In the past a new version of Windows would arrive about as often as the US elected presidents. It was exciting to see updates because of how slowly they’d roll out. However, everything changed with Windows 10, and the shift in strategy worked – there are now more than 700 million Windows 10 users as of March 2018.

Since Windows 10 hit the streets, it’s grown into Microsoft’s sole operating system (OS), constantly evolving with new features and supported form factors. The most recent of these evolutions is the October 2018 Update, which makes the operating system better than ever before.

Not only does the Windows 10 October Update bring Dark Mode to file explorer and an excellent mode of phone integration in the ‘Your Phone’ app, but we also got some much-needed screenshot improvements.

These days, Windows 10 PCs and devices are easier to use than ever before, thanks to alternative modes like Windows 10 S Mode. If Windows 10 S doesn’t go far enough in terms of security, you’re in luck – word on the street is that Microsoft is working on a Windows 10 Lean Mode, which will lock down the OS even more.

We could see more of these low power modes that have Windows 10 adapting to specific hardware now that Windows 10 on ARM is here. There have also been rumors that Windows is working on a ‘next-generation’ operating system that will be more secure and completely modular.

These Windows 10 revisions, spin-offs and updates have made Microsoft’s latest able to keep up with the times – bringing features and support that go way further than you may expect from a traditional PC.

If you’re on the market for a new OS, Microsoft Windows 10 will cost $139 (£119, AU$199) for Windows 10 Home, while Windows 10 Pro will set you back $199 (£219, AU$339). However, you should be able to find downloads of Windows 10 home for just $99 in the US. 

After first diving deeper into the major beats of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, let’s determine for you whether a copy of the OS is worth the price.

 Windows 10 October 2018 Update 

The Windows 10 October 2018 Update is finally here, and while there are definitely some October Update problems out there – which can even lead to data loss – there are still some brand new Windows 10 features that make the OS better than ever. Let’s break down the most important features and updates of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update.

Cloud Clipboard and Clipboard History
If you’re anything like us, you have to copy and paste about a million things a day. And, luckily, Microsoft is making that easier for everyone. With the October Update, you’ll have access to a Clipboard History that’ll keep track of everything you’ve copied. By hitting Win + V, you can quickly access different things you’ve copied, which can save a ton of time. 

But, that’s not the only Clipboard feature in the Windows 10 October 2018 Update. We’ve also got the Cloud Clipboard, which will sync your Clipboard across different devices. This means you can save time, even when you’re using multiple Windows 10 devices.

Your Phone App
With the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, there is way more compatibility with your phone – as long as you’re an Android user. Natively within Windows 10, you can now add photos from your phone, respond to messages and so much more. Finally, Windows 10 and Android users have access to some of the cross-platform capabilities that the Apple ecosystem boasts with macOS Mojave and iOS 12.  


Snip & Sketch
Microsoft has killed the Snipping Tool that we all know and love in the October 2018 Update, replacing it with Snip & Sketch – which is much better. Instead of having to open a program, hitting Ctrl+N and dragging a square over what you want to capture, you can just hit Win + Shift + S to immediately jump into a partial screenshot. You can use a traditional box, circle or even draw a custom shape. Your screenshot will immediately go to your clipboard, too, saving a ton of time.

It’s a huge improvement, and an example of Windows 10 adopting some of macOS’ best features.

Storage Sense
One of the biggest problem with Windows 10, or any modern desktop OS for that matter, is the sheer amount of clutter that can build up on your hard drive over time. Luckily, the Windows 10 October 2018 Update has a fix – Storage Sense.

This awesome new technology will automatically archive old, unused files in the cloud, while getting rid of local files. This is a great middle ground between archival and free disk space, as you still have access to all the files that have been uploaded to the cloud. 

Windows 10 News App
One of the headline features of macOS Mojave was the iOS News app getting ported over to the desktop, and Microsoft has followed suit with a revamped Windows 10 News app. This handy little news aggregator will collect all your news in one curated location, that you can customize however you want. The bonus? It looks amazing.

