Windows 10 Version 1909 Review

Posted on October 18, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 32 Comments

After years of complaining about bloated and poorly-made version upgrades, Windows 10 users are finally getting the feature update that they have always wanted. There’s just one question: Is this the new normal, or just a one-time gift?

I assume most readers are familiar with the underlying problem, so I’ll be brief. To date, Microsoft has issued two major version upgrades to Windows 10, which Microsoft calls feature updates, each year. This is in addition to the normal cumulative updates, which generally provide bug and security fixes, which appear one to four times per month.

Adding to the pain, Microsoft has a bad track record with Windows 10 feature updates, which are either bloated with new features that virtually no one wants, delivered in such buggy form that they must be pulled and reissued, or arrive much later than originally promised. Or some combination of those problems.

Add it all up, and it’s clear that Windows 10 users are suffering from update fatigue. And I and others have been calling on Microsoft to lighten up on all the updates. After all, no one is clamoring for new Windows 10 features, we just want to get work done. And since Windows 10 is updated far too frequently, perhaps it could consider a less painful schedule?

This year, Microsoft acquiesced. It delivered a major new version upgrade—sorry, a feature update—called Windows 10 version 1903 in the first half of the year via the May 2019 Update. And then it developed and is poised to release a minor version upgrade—which it’s calling a feature update but packaging as a cumulative update—called Windows 10 version 1909. This will be delivered via the November 2019 Update sometime in the next month.

What Windows 10 version 1909 is is a bit hard to explain. But the benefits to this new system—which admittedly could be a one-off—are obvious.

For Microsoft, it means that it can deliver a single patch for any vulnerability or bug, and not two versions, as it normally has to. That is, Windows 10 versions 1903 and 1909 will be serviced by the same patches, not different patches (as with all previous Windows 10 versions and previous Windows versions like Windows 7 and 8.1). This gets the software giant closer to its vision for Windows as Service (WaaS), a key tenet of which is that getting as much of the user base on the same Windows version, and thus the same servicing path, will be easier, more efficient, and thus more secure for everyone.

For Microsoft’s customers, it means that Windows 10 version 1909 will be delivered as a cumulative update, and not as a feature update. Cumulative updates are far more easily, (potentially) non-destructively, and more quickly installed than are feature updates. Much less can go wrong. And that’s a good thing.

Also a good thing: Windows 10 version 1909 ships with virtually no new features for end-users, and certainly nothing one might describe as major. So the system is remaining relatively unchanged for more than 6 months for the first time in over four years, aside, of course, from the normal updates that come to the built-in apps. Instead, we’re simply benefitting from the six months of quality and security improvements that have arrived in the six months since Microsoft released Windows 10 version 1903. That’s a good thing, too.

From a review standpoint, there’s not much to say. You’ll notice very few changes when compared to the previous version of Windows 10. Key among them are:

Inline event creation in the Date/Time flyout. In Windows 10 version 1903 and older, when you displayed the Date/Time flyout by selecting the Date/Time widget in the tray notification area of the taskbar, you were able to create a new calendar event by clicking a “+” icon (for “New event or reminder”). But when you did so, the Calendar app launched to a New event view. In version 1909, you can create a Quick Event inline right in the flyout, with no need to open the app.

Inline notification management. Microsoft has made a few changes to the ways in which notifications appear in the Action Center in Windows 10 version 1909. Key among them, you can disable notifications from individual apps or services without having to navigate to Notification settings in the Settings app. The notifications settings interface for each app has been prettied up a bit in Settings as well.

Windows Search integration in File Explorer. Now, when you type text into the search box in any File Explorer window, the results will include files that are on your local PC, as before, but also files that are in your OneDrive storage, even if they’re not synced to the PC. Thanks to OneDrive’s Files on Demand functionality, you can select any of these “offline only” files in the results pop-down and, after a short wait, view them in whatever application is associated with that type of file.

Lock screen access to third-party assistants. There’s no way to test this feature right now since no third-party assistant makers (like Amazon) have updated their digital assistant apps for Windows 10 to support this feature yet. But the theory is that you’ll be able to use Amazon Alexa or other third-party assistants while your PC is locked, just as you can (optionally) do with Cortana. I can’t imagine many people will do this.

