What’s New in the 2018 Windows 10 Update

By Andy Rathbone

Microsoft views Windows 10 as a one-size-fits-all computing solution that runs on laptops and desktop PCs as well as tablets.

Windows 10 updates
Windows 10 behaves almost identically on laptops and desktop PCs and tablets (above).

Windows 10 can even run on your TV through Microsoft’s Xbox One game console. Windows 10 behaves almost identically on every device, and it brings a bonus: Apps known as universal apps will run on a Windows 10 tablet, PC, laptop, and Xbox One.

Besides aiming to run on everything but clock radios, Windows 10 brings these changes to your computer:

  • Start button and menu: Removed from Windows 8 and half-heartedly tacked back onto Windows 8.1, the Start button and Start menu triumphantly return to the desktop in Windows 10. The revamped Start menu sports a column of icons, as well as fingertip-sized tiles for launching apps.
  • Apps on the desktop: Apps, which are small programs from the world of phones and tablets, consumed the full screen in Windows 8 and 8.1. Windows 10 lets you choose whether to run apps full screen or within desktop windows.
  • Cortana: The digital assistant in Windows 10, Cortana, helps you manage your computing by fetching lost files, stocking your calendar with appointments, grabbing up-to-date traffic information about your commute, and extracting informational tidbits from the Internet. Controlled through either your voice or keyboard, Cortana works from the Search box adjacent to the Start button.
  • OneDrive: Microsoft’s online file storage service comes built into the Windows 10 desktop. OneDrive lets you choose which files and folders should live only on the cloud (Microsoft’s Internet-connected computers) and which should live on both the cloud and your computer. That lets you adjust the settings depending on your computer’s amount of available storage space.
  • More Apps: The Microsoft Store offers more than 700,000 apps. That’s nowhere near the number of apps found for the iPhone, iPad, or Android phones and tablets, but you can find plenty of big names like Facebook and Netflix, with more on the way.
  • Multiple desktops: Windows 10 lets you create extra desktops, and you can switch between them with a click or tap. You can set up one desktop for work and another for gaming, for example. (Or, you can completely ignore the feature.)
  • Windows Hello: This welcome security update allows you to sign into your computer without typing in a password. With the right fingerprint reader or camera, your computer can recognize either your face, fingerprint, or iris and automatically let you in. You can even access supported websites without having to type in your username and password.
  • Windows Ink: This big update lets you write on your tablet’s screen with a special pen, letting you add handwritten notes and drawings to apps like Maps, the Microsoft Edge browser, and Office.
  • Windows Timeline: This new feature lets you see what apps, programs, and websites you accessed on previous days, letting you quickly revisit past work.
  • Windows 10 is now a service: Perhaps most important, Microsoft treats Windows 10 as a constantly evolving service rather than a finished product. Microsoft keeps tinkering with Windows 10, adding, changing, or removing apps and features for as long as you own the device. (There’s no way to stop Microsoft from changing Windows 10; you’re expected to stomach these changes which take place automatically in the background.)

Unlike Windows 8 and 8.1, Windows 10 no longer feels like two operating systems crammed into one computer. It feels like a single operating system that brings out the best in both tablets and desktop PCs.

For its first year of release, Windows 10 was a free upgrade for people owning fully patched Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 computers. The upgrade is no longer free, but it still keeps your files, apps, and programs in place. Owners of older PCs can also upgrade to Windows 10, but the upgrade will wipe out all your files and programs. You’ll need to reinstall everything from a backup. (If your old computer is a slow crawler, it will still be a slow crawler after upgrading to Windows 10. You’re probably better off buying a new PC with Windows 10 preinstalled.)

Windows no longer comes in a Windows RT version. If you bought a Windows RT tablet, such as the Surface RT or Surface 2, you can’t upgrade it to Windows 10.