Dark Mode in File Explorer
Windows 10 has had a Dark Mode for years now, but for some reason File Explorer was stuck with its all-white color scheme. Luckily, the Windows 10 October 2018 Update is here to save our eyes. Dark Mode has finally been implemented for File Explorer, and it looks great – especially if you’ve had Dark Mode enabled this whole time like we have. 

First reviewed: July 2015

Gabe Carey and Bill Thomas have also contributed to this review

 Windows 10 April 2018 Update 

The April 2018 Update, first issued several months ago, at the time of writing, has introduced several brand new features to Windows 10 that add quite a bit of depth and utility to the experience. Let’s break down the features you’ll use the most, all of which have been rolled into the more recent October 2018 Update.

Timeline. Imagine this feature as the virtualized desktop tool of versions past, but now with the added element of time. This allows you to go back in time to saved desktop states as they were at the time. Timeline also works with connected phones and tablets to reconnect with automatically saved places in Microsoft Edge and Office 365 apps. You can even delete specific activities. All told, it’s an awfully useful feature that could potentially save your butt. 

Nearby Sharing. This is, frankly, a lot like Apple’s AirDrop feature that has been on Macs and iPhones and iPads for a long time. It’s simply a faster way of sharing files with Windows 10 devices that are, well, nearby over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. The feature is nevertheless useful – it’s just one that should have been there already.

Focus Assist. Welcome to one of our favorite and most-used Windows 10 features since the update landed. This allows you to suppress both visual and audio notifications to allow you to focus on the task at hand. You can either manually toggle the setting or schedule it to activate at specific times of the day. When you’re ready to re-engage with your feeds, you’ll get a summary of notifications. It’s Do Not Disturb mode from your phone for your PC, and we love it.

Microsoft Edge. Microsoft has brought further ebook improvements to its Edge browser, now allowing for a full-screen reading mode and holding a wider EPUB book selection. Also, there’s a new Dark Mode for Edge that should excite some users as well as – finally – the ability to mute audio within tabs. 

Windows Ink. Now, you can ink anywhere within Windows 10 that previously required you to type. Just press your stylus directly onto text fields to start writing, and you can even edit your work. This is an interesting feature, but sadly only works in Microsoft made or supported apps right now, so you can’t navigate a web browser with writing or literally pen an email. That is, unless perhaps it’s with Outlook.

Windows 10 in S Mode. This edition of Windows 10 marked the transition of Windows 10 S from a spinoff OS to a mode that can be toggled in either version of full Windows 10. This ultimately means potentially more secure machines for newbies and the option to opt out for pros.

Security. Microsoft has introduced even further improvements to Windows Defender, particularly a new account protection pillar within the app. This collects all of the tool’s functions for protecting your account details and backing them up with biometric data via Windows Hello. The tool also now provides more information regarding device security as well as the options to toggle hardware security features. We very much appreciate Microsoft’s rounding out of its security offering from malware protection down to biometric login management. 

[Editor’s Note: the following pages between here and our verdict are largely for readers that have not yet used Windows 10. Welcome, potential newbies!]

In everyday usage, Windows 10 is not all that different from Windows 7. You’ve still got the Start menu, even if it’s changed quite a bit. Key functions are all still accessed through the task bar, which has a flat, functional feel. The design language has also evolved quite a bit – window borders are smaller, for example. The Windows 10 Anniversary Update adds a new dark mode that switches the interface and all your Store apps to a darker interface, if you prefer that in a dimly lit (or even just dark) room.

The key controls that Windows 8 put on the short-lived charms bar and the familiar pop-up notifications are combined in a new Action Center pane that you open by swiping in from the right or clicking a notification icon. In Anniversary Update, this moves to the right of the clock and shows the number of unread alerts.

Key settings are at the bottom of the Action Pane: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane Mode, Tablet mode, a new Note feature for opening the built-in version of OneNote, and a link to the full Settings app. If you have a tablet, you’ll see the option to lock rotation. And, there’s also a version of the Windows Phone Quiet Hours for blocking notifications, but you’ll have to turn it on manually this time around.