No, none of this is revolutionary or even particularly interesting. But that’s a good thing, and it’s exactly what I and countless other Windows 10 users have been clamoring for: A Windows 10 update that we don’t even notice. I hope this is the new normal—that next year’s 20H1 update is fairly major while 20H2 is another cumulative update with little in the way of new features—but Microsoft hasn’t committed to that. So cross your fingers or, better yet, send some feedback to Microsoft and tell them, yes, this is the type of update we’re looking for. It should always be this good.

Windows 10 version 1909 at-a-glance

Like Windows 7

  • Easy and painless installation
  • Benefits from six months of fine-tuning
  • No silly new features to clutter up the system

Like Windows 8

  • Doesn’t fix the big problems with Windows 10: Advertising, crapware, and data collection
  • New features are so minor that few will even notice them

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Comments (32)

32 responses to “Windows 10 Version 1909 Review”

  1. remc86007

    "Cumulative updates are far more easily, (potentially) non-destructively, and more quickly than are feature updates."

    Missing a word or two.

  2. paulwp187

    This release is very interesting. If I understand correctly, Microsoft can release feature updates piecemeal / under the radar, and then enable them via enablement packages. So users can 'opt in' to the 1909 update, but really, the bits are on their machine already. Whether they opt in or not?

  3. sm76

    I installed the 1909 update a couple of days ago. I performed a system restore about 10 minutes after completing the installation and rolled the machine back to 1903. In a nutshell, like a lot of these "feature releases", this one was a dud. After installing the update, my machine would no longer sign out, shut down or reboot. I didn't even bother to check out what "features" the update added. If I can't get the system to work after an update, the update is no good.

  4. codymesh

    am I the only one that cares about new Windows 10 features? I like the recently added new features like Your Phone and Snip & Sketch.

    I'm getting really tired of the whining and complaining. Updating is simply a product of technology today - if you're enterprise, 1909 doesn't change things, in fact it's probably worse that people are going to have their computers do a long update and see nothing change and maybe still have things break

    Windows 10's user experience still has a a long way to go to reach any semblance of completion, I hope Microsoft doesn't take this as a sign to slow down the improvements

  5. jrs19

    I keep an eye on this stuff for work, but as a consumer, MS has lost me and I don't see myself ever going back. I don't really care about Windows anymore.

    I was a day 1 buyer of the Nokia Lumia 920 and 1020. I loved Windows phone. I bought a Surface Pro 1 and 3. I bought Xbox One on day one. I've been on Windows my whole life. They screwed the pooch on WP. Then they buried Cortana (never much chance without a place on mobile), plus it always sucked outside of US. When I moved off WP, I went to iOS over android due to security/privacy concerns. I liked my iPhone. I put my house on HomeKit. Then I got a watch. Liked the watch. I bought a 4k JVC projector and so I got an ATV4K. Then I got an iPad Pro and liked that too.

    The process took 5 years or so years but I'm now off of PCs for personal use after 3 decades with them (my first was a Compaq Portable III). I bought a MacBook Pro last week due to the tight integration between phone/iPad and Mac. Sidecar is awesome. I love that calls/messages come across to my computer. The OS itself, which I resisted for years as inferior, is pretty elegant and attractive.

    I get what MS is doing around Windows 10, but the elimination of the major upgrades just makes it completely uninteresting. It's good that MS is strong in enterprise and cloud or they'd be circling the drain imo.

    • Stooks

      In reply to jrs19:

      Interesting. I have had both for many years. My November 2017 15inch Macbook Pro is the last Mac I will buy. Nice looking but just a major let down in so many ways. MacOS is nothing special any more.

      Back in the Vista days when iLife from Apple was a great product and the prices were not insane and Macbooks were just better hardware than almost all PC laptops there was a clear case to be made for the Mac over a Windows PC. Those days are gone.

  6. robincapper

    To counter this the organisation I work for (large in its market) has gone from irregular long delayed system updates to being current and much better because of the consistency of Win 10/Office 365 updates. You can share info across functions knowing the recipient will have the resources/access to use it.

