10 Things To Know About The Windows 10 Anniversary Update

What's New About Windows 10?

The world now knows the "when" of the next major update to Windows 10 is coming -- it's arriving Aug. 2. But what about the "why"? As in, why is the "Anniversary Update" to Windows 10 going to be better than the current version? And what are the new features that Microsoft is promising?

Here's the "why" and the "what" of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update -- including Microsoft's planned updates to security, Cortana and the Edge browser.

First, Some Context

Any benefits of the Anniversary Update that Microsoft is touting have to be viewed in the context of the company's larger mission to get users to upgrade to Windows 10 from earlier versions. The free upgrade to Windows 10, from earlier versions such as the popular Windows 7, expires on July 29, a few days before the release of the Anniversary Update. As Microsoft essentially says in its news release, the promotion of the Anniversary Update features is just another part of its push for the free upgrade: "One of the best ways to get the Windows 10 Anniversary Update is to upgrade to Windows 10 before the free upgrade offer ends July 29, 2016," Microsoft said in the release.

Windows Ink

A key new feature available in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update is Windows Ink, which aims to improve the experience of using a digital pen to write or draw on Windows 10 touch-screen devices. That means, according to Microsoft, the ability for users to more quickly and easily take a note or sketch a drawing "as they would on paper." Some apps also will have features specific to Windows Ink, such as a handwriting feature for Office and ink annotations in the Microsoft Edge browser.


The Cortana digital assistant is getting some upgrades in the Anniversary Update, including "access above the lock screen, more ways to remember with the ability for Cortana to save and recall information, and synchronization across devices," Microsoft said.


The Microsoft Edge browser -- i.e., Microsoft's successor to Internet Explorer in Windows 10 -- will get some enhancements in the Anniversary Update around power efficiency and extensions. Edge (which Microsoft has claimed is already less of a battery drain than competing browsers) will now be "using fewer CPU cycles, consuming less memory, and minimizing the impact of background activity and peripheral content such as Flash advertisements," Microsoft said. Meanwhile, some Microsoft Edge extensions will be made available in the Windows Store (for instance, the Amazon Assistant and the Pin it button from Pinterest). Accessibility also will get a boost in Edge -- with more support for modern web standards, such as HTML5, CSS3 and ARIA.

Windows Hello

First introduced in Windows 10, the Windows Hello biometric authentication is getting an expanded reach. Microsoft said that as part of the Anniversary Update, Windows Hello is going to work for signing into Windows apps and into certain websites using Microsoft Edge.

Windows Defender

In the Anniversary Update, Microsoft's anti-malware service, Windows Defender, will now be able to automatically schedule scans of a PC (if a user wants it to, at least). Windows Defender also will notify users if any threats were discovered, Microsoft said.

Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection

Enterprise users of Windows 10 will have access to the new Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection service as part of the Anniversary Update. The service aims to detect, investigate and respond to cyberattacks on an enterprise's network using "comprehensive threat intelligence and attack detection," Microsoft said in a blog post. "This service is informed by the world's largest array of sensors and expert advanced threat protection, including a team of security researchers at Microsoft leveraging in-house and security partner intelligence. Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection now covers more than 700,000 endpoints and is being used in pilots by more than 300 active enterprises participating in 70 countries around the world."


Microsoft says the Windows 10 Anniversary Update will make life better for gamers with the Xbox Play Anywhere program, which will let users who've bought a game play it on their PC and Xbox One with shared progress, game saves and achievements.


Microsoft said the Windows 10 Anniversary Update will make it easier for teachers to set up new devices, with a new "Set up School PCs" app that enables device setup in three steps. Meanwhile, according to Microsoft:

-- "For schools with dedicated IT support, the updated Windows Imaging and Configuration Designer tool enables the setup of shared devices, in bulk, in a matter of minutes."

-- And, for "high-stakes tests that should not have copy-and-paste privileges, access to files or other distractions, the Take a Test app creates a browser-based, locked-down environment for more secure online assessments."

Not Every PC Can Run Windows 10

Though it's buried in a footnote, Microsoft does clarify that "Hardware and software requirements apply. Feature availability may vary by device. Some editions excluded."

In short, for users looking to get the free upgrade to Windows 10 (which expires July 29) and then the Anniversary Update on Aug. 2, check here first.