10 tricks to get (and keep) Windows 10 Creators Update running smoothly

If you’ve installed Windows 10 Creators Update, version 1703, take a few minutes to make sure you’re getting the most out what Microsoft offers.

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Trick 7. Delay updates

Quite likely the single best new feature in Windows 10 Creators Update, the ability to easily defer Automatic Updates is reason alone for installing version 1703. Unfortunately, this easy method is only available to those using Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise — not Win10 Home — and if you’re attached to a Windows Update server, your admin has control over the entire updating process, so this trick won’t work.

Using an administrator account in Windows 10 Creators Update Pro or Enterprise, click Start > Settings > Update & security. Click the link marked “Advanced Options.” You can see the “Choose when updates are installed” pane in the screenshot.

delay updates Woody Leonhard/IDG

Microsoft has changed the terminology several times in the past couple of months, but choosing “Current Branch for Business” in the first drop-down box should assure that you won’t be upgraded to the next version of Windows (presumably, version 1709) until Microsoft says it’s ready for widespread adoption. By choosing CBB, you’re avoiding the four-month-long unpaid beta-testing phase, where those with Windows 10 Home and others who choose “Current Branch” get to install and test the new version of Win10 as soon as it’s available. Unpaid cannon fodder.

While you’re here, you should also postpone “quality updates” — what Microsoft usually calls “cumulative updates.” That leaves you up to 30 days to decide if you want to install a particular cumulative update, a process that gives you time to see if the latest Automatic Update is causing widespread panic.

With settings at CBB and a 30-day deferral on cumulative updates, you’re unlikely to want the “Feature update” deferral (top number box) — when in CBB, it’s unclear whether that setting actually does anything. You’re also unlikely to want to Pause Updates because the CBB and cumulative update deferral handle most cases. (Generally the Pause is good for 7 or 35 days, and it isn’t clear to me why some systems max out at 7.)

If you’re using Windows 10 Home, you have many fewer options. Arguably the best way to keep the Automatic Update wolves at bay is to tell Windows that you have a metered connection. To do so, down in the system tray, click your internet connection and choose “Network & Internet settings.” Choose “Change connection properties.” Then in the section marked “Metered connection,” move the “Set as metered connection” to On. That should keep Windows from downloading any large files, including cumulative updates and version changes.

Trick 8. Set Active hours

Nobody likes to have their machine reboot at the wrong time. Windows-triggered reboots are supposed to be few and far between, and they aren’t supposed to be destructive, but any experienced Windows user knows the frustration of sitting there, staring at a circling “Installing updates” spiral that accomplishes exactly nothing. More than a few know the frustration of losing work as Windows goes down for the count, then resurfaces.

The Active hours setting in earlier versions of Windows 10 didn’t work very well. With 1703, it works a little better. And we can finally give Windows an 18-hour, uh, window where we don’t want to be disturbed.

To set your Active hours, click Start > Settings > Update & security. Click the link on the right that says “Change active hours.” Windows will begin its reboots after the End time and before the Start time (screenshot). At least in theory.

active hours Woody Leonhard/IDG

Trick 9. Have Windows create restore points

If you’ve used Windows 7 or earlier, you may have stumbled upon the System Restore feature. Windows 10 has full support for System Restore and restore points, although the feature isn’t turned on by default. A restore point contains Registry entries and copies of certain critical programs including, notably, drivers and key system files — a snapshot of crucial system settings and programs. When you roll back to a restore point, you replace the current settings and programs with the older versions.

Realize that restore points aren’t entirely reliable. Microsoft would much rather have you use “Reset this PC” or “Start fresh” (both options under the Update & security applet’s Recovery section), neither of which have the quirks of restore points. Reset and Start fresh are sledgehammers. Restore points are scalpels.

Even if they don’t work all the time, restore points have saved my butt more than once, and they may save yours as well. All it takes is a few clicks and a little bit of hard-drive space.

The terminology is a bit convoluted. To turn on restore points in Win10, you have to enable System Protection (Windows 7 did it by default).

To enable System Protection, and start taking restore points automatically, follow these easy steps:

Step 1. In the Cortana search box, type restore point. Click Create a restore point.

Step 2. In the Protection Settings box, look for your important hard drives and make sure they’re set to Protection On. If any aren’t set up, click on the drive, click the box marked “Configure…,” and in the following dialog box, click “Turn on system protection.” Click OK and you’re done.

restore points Woody Leonhard/IDG

You can futz with the settings by clicking on the Configure button, but there’s rarely any reason to change the defaults.

Trick 10. Personalize

I don’t spend much time customizing the Windows user interface. To me, Win7 had the best interface options, and it’s all been downhill ever since. Win10, though, has one significant interface setting you should know about: Dark mode.

As originally conceived, Win 10 settings boxes appeared with black text on a boring white background. With the latest versions of Win10, you can switch your Settings boxes (and other Microsoft apps, including Mail, Calendar, and Windows Store) to show white text on a black background. I vastly prefer this “Dark mode” to the old way. Cue the Darth Vader theme.

To get the Dark mode, click Settings > Personalization. On the left, choose Colors. On the right, scroll down and click the button under “Choose your default app mode, Dark.”

personalization Woody Leonhard/IDG

Dark mode doesn’t work everywhere — notably, it isn’t implemented in File Explorer — but to me it makes a big difference when rooting through the Win10 infrastructure.

You can poke around the Win10 Personalization applet’s Background and Colors sections and knock yourself out — change accent colors, use a different wallpaper (er, background picture), and the like. But they’re all pretty pedestrian compared to Dark mode.

For those of the f.lux persuasion, the Creators Update Night light changes the hue of your screen later in the day and on into the night, reducing blues and making it easier to sleep. (The original f.lux from Michael and Lorna Herf has long been a free Windows program, but in Creators Update, Microsoft put the capability into Windows itself.) To turn on Night light, click Start > Settings > System. On the right, click Night light settings and set your schedule and temperature.

Bonus: Don’t forget the Troubleshooters!

If something heads south, Microsoft’s Troubleshooters offer a good first line of defense. To see all of them, click Start > Settings > Update & security and on the left click Troubleshoot.

troubleshooters Woody Leonhard/IDG

Bonus: 30 top free apps

When you’re up and running, be sure to take a look at our Top 30 free apps for Windows 10. They’re all Creators Update-friendly.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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