What’s New in Windows 10’s Creators Update

The Windows 10 Creators Update—codenamed Redstone 2—will begin rolling out on April 11, 2017. Like other updates to Windows 10, it’s free, and includes a host of new features. It will be rolled out slowly like the Anniversary Update, so it will be a few months before Microsoft offers it to everyone.

RELATED: How to Get Windows 10’s April 2018 Update Now

You can, however, upgrade to the Creators Update right now using an official tool from Microsoft. Not sure if you should rush to update? Here’s all the stuff you’ll find within.

This post was originally written after Microsoft’s big October 26, 2016 event, but has since been updated with features from the final release.

3D for Everyone

RELATED: Should You Use the Windows 10 Insider Previews?

Microsoft is making a big bet on 3D creativity with the Creators update. This is the company that bought Minecraft, after all.

A new Paint 3D application included with Windows 10 allows you to work with and create 3D models. Windows also comes with a “View 3D Preview” app that allows everyone to open 3D models, view, rotate around, and zoom in. Currently, it supports .fbx and .3mf file types.

In addition, the Microsoft Edge browser now supports 3D content. It can be used to upload and download 3D models—including models exported from Minecraft and SketchUp—from Remix3D, a community website created by Microsoft. Windows can then print any type of 3D model to a 3D printer, which means Minecraft players can bring their creations into the real world.

Microsoft PowerPoint gains 3D models and cinematic 3D animations for transitions like Morph, so those 3D models can be incorporated into presentations. Microsoft will be adding more 3D features to Office applications like Word and Excel over the next year.

Mainstream Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Headsets

RELATED: Oculus Rift vs. HTC Vive: Which VR Headset Is Right for You?

Mixed Reality—which includes Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and Holographic computing, according to Microsoft—is another big focus. “Windows Mixed Reality” is the new name for “Windows Holographic”, and it works hand in hand with the 3D support. Microsoft’s own HoloLens headset, for example, is a mixed reality headset. It allows you to see through the headset to the real world, and digital images are superimposed on that image of the real world.

With HoloLens, you’ll be able to download a 3D model from Edge or create one in Paint 3D and virtually place it somewhere in the real world.

You’ll be able to create a custom space in virtual reality and decorate it with your own furniture and apps, like you would another room. Apps can be placed on shelves. There’s also a new application called HoloTour, which lets you explore locations around the world using a virtual reality or augmented reality headset.

Microsoft Edge is gaining support for WebVR, a standard that will allow websites to deliver virtual reality experiences, just like desktop applications. WebVR was originally developed by Mozilla and Google is also working on WebVR support for Chrome.

Most excitingly, though: Microsoft is partnering with Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, and Lenovo to create mainstream mixed reality headsets. They’ll work without any additional tracking hardware that needs to be placed in the room. “Zero need for a separate room. Zero need for a complicated setup”, as Microsoft put it. These headsets will include cameras so they’re capable of mixed reality—think Pokémon Go, but in a headset. Best of all, headset prices will start at $299, so they’ll be much more affordable than Microsoft’s own $3000 HoloLens hardware. They’re also much cheaper than the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive virtual reality headsets, which start at $599 and $799, respectively.

These headsets won’t need a very expensive PC, either. The minimum specifications are much lower than what an Oculus Rift or HTC Vive requires. These headsets will even work with Intel integrated graphics, as long as you have the Kaby Lake series of Intel graphics or newer. Here are the minimum specs Microsoft announced:

Microsoft plans on bringing these “Mixed Reality” headsets to Project Scorpio and other Xbox One consoles in 2018.

Windows 10 now includes a new “Mixed Reality” icon on the main page of the Settings app to manage settings for virtual reality and augmented reality devices, too. There’s also a new “Mixed Reality Portal” application included with Windows 10. This application provides a demo of Windows 10’s Mixed Reality features.

Night Light

Windows 10 now has a “Night Light” feature, which was known as “Blue Light” in earlier builds of the Creators Update.

Night Light works similarly to the venerable f.lux utility. It makes color temperatures warmer at night so it’s easier on your eyes and easier to get to sleep right after using the computer, in theory. Many operating systems have been adding this feature lately, like iOS with Night Shift.

Visit Settings > System > Display > Night Light Settings to enable Night Light mode and configure your desired color temperature. You can set Windows to automatically enable Night Light mode at sunset and enable it at sunrise, too.

Game Mode and Game Settings

Windows 10 is gaining a “Game Mode” that claims to improve the performance of games using both Microsoft’s new UWP (Windows Store) application platform and older Win32 (desktop) application platform.

To enable Game Mode, open the Game Bar by pressing Windows+G while in a game. Click the settings icon on the Game Bar and check the “Use Game Mode for this game” option.

Game Mode functions by prioritizing the game you’re playing, giving it more system resources and giving other applications on your PC less resources. Your game will be given more CPU cores and background processes will be given fewer, according to MSPowerUser. This will work better for new UWP (Windows Store) applications, but Microsoft says it will still do something for traditional Win32 (Windows desktop) games. We’re skeptical of Game Mode and its benefits when it comes to traditional Windows desktop games, but we’ll surely see some interesting benchmarks after the Creators Update is officially released.