    I get a bit tired of the 'updates no one wants' line too as it harks back to the 'everyone on only needs 10% of X, but everyone uses a different 10%' issue. As an example; While the Windows Mixed Realty might be considered a waste of time for most it was vital for our function. Could argue 3rd parties would have filled that gap but then you get the mix of solutions/standards, patches etc which cause all sorts of problems.

    • warren

      In reply to robincapper:

      Hear hear.

      There's a bunch of stuff in Windows 10 20H1 which is "done", like showing an FPS counter in any application, GPU temperature monitoring in Task Manager, and setting limits on how fast updates can be downloaded.

      This stuff could ship with 19H2. But no, we have to wait another 6+ months for this to appear in a non-tester version of Windows 10.

  7. WaltC

    As someone who has been a Windows Insider since Oct 1, 2014--yes, by George--more than five years!--I must say that normal Windows 10 users complaining about updates really don't know how good they've got it...;) Three months ago, I moved off the Fast Ring, where I'd been since that first day over five years ago, and took stock and realized I'd been installing new builds 2-4 times a month, every month--whole ISO builds primarily--and always upgraded when possible as I always believed that's what Microsoft wanted tested moreso than clean installs--because upgrading is far more complex an exercise. Anyway, I moved to the Slow Ring, where the norm is one build a month--or every six weeks--but last week I decided to move to the Release Preview Ring--which updates with glacier-like speed, every x-number-of-months, and that's where I'll stay until I expire or the Insider's program ends, whichever comes first. Ah, but it's a lot of fun, don't ya' know?...;) If it wasn't, I'd have bailed out long ago. The point of all of this is to say that normal Windows 10 updating is like a walk in the park, comparatively.

    Also, fairly new to the Insider's way of doing things--and unless I have misunderstood something basic here, Microsoft is, thankfully, moving off the whole-build update scheme--the traditional ISO--and is now moving the update paradigm to cumulative updates from now on. If I've interpreted that correctly, all I can say is "Oh, joy!" I would much, much rather move from Windows version to Windows version via much smaller and tighter cumulative updates as opposed to full ISO-update upgrades, in-place installs, clean installs, etc. It seems that Microsoft is finally getting the basics where they want them with Win10--which is a good, good thing, as the basic Windows10 core should be stabilized and incrementally updated via cumulative updates, anyway. Yes, it's true that Microsoft has botched some CU's (understatement), but really, I have no idea why that should happen...!....;) Of course, ISOs for complete builds will continue to be available and sometimes we'll need them for various situations. But when Microsoft starts talking moving from the build paradigm to the CU paradigm for upgrades--especially for us Windows 10 beta testers--I can't think of anything to do but applaud. Win10 is maturing, and that's a good thing to see--and so is Microsoft's approach to keeping the OS updated.

    Exciting times ahead--AMD on the upswing, Intel on the wane--who could have forseen such a dramatic shift in the industry? AMD has re-ignited the booming PC hardware market and leaped out to become the leader in virtually every market segment, consoles are AMD, too, and are closer to x86 PCs than they've ever been and steadily progressing at an ever-increasing clip, and Microsoft is making and selling AMD-based Surface laptops, as well. I expect that it's going to be exponentially more difficult for Intel to even "catch" AMD this go around because unlike with the A64 saga, this AMD is already planning years ahead of Zen2 (Zen3 is supposedly already design-final) with Zen 4 & 5 already on the R&D table. It's going to be interesting to watch--AMD seems to have planned it out to the nearest decade, but Intel seems to be scrambling as if AMD caught them completely by surprise (again)....;) Great stuff for us consumers, eh? I am bored silly by cell phones and tablets--this direction is so much better, imo.