In the Settings app you can select which of these Quick Actions appear in the Action Center, as well as which apps can send you notifications. When notifications appear, you can swipe them away with touch, flick them with the mouse or just click the X to close, one at a time or for the whole group. Tap or click the down arrow to see more detail. There’s a Clear All option, too.

In Anniversary Update, the number of notifications from a single app is capped – that includes Edge, which can give you alerts from websites you have open; instead of being able to send unlimited updates, each app is limited to the three most recent ones. If you connect an Android or Windows 10 Mobile phone to your PC you’ll also get notifications from your phone apps here.

Phone notifications

Right click on a notification group and you can make it high priority or turn it off (this isn’t available for all notification groups, but you can always open the notification area in Settings to tweak things there). Notifications get richer; apps can use images, add buttons or let you reply to a message directly – messages from the new Skype app have notifications in the Action Center that let you reply, as do text messages that are synced from your phone.

The task bar

Microsoft keeps tweaking the look of the task bar with each Windows 10 update. The Windows button is always there (and you can still right click on it for the power user menu from Windows 8), and you can shrink or even hide the search box. 

The notification area (which you might still know as the system tray) still expands into a pop-up window if there are more icons that will fit on the task bar, and you can still drag most – but not all – of the icons into the order you want. The icons for the touch keyboard and the new Ink Workspace are fixed next to the clock (although you can turn them off, you can’t move them). You can still hover your mouse in the far right corner for a quick look at the empty desktop (Aero Peek), or click in the far right corner to minimize all your windows, but that’s now to the right of the Action Center button.

Touch emoji

The touch keyboard has new emoji. Six of those celebrate the Windows Insider ninja cat character, many of them are redesigned to match emoji on other platforms more closely and there’s a new skin color button that lets you change the skin tone for many of the icons with faces – so you can pick from six shades including Simpsons yellow. You still have to hunt for the emoji you want though – we’d like to see the Windows Mobile keyboard show up here, which suggests emoji along with other auto-correct suggestions.

Clicking the clock opens the new clock and calendar pane with any alternate clocks you have set, and a monthly calendar. In anniversary update the latter shows your agenda for each day as you click through (taken from the Calendar app, so it’s worth connecting that to your accounts even if you don’t use the app itself).

Clock agenda

Also new in Anniversary Update is a handy extra on the volume control – plug in headphones or speakers or connect a Bluetooth audio device and you get a pop-up menu for choosing which audio output you want. Annoyingly, Microsoft is still blocking Store apps from showing up in the Volume Mixer, so you can choose different volumes for IE and Windows Media Player, but not for Groove and Edge.

Swap audio

The Start menu

Windows 10 combines the live tiles of Windows 8 and the familiar Start menu into a new, re-sizable menu. You can pin tiles for your favorite apps to see at-a-glance information like upcoming meetings, weather forecasts, news stories, sports results and messages from Twitter, Facebook and email. Tiles animate to show new content and you can group and name them the way you could in Windows 8. How useful you find them depends on which apps you like enough to pin.

Start hamburger

The rest of the Start menu is a scrolling list of apps and controls. Anniversary Update divides this into two: on the left is the increasingly ubiquitous hamburger menu that you can expand for a reminder that the tiny icons are (in turn) a fly-out menu letting you change your account settings, lock the PC or sign out, along with icons for File Explorer and Settings and another menu with the power options. Annoyingly, expanding this section hides the rest of the apps list, so you can’t leave it expanded.

Right click on the Explorer icon for a jump-list with pinned and frequently used folders. If you dig into Settings, you can add extra folders, but only from a standard list.

Add to start

The scrolling lists of apps have been slightly rearranged in Anniversary Update; at the top is a Recently Added section that appears when you have new apps. Below that is a list of Most Used apps, followed by a Suggested apps section that you can turn off (but that also hides the tips on the mobile-style Lock screen). All of that pushes down the alphabetical list of what you have installed so you may not see many of them without scrolling.

