Review: Windows 10 April 2018 Update shows promise, but ultimately disappoints

Much-vaunted features such as Timeline and the Diagnostic Data Viewer sound highly useful in theory but come up short in the new Windows 10 release.

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Better control over app permissions

There’s also now a better way to control what permissions you give apps, such as whether they can access your camera, location and contacts. Go to Settings > Apps > Apps & features, select the app whose permissions you want to control, then click Advanced options. From here, you’ll be able to set what permissions it should have.

Windows 10 version 1803 app permissions Microsoft

You now better control what permissions your apps have, such as accessing your locations and contacts.

In addition to that, you can completely turn off access to your PC’s camera. Go to Settings > Privacy > Camera and set the toggle to Off. In earlier versions of Windows 10, this blocked access to the camera from Windows apps, but not from desktop applications. Now it blocks desktop applications as well.

And you can also decide which Windows apps can gain access to your complete file system or to your Pictures, Videos and Documents folders. Go to Settings > Privacy and scroll down to the “App permissions” area on the left pane. You’ll find new settings for controlling access to them. Click any to set them.

Reorganized Settings app

Every six-month Windows 10 update seems to reorganize Settings, frequently bringing settings from Control Panel and the old Windows user interface into the Settings app. This time it’s no different. Those who like to tweak what applications run on startup will be pleased that you can do that now in an entirely new section of Settings, available via Settings > Apps > Startup. (You can also still do it from the Task Manager as well.)

Head to the Startup screen and you’ll see all the apps that run on startup. Simply move the toggle from On to Off for any you don’t want to run on startup, and from Off back to On if you’d like them to load.

Windows 10 version 1803 startup apps Preston Gralla / IDG

You can now easily control which apps run when you start up your PC by using this new screen in Settings.

You can also control your fonts via Settings > Personalization > Fonts and finally get a good look at precisely what the fonts look like. And the Disk Cleanup tool is also now finally available in Settings. Get there by going to Settings > System > Storage > Free up space now. Old-school curmudgeons can still get to the old Disk Cleanup tool as well by launching File Explorer, right-clicking a drive, clicking Properties from the panel that appears, then clicking the “Disk Cleanup” button from the next panel.

Finally, you may have read reports that the Windows Defender security tool has been renamed Windows Security. That’s not quite the case — Windows Defender still exists as a subset of Windows Security. Go to Settings > Update & Security and click Windows Security, and you’ll see a revamped interface that includes a wide variety of Windows security settings, such as Account Protection, Virus & Threat Protection, App & Browser Control, Device Performance & Health, and others. However, there’s also a button that opens the Windows Defender Security Center, which replicates some but not all of the features in the Windows Security page. Needless to say, this is a bit confusing. But when has Microsoft ever been accused of consistency?

Other changes

There are a whole host of minor changes, as is usual in the twice-yearly updates. In one of the least significant of all, the Home Group home networking feature has been killed. To that I say good riddance. It was flaky, difficult to use and pointless.

If you’ve got a multi-GPU system, you can choose which GPU should run which application. To do it, go to Settings > System > Display > Graphics settings and follow the instructions.

The Quiet Hours do-not-disturb feature has been renamed Focus Assist and given some tweaks. You can set it to turn on by itself under some circumstances — for example, at certain times of day, when you’re duplicating your display (as when you’re giving a presentation), or when you’re playing DirectX games in full-screen exclusive mode. You can also decide to let high-priority notifications in, as well as block, temporarily, low-priority notifications. To customize it, head to Settings > System > Focus assist.

Windows 10 version 1803 Focus Assist settings Microsoft

Quiet Hours has been renamed Focus Assist and given some new capabilities.

This version of Windows 10 also has an attempted a fix for the times when desktop applications appear blurry when you change your display settings. To try it, go to Settings > System > Display > Advanced scaling settings and underneath “Fix scaling for apps,” set the toggle to On.