    BTW, couple of minor questions...what "advertising" do you see in Win10, Paul? Only place I ever see any adverts is in my browser (I don't use Edge, but FF x64 DE), but I run Adblock to take care of that small interruption--I do use Gmail and Outlook for my email needs, though, and I see a little bit of advertising in Outlook, but not much at all really. None in Gmail. Microsoft isn't charging me for the email service or Outlook itself so I'm not complaining--oh, I make sure the Outlook service knows what kinds of products I like so I'll see ads targeted to my taste--like various hardware or peripherals--and surely it's better than seeing bra or tampon ads (I'm the wrong sex for those things, & much too old for the bra ads to elicit a response, etc...;)). But what ads do you see in Win10 elsewhere? Curious, really, as I don't see them, except for a couple every now and then in Outlook. But I wouldn't actually class Outlook as being a part of Win10 since I don't really need it for anything critical. Crapware? Such as..? Hey, I don't like crapware, either, but what is it you are seeing in Win10? Ditto data collection? Like I say, I've been using Win10 in all it's incarnations for five years and I have yet to receive the first unsolicited email that resulted from such "data collection." But, as I say, I would prefer to have the ad companies display ads (like the few I see in Outlook sometimes in the rightmost pane) for products/categories I am interested in--especially hardware & software ads--I actually find that to be more in line with a service, frankly--certainly nothing I resent...;)

    Take care...!....;)

  8. cseafous

    When Microsoft announced two feature updates per year, I wondered how long they could keep coming up with new features (wanted or not). I guess the answer was two years. If they are going this route, maybe they should make H1 a UI, bug fix and security update. H2 could focus on making Windows run more efficiently, bug fixes and security updates.

    Side question: Does the addition of Windows 10X mean Microsoft will be less likely to remove legacy code from Windows 10?

  9. madthinus

    What I would like to see is Microsoft ditching the twice a year update. What I rather would like to see is this setup going forward, but even further simplified.

    H1 Build - Mayor version, supported for 30 months, updated with CU to H2 release.

    H2 Build - Minor touches and improvements with bug fixes, released 6 months after H1, build that goes to businesses for use for 24 months.

    This way a customer can select when he move upwards to the next version and receive support for up to 30 months in total.

  10. glenn8878

    This article is saying you want a feature update that has no feature updates. I would prefer a feature update that has improved feature updates so everything they added previously is further improved. Then people will use them properly instead of ignoring them. They also took away features and gave us worse features. Perhaps put them back with upgraded features. In any case, Microsoft keeps tinkering with Windows to make it more mobile, but they don't work properly. Sorry to say this, but Google and Apple does this much better than Microsoft.

  11. hrlngrv

    This doesn't get said enough: as long as it's painless to install Classic Shell, Start 10, etc to provide alternative launchers for Windows 10, it's all good. Lots of improvements behind the scenes even if the default launcher is, er, an acquired taste. MSFT deserves credit for keeping this simple and far more comprehensive than anything available for macOS.

    • WaltC

      In reply to hrlngrv:

      Nice post....;) Saw this and had to comment as someone who purchased Win8/.1x64 Pro for $30 direct from Microsoft (as an upgrade from my comparatively expensive Win7x64 version"Ultimate" or something?--cost me $300 for my retail license)--before moving to Win10x64 a couple of years post 8.1 with Microsoft's free-update for life offer of Win10x64 Pro (I always purchase retail OS licenses instead of OEM--since Win 3.1, IIRC...;)). There is no question at all that with Win8/.1 Classic Shell was a must have--I agree completely. It's a great little program--worked great with 8.1 for the entire time I used it.
      Although the Win10 start menu was indeed a bit flaky, back in late 2014 and early 2015, the Win10 start menu has been very stable and as useful as I need it to be for a long time--the last 3-4 years. I loath tiles, of course--as you may have guessed--and it's always nice to realize that Win10 doesn't require the use of tiles in the first place. It's always surprised me to speak with people occasionally who weren't aware that even with Win8/.1, tiles were optional. Indeed, it's been so long ago that I even used tiles very briefly that I had forgotten all about them until I read your post here about Win8/.1..! Thanks for jolting my memory--Good grief, how time flies!
      Oh, yes, my lifetime license for Win10x64 Pro is real--I'm now computing on my fourth motherboard/cpu combo that Microsoft has authorized for the same Win10x64 Pro license--so, yes, it really is a lifetime warranty. If you opt for the less costly OEM license, of course, then your authorization dies along with your first Win10 motherboard. So the Win10 Pro retail license follows the customer; the Win10 Pro OEM license follows the original motherboard and is locked to that hardware--it is non transferable. As I remember it, that original "free update" to Win10x64 deal from Microsoft was a deal I could not believe that anyone let slide! But amazingly, many did--lots of them openly doubting the "free for the life of the customer" claim. It is very real, as I said. But anyway, water over the dam....;) Live and learn--and I imagine some of them learned not to look a gift horse in the mouth, eh?