You can search from the Start menu by starting to type – that gives you the same result as tapping in Cortana’s search box next to it.


Microsoft’s virtual assistant, Cortana, still powers the search box on the Windows 10 task bar – where you can type or speak – and in Anniversary Update you can no longer turn her off (though you can turn off personalization if you don’t want her to remember things for you). But Cortana goes a long way beyond search, so you probably want to keep her around.

Searching with Cortana is fast and accurate. It finds your files, it finds your folders. It has become quite brilliant. Say, for example, that you type LinkedIn into the menu: you’ll be given the option to open the site in your default browser (even if it’s Chrome), or you can search for LinkedIn in Bing.


Depending on what you search for, different types of results are prioritized – so the first result might be a setting, an app, a document or a web search. You can also pick the category to search: apps, documents (including OneNote and files on OneDrive that you’re not syncing), folders, music, videos, photos or settings.

Type in a sum or a currency conversion and Cortana does the maths for you. Type in the name of a city or a celebrity and you get a nib of relevant information – that all comes from the answers you get for those kind of searches on Bing, but if there’s a match in your documents for the same term you’ll see that first. The only annoyance is that you can’t pin the search results open – if you need to open a couple of documents from the results, you have to run the search twice.

Type in commands like ‘remind me’ to set quick alarms and appointments. And in Anniversary Update, you can use that to remember useful information like your passport number, or anything else you want to jot down. Ask Cortana ‘what is my passport number’ later and you’ll see it pop up. Type ‘send a text’ to write an SMS on your PC and send it from a phone you have the Cortana app installed on. You can also ask her to sing you a song or tell you a joke (they’re usually terrible jokes).

Cortana uses the news interests you set up on Bing as well as your search history to show you news stories and refine search suggestions – these, your reminders, accounts Cortana can get information from (ranging from Xbox Live and Office 365 to Uber and LinkedIn) and other information about your interests are stored in the Cortana Notebook.

Cortana notebook

You can customize settings for different areas of interest, from Academic Topics to Getting Around, Music, Food and Drink or Weather, or turn off topics you don’t want. Reminders and interests sync across every device you use Cortana with, so you can set a reminder on your phone and see it on your PC, or vice versa.

You can also change Cortana’s settings to turn voice control on or off, choose what Cortana can index to learn more about you, and clear the history that makes searches more accurate.

If you just tap or click without typing anything, Cortana shows you upcoming appointments, Windows tips, news, weather, how many steps you’ve walked (courtesy of Microsoft Health), along with any activities from your email that look like trips and flights Cortana could track for you. You also get suggestions for other things Cortana can do like keeping a note of when you usually have lunch and warning you if a meeting would clash with that.

With Anniversary Update, Cortana also makes an appearance on the Lock screen, showing upcoming appointments. Initially, that might sound like more of a mobile or tablet feature, giving you a quick overview of your day when you first pick up your device. But if you often leave your PC on and let it lock, seeing a quick glimpse of your calendar from across the room is very handy, and you can use Cortana on the Lock screen to ask questions, set reminders and control the music you’re playing.

Annoyingly though, if you turn off Suggested apps in the Start screen, where they take up a lot of space, you also lose Cortana suggestions on the Lock screen, and you can’t use the frequently updated Windows Spotlight images – you have to pick one or more images on your PC to be your Lock screen background.

We’d like to see Cortana do a lot more – there are apps like a network speed test built into Bing that it would be great to see inside Cortana – but this is evolving to be a really useful tool that gives you a quick way to do things you’d normally open an app for. Get into the habit and you’ll find you keep turning to Cortana – Microsoft’s digital assistant could evolve into a whole new way to use your computer. And if you don’t like any of that, it’s still a great way to search your PC.

File Explorer

File Explorer enhancements

File Explorer has been given a little bit of a makeover, and in Anniversary Update it gets a new icon. You now have a Quick Access area to which you can pin and unpin any folders you want to regularly access. In the ‘home’ screen of File Explorer you can also see Frequent Folders and Recent Files. It’s much more helpful now.