These features are now much more accessible, too. Gaming related settings are now available at Settings > Gaming. You no longer have to open the Xbox app and sign in with a Microsoft account to disable the Game Bar or Game DVR features.

Game Broadcasting for Windows 10 and Xbox One

RELATED: How to Record PC Gameplay With Windows 10’s Game DVR and Game Bar

Microsoft’s Game DVR feature, which already can record a video of your gameplay in the background and upload it to social services, is gaining a “Broadcast” button. It’ll be able to stream your gameplay to Xbox Live in real time, and your Xbox Live friends will receive a notification that you’re broadcasting. This will be built into both the Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. It’s powered by Beam, a service Microsoft purchased in August.

However, this feature can only stream to Microsoft’s own Xbox Live service. It’ll likely be popular on the Xbox One, but alternatives like Twitch and YouTube are very popular on PC, and Microsoft’s built-in feature doesn’t support them.

Other PC Gaming Improvements

Augmented reality and broadcasting aren’t the only gaming improvements arriving with Windows 10.

Microsoft is partnering with Dolby to bring Doly Atmos positional sound to PC and Xbox One. You don’t even need hardware that supports Atmos—Windows 10 will allow you to create virtual Dolby Atmos positional sound with “virtually any pair of headphones”. Microsoft’s blog post uses Overwatch as an example, promising a tactical advantage when you can more easily hear where other characters are in the game world.

Games you download from the Windows Store can now contain bundled display drivers, ensuring people who choose to buy games from the Store will always have the minimum required driver for the game to perform well.

The Game Bar supports many more full-screen games, including Fallout 4, Dark Souls 3, Overwatch, Starcraft II, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Terraria.

The Xbox app is gaining support for custom tournaments. Create a tournament and your friends can join it, playing on either Xbox One or Windows 10 PC if an Xbox Live-enabled game runs on both platforms.

Other features include Windows Display Driver Model 2.2 (WDDM 2.2), which is reportedly tailored for virtual, augmented, and mixed reality scenarios. Windows 10’s Creators Update will also feature high dynamic range (HDR) and wide color gamut support for PC games and media.

Many of these details were announced at a PC Gaming WinHEC session.

Microsoft Edge Improvements

Edge now offers a tab preview bar that shows you a visual preview of every tab you have open. Click the little down arrow icon to the right of your tabs to view it. It looks a little similar to the tab bar in Windows 8’s “Modern” version of Internet Explorer. Another new tab management feature allows you to “set tabs aside” for later and view tabs you’ve set aside and even “Share” them to other apps on your PC. Two new buttons for this are located at the left side of the tab bar.

Microsoft Edge has always been a multi-process web browser, but Microsoft redesigned its architecture. Long story short, Edge should be more stable, more responsive to input, and more resistant to slow or frozen web pages.

Edge will now prefer HTML5 content when available as well, blocking Flash by default. You’ll be able to choose whether you want Flash to load or not. Avoiding Flash will improve battery life, security, and browsing performance. This decision follows similar announcements from Google, Mozilla, and Apple.

Microsoft also added web payments support that uses the “Payment Request API”, which is designed to make online payments faster by more easily providing the credit card details and shipping address stored in Microsoft Wallet. You won’t be able to use this feature until websites add support for it.

Edge has received a lot of little improvements, too. Edge’s taskbar icon now offers jump list support, so you can right-click or swipe up on the Edge icon on the taskbar to get quick access to tasks like opening a new browser window. Edge can now read EPUB format eBooks right in the web browser, too. Click an EPUB file and it will be displayed in Edge, just like how PDF files are currently displayed in Edge today. Edge now allows you to export your favorites to an HTML file and allows you to import data from other browsers on your PC.

The file download experience has improved to match what was possible in Internet Explorer. When downloading a file, you can choose to “Run” a download without first saving it or use a “Save As” button to choose exactly where you want to download the file.

Internally, Edge now supports Brotli compression. It promises better compression ratios and decompression speeds, which means websites that take advantage of this feature can load faster. This compression scheme is also supported in Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox, so it’s a cross-browser solution that should make the web better for everyone.

New Cortana Features

Microsoft’s virtual assistant knows some new voice commands in the Creator’s Update. Cortana can now turn off your computer, restart your PC, lock your screen, or put it to sleep with just a voice command. It can also raise or lower your system volume. Cortana now supports voice playback controls for the iHeartRadio and TuneIn apps. You can also ask Cortana what song is playing, and it will tell you.

App developers can add Cortana commands to their applications—for example, you can use Cortana voice commands to play movies in Netflix. If you type an installed app’s name into Cortana—like “Netflix”—you’ll see a list of suggested commands. Here’s a list of apps that offer Cortana voice commands.