  12. jchampeau

    If ever there were three sentences that accurately describe just how convoluted and confusing and silly the Windows upgrade/update/patch process has become, they are:

    "This year, Microsoft acquiesced. It delivered a major new version upgrade—sorry, a feature update—called Windows 10 version 1903 in the first half of the year via the May 2019 Update. And then it developed and is poised to release a minor version upgrade—which it’s calling a feature update but packaging as a cumulative update—called Windows 10 version 1909. This will be delivered via the November 2019 Update sometime in the next month."

  13. Stooks

    "After years of complaining about bloated and poorly-made version upgrades"

    I have been using Windows 10 since March of 2016. I have two work machines and two home machines that run it. My wife has had two laptops with Windows 10 since December of 2015 (one at a time). My 3 kids all had Windows 10 laptops given to them from their high schools, plus home gaming computers with Windows 10. One of them is using her new Windows 10 T490 at college right now. I work in IT where my company has over 6000 desktops (70% actual/30% VDI) all on Windows 10.

    I have seen no major issues, at all. For sure nothing more than previous versions has had. Minor issues being drivers for old hardware or a program that was old that no longer worked with Windows 10. I personally was able to install 1809 on the day it dropped before it was frozen on all 4 of my machines and never had issues, and I use the heck out of OneDrive. (I did not jack with the default file locations). My wife still uses Quicken 2010 on her newest 1903 Laptop. At work, we did our due diligence and tested, tested, we have done with Windows 7 and before, (we never went to Windows 8.x) so that our roll out of Windows 10 went great.

    I have no doubt people have issues. I understand the issue with forced upgrade/tricking that went on the first year but I upgraded when I wanted too. I do understand that many of the new features are me...but it does not impact me if I don't click on them. I think Microsoft should give you the option to turn off telemetry but I have never bothered to turn it to even basic and we did not at work either. I trust them when they say it is being used to make the product better.

    I think there is simply way to much negativity....but alas link bait drama sells!!!! It still pays some to hate on Microsoft.

    I think most people that have issues are edge case and those issues are self inflicted. I would not freak out if I could not get a 10 year old printer or scanner to work with Windows 10. I would not be upset if some old laptop with a way out of date integrated Intel GPU was the cause of Windows 10 being blocked as an upgrade. If I did all kinds of out of the norm stuff, like moving default folders and used symbolic links to redirect the files and an update broke something I would get it and blame my tinkering.

    Yes ultimately there are bugs for those on new hardware with new software with plane default installs.....because in the ever increasing complex world of software.....PEOPLE (armies of programmers) make mistakes. I am using iOS 13 and it is of Alpha quality at best right now, even after 13.1.3.

    What should we do...GO ON THE INTERNET AND COMPLAIN :)

    • crp0908

      In reply to Stooks:

      It's great if Windows 10 works for you and you never have issues. However, I'm betting your case is not an enterprise experience. The issues related to Windows 10 for enterprises are numerous. WaaS as it exists now is untenable in the enterprise. Hence all of the complaining you are reading about.

      And the new update experience Paul is writing about is only true for those going from 1903 to 1909. Enterprises will be going from 1809 to 1909 due to the 30 month support window for both. So we cannot take advantage of this new update experience.

      • Stooks

        In reply to crp0908:

        Like I said we have over 6000 Windows 10 installs. Is that "Enterprise" enough for you? We did use LTSB for about 1000 of those installs (retail POS) and I am not sure if that is still the case, as in that is not my department in IT.

        We primarily use WDS to deploy. We did have issues early on with removing some stuff we did not want the users to see, just to cut down on support calls when they opened something that had nothing to do with their jobs. Those issues are gone now.

        • solomonrex

          In reply to Stooks:

          Microsoft's official policy for fixing bugs is to complain on the internet, so don't complain about that.

          I've, never, ever heard an experience as seamless as your for a Windows Service Pack (which is basically what these are) in more than 2 decades of doing this. And I've personally seen IT shops struggle with Windows 10 in uniquely terrible ways.