You can pin things permanently to Quick Access by right clicking them and selecting Add to Quick access.

There are a lot more file operations that you can access on the ribbon at the top of the window without the need to use the right click menu.

The old Windows 8 Share logo is now used for file sharing from all apps. You can choose to email a file straight from the File Explorer window or add it to a ZIP file.

OneDrive not integrated

Microsoft OneDrive gets a section in File Explorer, but that’s only a shortcut to files and folders you’ve chosen to sync. You no longer see placeholders for files that are only in the cloud – a feature that confused some users but also made your whole cloud drive available at any time. To see your files in the cloud now, you have to go online and use the OneDrive Store app.


In Windows 8, this was annoyingly basic and many options were still in the Control Panel. Control Panel is still there in Windows 10, and if you’re a technical user, you will come across it from time to time. But the majority of users will never see it.


Settings is now a far more comprehensive solution and is much more logically arranged. There are still a few things you’ll need the Control Panel for – to reset a network adapter, for example – but they’re few and far between.

You’ve been able to search the Control Panel from the Start menu since Windows Vista – with the Settings app in Windows 10, what you get from that search is a clean, clear interface where you can easily see what it is you need to change.

Microsoft is still keen to get developers to build new mobile-style apps for Windows 10 that are more secure, don’t get to do things that affect performance and battery life, can be uninstalled with a single click, and can potentially run on multiple devices. The hope is that developers will write their apps for the Universal Windows Platform and they’ll work across PC, Windows 10 on smartphones, and Xbox, too – essentially on every screen size.

There are tools to help developers convert Android and iOS apps, and even desktop PC apps. Businesses can deploy apps from their own versions of the Windows Store. This is all handled from the Business Store Portal, which will manage software licences, centralized payment info and more.

Universal Apps and the new Windows Store

Universal apps are the latest version of what Microsoft was calling Metro, Modern and Store apps in Windows 8. Apps written for Windows 8 will still run, but with the Charms bar and the touch gestures for opening app controls gone, Microsoft has crammed in a rather awkward menu bar of app commands for any apps that haven’t been rewritten for Windows 10. Apps that have been rewritten tend to use the hamburger menu, which gets annoying on a desktop PC where there is plenty of space on-screen for navigation but the hamburger menu keeps hiding the options.

Windows 10 is slowly getting more apps: there’s a new Amazon app, there’s a good VLC app and if you buy a wireless security camera like the Ring you’ll find an app here for it. But the Store is still smaller than the iOS and Android equivalents.

Windows Store

In Anniversary Update, the Store gets yet another redesign, full of top picks, featured apps, lists and collections. It feels like there are almost as many ways to look through the apps as there are interesting apps to look for.

Photos OneDrive

Built-in Windows 10 apps

However, the operating system’s built-in apps are still improving, and Anniversary Update adds some extras. The new Photos app shows you all the pictures on your PC and in your OneDrive account, with some handy editing tools. It’s fast, responsive and easy to use.

Photos edit

The Mail and Calendar apps don’t match Outlook – either the desktop or the smartphone versions – but they’re perfectly functional and competent apps.


With social media integration gone (Twitter and Facebook wouldn’t play along and other social networks don’t seem interested), the People app is reduced to a basic address book. You can’t even select multiple contacts to delete or link them together (you can only link contacts one by one).


Sport and News stay useful, even if they still feel a little superfluous. They start quickly but you may use them most as live tiles in the Start menu. While diehard sports fans may not get enough information from the Sport app, News is a decent aggregator of stories (the page covering local news sources is especially good). The Money app is handy if you track shares or want to follow the market. You can still get the Reader app from the Store, but it’s no longer installed by default.

Maps continues to improve. In Anniversary Update you can see multiple maps and locations on different tabs, view traffic, accidents and traffic cameras – and even draw routes on a map with your finger or a pen, then measure the distance or get directions (which is far easier than right clicking and dragging pushpins to get the route you want).


