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What’s New in Windows 10’s First Big Update (Which Arrives Today)

The first big update to Windows 10, which should be arriving today via Windows Update, fixes a lot of problems with Windows 10. Microsoft is streamlining activation, restoring colored window title bars, integrating Skype, and improving the Edge browser. But they’ve also added advertisements to the Start menu.

This release was referred to as “Threshold 2” in development — Windows 10 itself was “Threshold.” It’ll report itself as version “1511”, as it was released in the eleventh month of 2015. It’ll arrive through Windows Update – not through the Store, as Windows 8.1 did.

Editor’s Note: this article was written a few weeks ago but we’re republishing it today because the new update  has just been released.

You Can Activate Windows 10 with a Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 Product Key

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Windows 10 activation has been a confusing mess. When it was originally released, Microsoft didn’t really explain how the upgrade process worked. We did the research and explained how to clean install Windows 10, which was an unnecessarily confusing process. Later, Microsoft posted documentation to its website in an attempt to explain this stuff.

Activation now works as it should have originally. When you install Windows 10, you can enter your PC’s Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 product key and it should activate properly if that PC was eligible for the upgrade.

The “digital entitlement” process — where your PC activates automatically without entering a product key — is also better explained. Under Settings > Upgrade & security > Activation, you’ll now see “Windows 10 on this device is activated with a digital entitlement” if it activated without requiring a product key.

Colored Title Bars Are Back

Colored title bars are back, so you don’t have to perform obnoxious hacks if you don’t like those standard white title bars. Just visit Settings > Personalization > Colors and ensure the the “Show color on Start, taskbar, action center, and title bar” option is enabled. The color you choose here will be used for your title bars.

The Start Menu Includes App Advertisements

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The Start menu will now show you “occasional suggestions” recommending apps you should install when you open it. It’s just another feature that makes the Start menu noisy for Windows 10 users. But, like the app advertisements in Microsoft Edge, this feature encourages Windows 10 users to install and use more apps from the Store. Microsoft really wants that to happen.

You can disable these ads, if you like. Visit Settings > Personalization > Start and disable the “Occasionally show suggestions in Start” option.

Windows Can Natively Track Your Lost PC

Windows 10 now includes a “Find My Device” option under Settings > Update & security. This means Windows 10 finally has built-in tracking, so you can track your laptop or tablet if you lose it via GPS and location services — without using a third-party application like Prey. You can also tell Windows 10 to periodically send your device’s location to Microsoft’s servers, allowing you to view its last known location if you ever lose it.

Edge Gains Browser Sync and Tab Previews

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Microsoft Edge was updated to a new version, and it features support for new HTML5, CSS3, and ECMAScript features in its engine. The big two user-facing features are tab previews — just mouse over a tab in the titlebar — and syncing of your favorites and reading list across all your Windows 10 devices.

Microsoft Edge won’t be receiving browser extensions yet, however — those have been delayed. And, interestingly enough, Microsoft isn’t updating Edge via the Store as originally promised. Edge updates seem to be held back for major new versions of Windows 10, unlike Windows 10’s other included apps, which are updated more regularly.

Skype (and Sway) Are Integrated

Windows 10 Fall Update includes a few new apps. The big three are Skype Video, Messaging, and Phone. These three apps all use Skype’s service — for video calls, text chat, and audio calls — replacing the big Skype “Metro” app offered for Windows 8.

These simplified apps are designed to integrate Skype with Windows 10, although the standard Skype for desktop app is still available.

Windows 10 also includes Sway, an Office-style app Microsoft describes as a way to “create and share interactive reports, presentations, personal stories, and more.”

There’s Good News For Devices With Low Storage

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The feature that lets you install Windows 10 apps to another drive — for example, an SD card on a tablet or laptop with a small amount of storage — has been re-enabled. You’ll find it at Settings > System > Storage.

You can also choose where Windows 10 stores its offline maps at Settings > System > Offline maps. This helps if you have a device with a small amount of storage and want to store them on an SD card, for example.

The Start Menu and Context Menus Are More Polished

The Start menu was also improved. You can have more than 512 apps installed — the Start menu now supports up to 2048 “tiles,” or apps. If you have more than 512 shortcuts, the Start menu will be able to find and display your installed apps again.

Windows 10 apps and tiles can now have jumplists, and you can show more tiles on the Start menu. Windows 10’s odd mixture of context menu styles have been improved, and they’re more consistent — on the Start menu and on the rest of the desktop.

Windows 8 Fans Will Appreciate Some Touch Improvements

A few tablet mode features work more like they did on Windows 8. When you’re in Task View, you can now drag an application’s thumbnail to the bottom of the screen to close it — just like on Windows 8.

You can also enable the “When I resize a snapped window, simultaneously resize any adjacent snapped window” feature under Settings > System > Multitasking. If you do, you can touch (or click) and drag the handle between two side-by-side apps and it will resize both of them at once, just like resizing two Metro apps did on Windows 8.

Cortana is Better

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Cortana no longer requires a Microsoft account, so you can use Cortana even if you’re logged into your PC with a local user account. Cortana can also understand inked notes, track movies and other ticketed events, warn you when you miss a phone call, and sync your messaging and call history. Cortana can also power itself down when it knows you’re not using your computer.

Windows Will Manage Your Default Printer For You

By default, Windows will manage your default printer for you. Whenever you print to a printer, that printer will be marked as your default printer. You can disable this by going to Settings > Devices > Printers & scanners and disabling the “Let Windows manage my default printer” option.

The Windows 10 Background on the Login Screen Is Now Optional

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Windows 10 no longer forces you to edit your registry if you want to use a plain-color background instead of the Windows 10 “hero image” as a background on your sign-in screen.

Just head to Settings > Personalization > Lock screen and disable the “Show Windows background picture on the sign-in screen” option if you’d rather use a plain-color background. You still have to use hacks if you want a custom background image, however.


These are just a few of the bigger changes you’ll notice. Windows 10 Fall Update also features new icons, other visual tweaks, and under-the-hood improvements, including ones to memory management.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 11/12/15

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