          Yes, they're both anedotes, but since MS collects the data, and has made this course correction, it's at least possible that your experience is the unique one.

    • Winner

      In reply to Stooks:

      My biggest issue with Windows 10 (yes even with "active hours" set up) is that it reboots when it wants to.

      What they should advertise is that with MacOS, Linux, and previous versions of Windows, you could keep a complex desktop with open files and applications across multiple days or weeks as you work on things. With Windows 10, you have to be prepared to have the system shut you down in the middle of all that work in progress, any night. That is a huge PITA.

  14. itmaster68

    I have questions.. I currently use the 09 enterprise version as major upgrades since they give you 30 months of update support. Are we now saying that the 03 versions should be the upgrade and the 09 update will appear as cumulative update? Or maybe just stick with one solutions for more than a year.. constant changes are brutal in Enterprise environment...

  15. CaedenV

    looking forward to an ltsb version of this one to test! Should fix our last few niggling issues with the current ltsb which still has a painfully slow search functionality under the start menu where it does not catch your first 2-3 letters of your search.

  16. RobertJasiek

    Presumably this is a typo: 1909 in "Windows 10 version 1903 at-a-glance".

    1903 changed many telemetry settings (other than those easily seen in the basic settings GUI) without asking. It will be interesting to see whether 1909 does NOT change any telemetry setting without asking.

  17. wunderbar

    I manage about 150 workstations in a work enviornment, which is not a lot, and I've gotten so tired of the constant need to upgrade our systems. We don't have Win10 Enterprise because of the costs, so we don't get the 30 months of updates on the "09" versions, so every single Windows install we have is only supported for 18 months. I still have about 30 machines on 1803, which goes out of support in November, which means I have until Patch Tuesday in December to get them updated. And then once I have them updated, I'll have to get started on the 50ish machines we have on 1809.

    But this is a beacon of light. We've done a pretty big evergreening program in the last few months so I have about 75 computers on 1903, and I'm going to test the upgrade process on a few of them, but I'm not going to have to worry so much about this upgrade, and an just get them onto 1909. That means I'm going to have 75 machines I just don't have to worry about a version update on until at least late 2020, and that's going to give me a breather.

    With 150 machines it's not like I spend all of my time doing version updates, but it's a lot more time than it should be, and a lot more time than it used to.

    • Belralph

      In reply to wunderbar:

      Totally agree! I have even less, probably 70 PC and 25 Surfaces. The PCs handles updates pretty well but my Surfaces will just flat out stop working (no wifi connection) or develop other issues when they have 'updates pending'. They magically work fine after the updates are applied.

      Luckily the Surfaces don't really hold any content so I try to round up all the 1803's and do a scratch install of 1903 from a usb key as its a lot faster than the update.

    • mclark2112

      In reply to wunderbar:

      I hear you brother! I have about 300 machines and we are in the same boat. Hopefully this makes our lives a little better.

  18. [email protected] 0 X

    Windows 10 has been a major disappointment for countless millions. We like to believe that Microsoft (MS) in a name that is ahead of the game, higher anarchy the pinnacle among the software and even hardware global corporations. Even with such disenchantments MS is still top of the heap in global OS and office software. What does that tell you about the IT business? I have been preached by so many that if I wish to a happy computer technology user, I should be using Apple. Believe me after using MS since Windows OS happened, I am worn out, I mean extremely disillusioned. I’m not nearly along in my assumption. Win 2000 or whatever names it had was called solid the best Windows platform that birthed a more consumer friendly XP Pro and after years of repairs and tweaking also became a favorite. Skipping over to Windows 10 a whole new development regime as well as leadership entered MS corporate and believe me it needed it. BUT the youngbloods moved into the development seats and design went into a love hate spiral. Many best features were forever lost of broken. New toys added that were downright dumb and unproductive. Office took major hits also. The awful ribbons for dummies became even worse as if that could become possible. Makes you wonder why apple never devised office products. In any case here we are 2020 and windows 10 is still “messed up” in proper day tripper language. Its full of strange quirks and still you never know what machine or device it will perform best or worse on. You never know how bad or OK each boot up will work, surprises all the time. Who needs such surprises? Windows 10 just is not there and its not stable. It has a long way to go and MS know this all too well.

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