The Groove Music app (named for the music subscription service you might once have known as Xbox Music) certainly pushes the Groove Music Pass subscription in the new Explore section – but it also works well with music on your PC or OneDrive (it can be slow to index music on a network drive).

Groove has come on leaps and bounds since earlier versions of the app. It finally has a thumbnail media player control that pops up when you hover over the Groove icon in the task bar when there’s music playing. In Anniversary Update we particularly like the Your Groove playlists that automatically create various playlists of your tracks – long tracks, tracks that are getting played a lot on the Groove service, tracks you haven’t listened to in a while, tracks to help you cope with Monday mornings… they change frequently but you can save them for later.

Groove 2

You can’t create your own smart playlists though – something even the Zune Player had and Windows Media Player can do (let alone iTunes) – and if you want to use a favorite artist as the seed for a playlist that streams as a ‘radio channel’ you need a Groove Pass. Even so, Groove is definitely worth trying for playing your music, if not for managing it.

Another app that’s dramatically improved is Skype Preview, which is automatically installed in Anniversary Update and replaces the separate Skype Video and Messaging apps (but you can keep the desktop Skype app too).

Skype Preview

If you tried an earlier version of this, don’t despair; it now has an excellent set of features and is fast and responsive. It also has the dialler that was missing in early versions, along with video calls and chat (both of which can be one to one or group conversations).

It’s very well integrated into Windows 10 – you can reply to chat messages straight from the Action Center notification and you don’t need to have the app running to receive calls. You can also try out Skype bots; the Foursquare and IFTTT bots look interesting but these are all still fairly basic.

Windows 7 was such a great version of Windows. Aside from the fact that it trumped Vista with its resource efficiency, general robustness and modest system requirements, it also brought us something else: Aero Snap.

Snap and virtual desktops

The ability to snap windows to the sides of your screen might seem a minor thing, but it’s something many Windows users do every day. Apple has obviously realised that Mac users employ third-party extensions to get the same effect; the company introduced window snapping in OS X El Capitan.

Aero Snap

Windows 8 added the option to resize both snapped windows at once, but coupled it with modern apps that had to stay in a separate window entirely. Windows 10 put modern apps on the desktop along with everything else but originally dropped the linked resizing. That’s now back in the finger-friendly Tablet Mode that only shows two windows, and on the desktop as well, so if you want to snap windows to be a third and two-thirds of the screen, it’s easy.

Tablet Mode is Microsoft’s nod to Windows 8, and to people who buy the many tablet PCs it believes will be sold over the coming years. As does Intel – it’s putting a lot of weight behind 2-in-1 PCs with detachable keyboards.

Originally named Continuum (although that moniker now covers a range of features including the way Windows Mobile phones can use a big screen and keyboard), Windows 10’s Tablet Mode is clever because it’s automatic. Detach the keyboard and the desktop prepares itself for touch – the Start menu becomes the Start screen and apps appear full-screen. That was one thing Windows 8 got right; a screen of apps is a better launcher for touch-enabled devices when you don’t have a keyboard.

The Taskbar has also changed to be more touch-friendly – the icons are more spaced out, while the pinned app icons don’t appear at all, you just cycle through them in Task View. You can choose what icons to show in the system tray. The Start icon is now joined by a back button, so you can cycle back to previous apps – even if you were in the Start menu before.

If you want, you can toggle between Tablet Mode and non-Tablet yourself via the settings at the bottom of the Action Center. This could be useful if, say, you have a touchscreen laptop and want to put it into Tablet Mode for a presentation.

Aero Snap four-way

Windows 10 also added four-way Aero Snap, so you can have four applications in each corner of your desktop. Now, if you’ve got a laptop screen this is about the most inefficient way you could use your desktop, but if you’ve got a whopping 27+-inch display it might be just the ticket.

The alternative is the virtual desktops in Windows 10, where you can spread apps out over multiple, separate desktops and swap between them.