Cortana is gaining a new full-screen mode, too. When your PC is unlocked and idle, you can say “Hey Cortana” and Cortana will appear in a full-screen interface, allowing you to read the screen from across the room. To try this, enable “Hey Cortana”, don’t use your PC’s mouse or keyboard for at least ten seconds, and then say “Hey Cortana”.

Reminders in Cortana have gotten more flexible. You can set reminders to recur “every month” or “every year” if you want a reminder about  something that happens once a month or once a year.

Cortana is now integrated into the “Windows Out-Of-Box-Experience”, the setup wizard you see when setting up a new PC. You can go through this experience just by talking to Cortana.

Microsoft is also working on a new Cortana feature that will prompt you to synchronize apps between your devices. When you switch computers, Cortana will display links in the Action Center to direct you to websites you had open in Microsoft Edge and cloud-based documents you had open. For example, Cortana would prompt you to open a PowerPoint presentation you have saved in SharePoint or OneDrive if you switch PCs while working on a presentation. It’s similar in concept to Apple’s Continuity feature, which works between iOS and macOS.

Developers at Microsoft are quietly working on new Cortana features that haven’t been officially announced, too. Cortana appears to be gaining a new “Universal Clipboard” that allows you to synchronize your clipboard between devices running Cortana. It appears you’ll be able to use the “Copy To” voice command to copy content from one device’s clipboard to another.

Notification sync also looks set for a big improvement. Not only will Cortana be able to show notifications from your phone on your desktop PC, but it will be able to go the other way. Cortana will be able to push notifications from your desktop PC to a smartphone with the Cortana app, so you can get your PC’s notifications on your phone.

There’s also a feature that appears to allow unlocking your PC with a phone. Perhaps you’ll be able to use a phone running the Cortana app along with Windows Hello to unlock your PC.

More Control Over Windows Update (Mostly)

Windows Update will see some huge changes, with Microsoft adding options many Windows users have been begging for.

You can now pause updates for up to 35 days. You’ll find this option at Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options > Pause Updates. This setting is only available on the Professional, Enterprise, and Education editions of Windows 10—not Windows 10 Home.

If you do have the Home edition of Windows 10, there are a few new changes that can prevent Windows 10 from rebooting to install updates when you’re using it. When there’s a new update, you’ll see a prompt and you can choose to “pick a time” when the update is convenient to install or “snooze” it for up to three days. You don’t have to restart and install the update immediately if you’re using your PC.

You can now set up to 18 hours of the day as your Active Hours, so Windows 10 won’t restart for updates during those hours. Previously, the maximum was 12 hours. Windows Update also attempts to detect whether the PC display is being used for something—projecting, for example—before automatically restarting the PC.

Unfortunately, the ability to set a connection as “metered” to avoid receiving all automatic updates is going away. You can still set a connection as metered, and Windows Update will still respect that setting—but only partially. Now, Windows 10 will automatically download “updates required to keep Windows running smoothly” on metered connections. Microsoft told Winsupersite that they “don’t plan to send large updates over metered connections, but could use this for critical fixes if needed in the future.” It’s unclear how frequently Microsoft will push updates over metered connections, and how much data they’ll consumer.

A new Unified Update Platform makes Windows Update faster when searching for available updates. Microsoft expects the size of a new major update like the Anniversary Update or Creators Update should be about 35% smaller, leading to faster downloads and reduced data usage.

And finally, you can now set wired Ethernet connections as metered from Settings > Network & Internet > Ethernet. This prevents Windows from automatically downloading all updates and using other unnecessary data on a connection with limited data. This previously required a registry hack. However, it may be less useful with Microsoft forcing some updates over metered connections.

Changes to Privacy Settings

Microsoft is finally trying to allay some of the concerns about Windows 10’s privacy settings. First, there’s a new Your Privacy page for your Microsoft account. This page allows you to see the information stored about you and delete it, if you like. It provides more information about what information Microsoft is collecting and why.

The Windows 10 setup experience you see when setting up a new PC is changing, too. The “Express” setup option that encourages you to be hands-off and select the default settings is gone. Instead, there’s now a “Choose privacy settings for your device” page that provides information and encourages you to make choices.

Windows 10’s telemetry levels are also being simplified. You can now choose between either “Basic” or “Full” diagnostic and usage data, with the “enhanced” level in the middle being removed. The amount of data Windows 10 shares with Microsoft when you select the “Basic” level is also being reduced.

Geeky Stuff

Only the geekiest of Windows users will notice these new features:

Other New Features

The Creators update includes a variety of other important features:

As usual, there are many other smaller changes and bug fixes. We’ll keep watching the Insider Preview builds and updating this post as Microsoft adds more new features.

Missing in Action: Promised Features That Have Vanished

Windows 10’s Creators Update is still missing some features Microsoft annoucned. In some cases, Microsoft has gone completely silent on when we can expect to see these features.

The Future: Redstone 3 and Beyond

We know about some other features that Microsoft is working on, but which won’t be ready for the Creators Update. These features are slated for “Redstone 3”, the next update after the Creators Update (which is codenamed “Redstone 2”).

Redstone 3 will contain other new features, too. We’ll learn more about those in the future.