Updated: June 9, 2017
And Microsoft said, for it is Windows 10, and it needs an update. And so they released one, and they were all amazed, for it was new, with a bunch of stuff in it. What shall we name it, the engineers asked? Lo, the marketing department said, it shall be used to create stuff, and henceforth, it shall be known as the Creators Update.
Fast forward a month or so, I decided to upgrade my Windows 10 instance on the test-hungry Lenovo G50 machine to the latest edition. After all, there's been enough time for other people to discover critical problems and bugs. Let's see if this new version brings about any substantial or important changes that can make the desktop more fun.
Setup and installation
Windows Update did not have the Creators update available in the regular channels, but I did have the option to download the Update Assistant and obtain the new version thus. The tool first performs a check that your system is compatible - this means it does not have any real awareness that you already are running Windows 10, or worse, that a new version many not actual run on your hardware. Then, you get to download the update. It will be applied on next reboot.
Windows informed the process would take about 90 minutes, and indeed, it finished in about 85 minutes, with three reboots in between. As promised, my documents and most of settings were correctly preserved, including the very fact I was running a local AND non-admin account, and I did not find too many obvious, glaring issues upon first logon. You are greeted by an Edge page, designed to help you get familiar with what the Creators update offers, with some not so subtle hints around Mail and Store usage.
Now, I did mention that my documents and settings were largely preserved, and this is indeed correct. However, there were some issues, mostly NEW things that were added to my desktop without me asking. Call it free marketing, if you will.
Notably, I had an icon for the Mail app in the taskbar - don't want, gone. OneDrive was also running - but the option not to start with Windows remains, as I've chosen in the past, so this was probably an opportunistic attempt to get me interested in using the cloud storage. We will discuss a few other things a bit later.
If you read the official Windows blog, there's a lot of new stuff in this edition. The approach is quite corny, as it talks about creativity in every one of us in a rather syrupy, too optimistic way, but it does highlight the main features of the Creators update. It is designed to provide additional capabilities to people intent on generating rich content in Windows 10. And by rich, I mean videos, 3D art and games. These are channels that can be monetized more easily than others, and they can also be presented in a more tangible way.
It is of course a very general statement, because people do not suddenly decide to become creative because the operating system comes with an extra app or two, nor do they just sit still waiting for someone to give them a bunch of tools. In a way, the Creators update aims to bring in the undecided crowd, so the extras can't really hurt.
The Settings menu comes with a separate Gaming section, talking about streaming, audio and video recording, and some other features. I believe this is a direct attempt to compete with Steam, or enhance the Xbox capabilities, or both.
Privacy and security
This has always been a very hot topic with Windows 10. Overall, my pre-upgrade state was preserved, but there were a few odd surprises. The only old setting that was not correctly imported from the older version is Autoplay. It has been turned to On for some reason, but I am willing to forgive this. Not a biggie. The almost arbitrary toggling of settings is no longer an issue. Maybe. Hi hi.
On the positive side, Microsoft understands the pressure and negative publicity around its tracking nonsense, so now, the settings menu provides more information and clarity around data collection, how and when it is done. This improves transparency, but it does not solve the problem fully.
Post-upgrade, you get some new options, so it is understandable that you could not have had them configured for maximum personal convenience. A new option is to track app launches, which you can and should disable. App diagnostics, no thank you.
Several new background apps, which have their state toggled to On, but then, you can quickly quieten them, and Bob's your uncle. I really do not understand why anyone would need to have this feature on the desktop. It is a multi-tasking system by design.
Under the hood, though, there were more changes. The User Experience service, the one directly related to data tracking and diagnostics, is enabled and running, so you should turn it off. This is something that was NOT correctly imported from before the upgrade.
Windows Defender was not running, which is how I've configured it, but there were two brand new related services. The first, Security Health Service - this powers the new Windows Defender Security Center, which is a sort of a panel that lets you configure your protection, parental controls, and such. Not sure why this is needed as opposed to how it was done until now, but all right. I sure do not find this valuable.
The second, Windows Defender Network Inspection Service. I find this quite annoying. I've already disabled the original tool, because I find it pointless, I sure do not need anything else based on it running and performing behavioral and signature analysis on my traffic. Inbound control is done by firewalls, and content control is a useless exercise.
These two services are configured so you cannot disable them normally, but you can either follow my Windows 8.1 & Defender instructions, or use ExecTI, which can help you achieve the same results. Before you scream how Windows Defender is important, and start talking about recent cyber attacks, there are better, smarter and more efficient ways to manage security in the system, without relying on blacklisting and blind faith in signature based tools. Using a limited account, either directly or with a tool like SuRun, or running the most excellent EMET, for instance. Or both.
Store & Applications
Hardly interesting for desktop use, but then, 'tis part of the review. The Store is a little bit more useful, with a more varied assortment of books and movies, although most of the so-called foreign content just isn't there. Like all click-happy products, it is designed for a very specific audience, so it's all new and shiny and very much Hollywood things and little else. The few new apps you get, like Paint 3D, look too abstract, and frankly, I really wonder if anyone is going to do any proper design in this. But okay.
Then, there's thing called Mixed Reality. What does it do?
I believe the performance is ever so slightly better than before, but then I have not run any official benchmarks. There are no weird errors, and everything is stable. Overall, yes, this is a useful upgrade, but then, you ask yourself, why not have all of this from the go? Are people really impressed by the notion of constant activity as a sign of honest work?
Now, some of the problems post-update did not immediately manifest thereafter, and I actually had to wait a few days before I started seeing them and then neutering them. The most obvious one is the nag to use OneDrive. Sneakily, I could not find what exactly spawns this annoying message. Task Scheduler ans the startup list seem to be empty, so the solution is - uninstall the OneDrive app. Simple.
Then, the lock screen shows "suggestions" for various apps and whatnot, even if you use a local account. More stuff that I don't want or need. The solution is to change your lock screen. First, change the lock screen background to Picture. And then toggle off the fun facts, tips and tricks option. Done.
Windows 10 Creators Upgrade is a colorful package of goodies and some small tweaks to a relatively stable and mostly mature operating system. For advanced users, the changes are negligible, for inexperienced users, they will most likely be missed or ignored, and from a philosophical perspective, they give Microsoft something to talk about, which is important, because it helps them keep focus and relevance around Windows 10. But then, you ask yourselves, this whole agile, incremental school of progress, does it really have any profound value for users?
One may be grateful to Microsoft for introducing new stuff all the time. A cynic like me may ask, why release a half-complete operating system? If Creators Update does so many wonders, then Windows 10 could have been released in 2017. Otherwise, I was sold a beta product and slowly fed things that I ought to have had in the first place. That is not something we can possibly solve in this review. But it does highlight the troubling trend of pumping out software at such a rapid pace. The winner in that equation is not the user.
On its own, Windows 10 Creators Update delivered a reasonable outcome. The upgrade worked fine, my setup was not violated much, my data was preserved, the new stuff is decent if not outright valuable or electrifying, and if you're lucky, you may even gain a bit on the performance side. If you use Windows 10, there's no reason not to have it. Well, not sure if you have a choice really. If you don't use it, or don't like, there aren't any love or game changers here. More of the same, but that isn't necessarily bad. Consistency is such a rare commodity nowadays. Bottom line: fair. Le fin.