Task View

Alt-Tab has been the way to see what apps are running for decades, but few users are familiar with it. Over the years Microsoft has added other ways to switch between open apps, like the 3D Windows Flip view in Windows Vista and the left swipe in Windows 8.1.

Windows 10 uses both Alt-Tab and Windows-Tab for a thumbnail view of running apps, but there’s also a new full-screen Task View, and a permanent icon on the taskbar for it, next to the Cortana search bar (although you can turn it off).

It takes you to an app overview where you can use the mouse to select the app you want. It’s pretty clever, and in any mode of Windows 10 there is always an icon for it on the taskbar.

But there is something else Task View can do – multiple desktops. Go into Task View and there’s an icon in the bottom-right that enables you to add another desktop, so you can have one screen for your email, perhaps, and another for your Photoshop work. This is a nice new feature for Windows, although it has been on the Mac for years – since OS X 10.5 Leopard introduced ‘Spaces’ in 2009.

Apps can be open in more than one desktop, but you can’t switch into windows that are on another desktop; things are kept nicely separate. Alt-Tab only works within the desktop you’re in. The only way to switch desktops is to go into Task View and select another open desktop. From here you can also close desktops using the X icon that appears when you hover over each desktop icon.

In Anniversary Update, you can have an app you need all the time show up on all your desktops – either the whole app, or just a window from it (like the chat you’re in, for example).

Other enhancements

More and more PCs that come with Windows 10 include biometric security hardware that enables you to use a fingerprint, face scan or iris scan to log into Windows and apps, websites and networks. This is called Windows Hello (the secure storage of your credentials used to have a different name, Windows Passport, but in Anniversary Update, it all has the same name).

Windows also asks you to set up a PIN to use instead of your password. This makes it easier to log into Windows when you don’t have a keyboard – it’s all part of making Windows a more phone-like experience – but it also means your credentials are stored more securely in the TPM (PINs go into this secure hardware, passwords don’t).

Windows PIN

Surprisingly, it turns out Windows Hello wasn’t already using the same hardware-protected secure area that the business security features like Credential Guard use in the release version of Windows 10 – but with Anniversary Update, your biometric data is stored in there too.

In Anniversary Update, Hello supports the latest standard, FIDO 2. This is what lets you use Hello biometrics instead of passwords in apps and in the Edge browser, but it only works for apps and sites that explicitly support it – and so far that’s just the Store app, where you can buy apps with your face quite happily.

If you don’t have biometrics on your PC, Anniversary Update will let you use a phone with a fingerprint or iris scanner, or a USB device, or even a wearable like a smartwatch to sign in securely, but there aren’t many devices that support FIDO 2 yet to make that work.

Windows Defender will now automatically run quick scans even if you have other antivirus software, which is good, but it comes with an annoying new notification in the Action Center to tell you that it has run and not found any problems. You can’t turn that off without turning off a lot of other notifications as well.

Windows Defender notify

The useful but controversial Wi-Fi Sense feature for sharing wireless connections with your friends is gone – not because of the controversy (it doesn’t leak your Wi-Fi passwords) but because it wasn’t used enough to be worth continuing.

The long-promised enterprise data protection to let admins control what apps and documents you can use, and where you can save files, has finally showed up as Windows Information Protection – and the businesses who want it will already have the management tools like Intune that it needs. Similarly, Anniversary Update includes the agent for the new Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection, but businesses will need to subscribe to the service to use it.

We still like the updated Snipping Tool which lets you set a delay so that you can screenshot those pesky menus you couldn’t keep open before.

Power users appreciated the way Windows 10 updated the Command Prompt window – small beer, you might say, but you’re now able to properly select text, and copy and paste in and out. Ctrl-V really will work. Text also re-flows as the window is resized.

And in Anniversary Update, the Windows Subsystem for Linux means you can run real Linux applications, in particular the Bash shell; handy for developers and web admins. If you use Hyper-V to run virtual machines, you can now run Hyper-V inside a virtual machine, so you can run another virtual machine inside that one (and so on, until you run out of resources).

