All the new features in the Windows 10 anniversary update
The first major update to Windows 10 will arrive on 2 August 2016 with a bevy of new and upgraded features.
Microsoft has made plenty of small, mostly security-focused updates to Windows 10 since launching it in July 2015, but the Windows 10 Anniversary Update promises instead a host of fully new and upgraded features. The update will be available from 2 August 2016. Allowing for time differences between the US and Australia, we may not see it as an upgrade until the calendar clicks over to 3 August 2016 here.
Microsoft’s virtual assistant Cortana gets something of a facelift in the Windows 10 Anniversary update. She’ll be present and available on the lock screen for quick queries without having to fully unlock your device. She will also remember key information for you, including the ability to tag information with photos for more visual reminders.
Cutting Edge browser
Microsoft’s Edge Browser might not be quite as popular as Google’s Chrome, but it’s set to become significantly more power efficient, which is good news for laptop users who struggle to get through an entire day’s browsing. Microsoft’s claim is that in head to head testing, Edge will outrun Chrome by a solid three hours on the same platform. It will also add extensions, including the very popular AdBlock, to Edge in the Anniversary update.
Closer Xbox One integration
On the gaming front, the Anniversary update will enable the "Xbox Play Anywhere" program. Titles purchased under the program can be played on either a Windows 10 PC or the Xbox One, with game saves in the cloud available to keep your progress consistent. They’ll be sold through the same interface across Windows 10 and Xbox One.
Windows 10 has an interesting mix of classic mouse-based and touch inputs, but its pen support has, to date, not been a key feature. That’s set to change with the introduction of what Microsoft calls "Windows Ink", a pen-enabled overlay that lets you sketch out small notes or fully fledged diagrams on any supported touch-enabled display.
Lock it down, Cortana
Security is still a key part of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, with Microsoft upgrading the "Windows Hello" feature. Windows Hello allows you to use biometric security to unlock your PC, and in the Anniversary update this will be extended to allowing you to use biometric measures to access Windows apps and Microsoft’s own Edge browser. On the apps front, it will be up to individual app developers to roll Windows Hello support into their apps, but the appeal of launching Steam or Netflix or similar with just a peek at your face is undeniably attractive compared to thumping in a password or leaving it permanently logged in.
Windows Hello will also be extended to companion devices to allow you to more swiftly unlock your PC; this is something that Samsung already does with its Windows 10 based Galaxy TabProS if you have a Samsung phone.
Windows 10: No longer free
If you haven’t upgraded to Windows 10 at all yet, whether by choice or by Microsoft’s increasingly pushy efforts to get its latest operating system onto as many computers as possible, the clock is ticking for the "free" upgrade period. After 29 July 2016, any eligible Windows 7 or 8 PC will lose the free upgrade offer. After that point you’ll pay $179 for an upgrade or new Windows 10 licence.
Windows 10 anniversary update: Should I upgrade?
This is always the big question when there’s a major upgrade, because the reality is that for all the polish and features, the underlying software code comprises billions of lines of detail. Within that code it’s still likely that there may be bugs and quirks, just as there are in Windows 10 today. It may be that the upgrades fix problems you’re already having, but equally it could introduce new problems.
If you’re using a business-critical machine with Windows 10, it might not be the best idea to upgrade on day one. As always, whether it’s a business machine or not, you should keep backups of your critical data anyway, but especially before a major upgrade.
At a broad level you should upgrade at some point to remain secure, because alongside the new features will be a range of security updates to keep your Windows 10 PC safe.