After a little more than two years, Microsoft has finally settled into a rhythm with its new, fast-paced development for Windows 10.
What Microsoft’s marketers are calling the Fall Creators Update (officially version 1709) began arriving on desktop PCs on 10/18 via Windows Update and will soon be available for download at all the usual places.
This is the fourth feature update to Windows 10 in a little over two years. And that pace will continue, with new feature updates (essentially full upgrades) due on a predictable twice-yearly cadence going forward. As with previous feature updates, there are no last-minute surprises in this update. It’s been developed in the open, with dozens of preview releases to members of the Windows Insider Program.
Every Wi-Fi connection now has a prominent option to configure whether it’s part of a public or private network, as shown here. In previous versions, that option was difficult to locate.
Similarly, the venerable Task Manager has several small improvements, including options that allow you to track GPU activity on a per-application basis and more convenient grouping of related processes. This release also incorporates changes designed to improve the experience of running Windows on high-DPI displays; built-in utilities like Registry Editor and Snipping Tool are no longer blurry when moving between multiple displays running at different scaling factors.
The Power Throttling feature makes its debut in this release, offering a simple slider-based option that lets you tune Windows 10 for better battery life or better performance. The built-in Windows 10 apps also include major improvements in this release.
Windows Update has also evolved significantly in the two years since Windows 10’s initial release. When new updates are available, you’ll see an interactive toast notification that doesn’t interrupt whatever you’re doing now. In addition, the Windows Update display now offers detailed information about the status of individual updates, so you don’t have to wonder whether anything’s happening in the background.
The long list of improvements to the security architecture of Windows 10 starts with a momentous change. The horribly insecure SMBv1 protocol is being removed from clean installs of Windows 10. (The SMBv1 components will continue to be included on upgrades where they are already installed.)
The Windows Defender Security Center, which was introduced in an earlier feature update, has two major additions. The first is Exploit Protection, which offers many of the mitigations that were previously part of the separate Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET).
The Fall Creators Update also debuts an anti-ransomware feature called Controlled Folder Access, which is also available through the Windows Defender Security Center, under Virus & Threat Protection Settings. When this feature is enabled, only approved apps can access Windows system files and data folders. (You can customize the list of data folders and whitelist specific apps, using the instructions in this online documentation: Protect important folders with Controlled folder access.)
Finally, there’s Windows Defender Application Guard, a security feature that uses Hyper-V virtualization to create sandboxed browser sessions using Microsoft Edge. For now, this feature is available only in Windows 10 Enterprise edition.
There are many other useful new features and updates as well, so this looks like a must-do free upgrade!