High DPI PCs with multiple screens get some improvements in Anniversary Update, with the promise of a more comprehensive overhaul in future. Especially if you dock a high DPI device like a Surface Pro 4, you can find some applications displaying at the wrong resolution on different screens.

Windows can’t fix all the problems for older apps, and we still found that some apps display icons that are too tiny to be easy to use, but there are definite improvements in Anniversary Update – applications that use WPF will scale properly and updates are coming for PowerPoint and Skype for Business (that only fix the problem on Anniversary Update).

Notepad getting high DPI support is nice for Notepad users, but more importantly it means the improvements are in this release ready for other app developers to use.

Unlike Windows 8, it’s been easy to follow along with the Windows 10 journey and see how the OS has developed, from an early work in progress, through the release version and the major updates. With the latest April 2018 Update, Windows 10 sees more new features at once than ever and improvements to several existing tools. There are few situations in which we wouldn’t unequivocally recommend Windows 10 – but remember that you now have to pay to upgrade.

Another key idea behind Windows 10 is also sound: that it should be available on as many devices as possible. That’s why there’s Xbox One and HoloLens and the Internet of Things version that works on a Raspberry Pi come in; Microsoft is embracing the way PCs have moved away from the traditional idea of what a PC is.

We liked

Windows 10 performance continues to impress, as does its reliability, and Microsoft has carried on evolving the interface, which now satisfies both the Windows 7 faithful and the few Windows 8.1 fans.

Core features like search (through Cortana) are absolutely rock solid. The Settings app (a disappointment even in Windows 8.1) remains a worthy replacement for the Control Panel. It’s testament to the newfound strength of Settings that, while the Control Panel is still present, you’ll hardly ever go to it.

Under the covers, security is improved even more now with April 2018 Update, and with Windows Hello and biometric support, we’re on the verge of ditching passwords (if more websites and apps join in). Transparency has also seen a huge boost here, with a brand new out-of-the-box experience.

The Windows Ink and gaming improvements this year are perhaps the most important to those respective ends of Windows 10 yet, and Paint 3D brings a whole new kind of creation tool to the masses.

We disliked

Even in introducing some new features, Microsoft has done so in an incomplete way, as mentioned in our impressions of Edge. We’re still not sold on switching over. The new tab management experience is welcome, but feels a little incomplete. Meanwhile, the e-reader upgrades are massive, but feel as if they’re serving a niche that’s long been filled.

Also, while we appreciate the improvements to transparency, it still doesn’t change the fact that Microsoft is collecting lots of data about your use of its software.

Finally, we’re bummed that some key upgrades, like the major Cortana improvements, aren’t functional in time for this review.

Final verdict

Ultimately, there’s something for everyone in Windows 10 October 2018 Update. This update solidifies the success Windows 10 has enjoyed over the last year. Installation is pain-free, performance is usually great, security is improved (with more options for businesses) – and the most compelling thing about Windows 10 is that it just works. 

That said, it still has its share of irritations, and there are some people who are so comfortable on Windows 7 (or even 8.1) that they won’t want to upgrade until those OS’s get long in the tooth (or they replace the older peripherals for which hardware makers haven’t put out device drivers).

Microsoft remains committed to the idea of universal apps, which now run on Xbox One (and HoloLens, for the few people who have access to it) as well as on Windows Mobile, and Store apps in general.

The quality of these remains mixed: Mail and Calendar are competent but a long way behind the versions on Windows Mobile with Outlook, and the Skype is at last fully usable. (Groove has been completely axed, sadly.) Edge has also graduated into a viable state. And, not only have desktop apps not been pushed aside, Microsoft is working on making them look better on high DPI, multi-screen systems.

What’s important here is that the steep learning there was with Windows 8 or 8.1 is long gone. Even if people don’t get to grips with features like taskbar search or Task View, it won’t actually take anything away from their core experience of Windows 10. Pretty much everything that most people will need is in the Start menu or Action Center.

Plus, the fact that there will be plenty more updates after the Windows 10 October 2018 makes us confident that Windows 10 will just keep growing.

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