Windows now also gets HDR (high dynamic range) video support on more devices. Even though many devices can play HDR video, they might not have been calibrated properly to play it when manufactured. However, Windows can check whether a device can play it. To do it go to Settings > Apps > Video playback. Try setting the “Stream HDR video” option to On. If you can do that, the device can play HDR video. Before trying to play the HDR video, click “Change calibration settings for HDR video on my built-in display,” which only appears if you’ve turned the “Stream HDR video” option to On.

There’s also a redesigned, more streamlined Game Bar, the ability to insert multiple emojis at a time using the emoji panel, and the use of Microsoft’s Fluent Design guidelines in more places throughout Windows, among other changes.

What IT needs to know about Windows 10 version 1803

There are no big, dramatic changes for developers, system administrators and other IT professionals in this update, but plenty of small ones. Windows Defender Application Guard, which protects Microsoft Edge, was introduced in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update just for those who use Windows 10 Enterprise Edition. In this update, Windows 10 Professional users get it as well. There’s also a new feature in the application guard that lets users download files from inside Edge instead of directly to the operating system, as a way to increase security.

There’s an improvement to the Delivery Optimization feature for deploying Windows 10 on enterprise networks. You can now monitor it using Windows Analytics so you can track things such as the bandwidth you’ve saved by using Delivery Optimization, and how many devices have been enabled by it.

The update introduces new policies for Group Policy and Mobile Device Management (MDM) that can better control how Delivery Optimization is used for Windows Update and Windows Store app updates. It lets administrators throttle bandwidth based on the time of day, among other features. The policies are available in the Group Policy Editor by going to Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Delivery Optimization in the Group Policy Editor.

The Windows AutoPilot feature for managing devices also gets a tweak, which will allow IT to make sure policies, settings and apps are provisioned on devices before users begin using them.

Windows also gets the Linux curl and tar utilities for downloading files and extracting .tar archives, built directly into Windows. They’re available at C:\Windows\System32\curl.exe and C:\Windows\System32\tar.exe. Windows also now natively supports Unix sockets (AF_UNIX) with a new afunix.sys kernel driver. That will make it easier to port software to Windows from Linux as well as from other Unix-like operating systems.

Speaking of Linux, there are a whole host of improvements to the Windows Subsystem for Linux, which lets you run a variety of Linux distributions right on Windows 10. The new Unix sockets report is available for the Windows Subsystem for Linux as well as Windows itself. Among other new features, Linux applications can run in the background, some launch settings for Linux distributions can be customized, and Linux applications have been given access to serial devices.

The Windows 10 Pro for Workstations version of Windows 10 got a few tweaks as well, including a new power scheme called Ultimate Performance, which does what the name implies: tries to wring every ounce of power out of Windows by reducing micro-latencies. It’s only for desktop PCs, not those that can be powered by batteries, because it will drain battery power. In addition, Windows 10 Pro for Workstations will no longer ship with games like Candy Crush or other similar consumer-focused apps. Instead, it will feature enterprise- and business-related apps, although those have yet to be announced.

Finally, administrators have been given the power to configure an enterprise’s PCs to run custom scripts during feature updates, which will make configuration and deployment easier.

For more details about some of the changes for IT in the spring release, see the Microsoft blog post "Making IT simpler with a modern workplace."

The bottom line

The Windows 10 April 2018 Update is a serviceable update, but there’s nothing earthshaking here. The only potentially extremely useful new feature, Timeline, is hamstrung because it only tracks Microsoft apps, and even then, not all of them. The Diagnostic Data Viewer will certainly disappoint people who hoped they would finally get some control over what kinds of diagnostic telemetry data is sent to Microsoft. Microsoft Edge, once again, hasn’t been improved much, and the fact that only about 30 extensions for it have been launched since the fall update is not just an embarrassment for Microsoft, but seems to be a clear sign that Edge will remain a perennial also-ran.

Apart from that, there’s not much of great note here, even less than was in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, which introduced the excellent OneDrive Files On-Demand, and the useful MyPeople feature.

All in all, don’t expect a dramatic change from this update. Think of the way you use Windows now. That’ll most likely be the way you use Windows after the update, unless you use Microsoft apps exclusively, in which case you’ll probably put Timeline to good use.

Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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