laptop with Windows 10 update installedAnother fall tradition has arrived: a new update to Windows! The Windows 10 October update brings updates, fixes, and new features to improve your Windows computer experience. Like any operating system update, there are a lot of little upgrades buried deep within that can get lost in comparison to the big changes. I’m going to sift through all the changes, like an old time prospector, to find the golden nuggets of information that you crave.

A slight delay for Windows 10 October Update

You may notice that it is November and we’re just now talking about the Windows 10 October update. It turns out that there were a few technical challenges and unexpected issues that popped up when Microsoft first rolled out their October update. They suspended the roll-out until they had identified and addressed the issues and have since been releasing the update in controlled batches. No problem. Well, maybe there are still a few problems. The latest is a compatibility issue with iCloud. Microsoft and Apple are working together to fix it, but it could still cause inconvenience to the affected folks. The moral of the story, dear readers, is to do a full backup before updating. I know, we all claim that we backup before updating, but that may not be the complete truth most times. This ordeal has reminded us that there is indeed still some risk with a software update. Protect yourself and your data.

File Explorer Dark Theme

Using a computer in a dark room isn’t something I choose to do most days. But, judging by the popularity of dark mode for various apps, a lot of you do like to browse in the dark of the night. This update has added a dark theme on Windows 10, specifically for the file explorer window when dark mode is activated. Finally, you will be able to sort through your files without the glare of a white background.

Your Phone

Your Phone AppThe new “Your Phone” app makes your Android phone and your PC best friends. With this app, you will be able to send text messages from your PC and see photos that are on your phone. Pretty neat. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t currently do the texts or photos with an iPhone. Don’t lose heart, iPhone owners. Future updates will likely add the additional functionality that Android users are enjoying already.

Task Manager Power Usage

Wonder why your laptop battery is going from full to empty so quickly? Wonder no more! The task manager now features a ‘power usage’ column that will tell you how much juice your running processes are using. If you are an ardent Bitcoin miner, prepare yourself for a rude awakening on your power usage.

Clipboard History

Windows 10 clipboard featureIn terms of little changes that have a big impact on your productivity, the clipboard upgrade is a winner. Your clipboard now has a history, so it will keep track of the last bunch of items saved to it. A simple control+V keystroke and you have access to the list of items that you have copied to your clipboard recently. You can pin them there and delete any that you don’t need anymore. If you rely on cutting and pasting (like I do) the time you’ll save with this new feature will make your life better. They’ve also made your clipboard able to sync across all your Windows devices. Handy!

Snip and Sketch

Snip and Sketch is a simple upgrade that combines two separate apps into one. Now you can grab a screenshot and immediately add notes and assorted electronic scribbles to it with one app. You can set this app to open when you press the ‘printscreen’ key, if pressing three keys at once is too much work for you.

Microsoft Edge Browser

Microsoft Edge autoplay videoFinally, Microsoft has clued in to our communal hatred of auto playing videos. The Microsoft Edge browser now has the capacity to turn off auto-play for videos, though they are enabled by default for some reason. Are there people in the world who enjoy being barraged by an embedded video automatically? If there are folk like that, I don’t know them, and I don’t want to know them. If you don’t mind the visuals but want the sound suppressed, you can make all browser videos automatically muted. The video permissions can be set on a site-by-site basis as well.

Adjustable text size

Either fonts are getting mysteriously smaller, or my old eyes are getting worse. Thankfully, you can now increase text size across your entire Windows system. No more need to adjust it within each application and area of the operating system. Big, easily read text, how I have missed you.

Predictive update timing

Microsoft is claiming that automatic updates like the Windows 10 October Update will now predict the best time to update. In theory, this means your PC will only update when it will not inconvenience you. In practice, I remain skeptical that they will be able to successfully do this. I have my PC set to update in the middle of the night, and yet, I routinely start my work day to a pending update. Why, Microsoft, why? But I will put aside my doubt and wait to see how accurate the update predictions are.

Game Bar

Game Bar appThe Game Bar is not a watering hole where you drink and play Tetris. This is news to me. It was evidently a built-in component of Windows 10, and now it has been made into a separate application with added functionality. Discovering the Game Bar has also revealed to me the existence of game mode, where your PC pools resources to make your game run more smoothly, blocks disruptive notifications, and lets your record and broadcast your gaming. Not only can you start game mode from the Game Bar app, you can also adjust audio controls and suppress Windows updates. Game Bar gives you a visualization of your system’s performance, so you know which overloaded component to blame when you get knocked out of a round of Battlefield 5 or Call of Duty Black Ops.

Overall, these Windows 10 updates and changes, along with a host of other behind the scenes tweaks, are not earthshaking. The Windows 10 October Update does, however, incrementally improve Windows 10 and prepare it for big future improvements. But make sure you practice safe updating and do a full backup beforehand. And if this update makes your aging PC wheeze and groan under the strain, maybe it’s time to upgrade. There are plenty of new desktops or laptops ready to step up to the task.

Chris Loblaw
Chris is a novelist, avid gamer, tech enthusiast, and proud dad of a 13-year-old video game master.