an idea of how this will run for "regular" customers - not some artificial ideal customer that only buys premium PC's, like Surface buyers. People that buy computers at Best Buy and Walmart. Because that's what the majority of customers do (aside from buying from me, that is).

    2) I'm cheap. What's good enough for them should be good enough for me because my Windows requirements are fairly mediocre. My office PC is a Skylake Pentium dual-core Acer business PC, upgraded to 8GB of RAM with a stock 500GB hard drive. My home Windows PC is a custom-built Apollo Lake Celeron quad-core with 8GB of RAM and an older 128GB SSD.

  7. Avatar

    RonH

    My Grandson like to play with 3D Builder. Train set and Letters... We also take pictures of some of his LEGO and Tinker Toy creations and bring then into the app.

  8. Avatar

    zorb56

    It would be very interesting compare a count of features made generally available to Chome or Firefox users vs Edge users during the last 12 months. I bet it's embarrassingly lower on the Edge side.

  9. Avatar

    SherlockHolmes

    Does anyone else have this probkem: The OneDrive folder opens even when I didnt want to open it? Opends randomly from time to time.

  10. Avatar

    wolters

    I noticed that Windows Hello is much faster on my Surface Book with this update.

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