Our Verdict

The Anniversary Update is an impressive piece of work that ensures Windows 10 is on track to replace Windows 7. It's reliable, easy to use and keeps getting better – although there's still room for more significant improvements.

For

  • Start menu improvements
  • Action Center, Cortana are useful
  • Huge Edge browser upgrades
  • Windows Hello is simple and secure

Against

  • OneDrive still patchy
  • Ink: a nice idea that needs work
  • The free upgrade is over
  • Changes improve but also cause issues

After more than 365 days, this make-or-break version of Microsoft's veteran Windows operating system is off to a strong start. And, the way in which new features and improvements keep arriving means that the Anniversary Update is a notable improvement over what shipped in July 2015.

We're a long way from Windows 8 now, and Microsoft seems to have got the hang of mixing the traditional keyboard-and-mouse driven desktop environment with touch features for the growing number of tablets and 2-in-1 PCs.

This release is a milestone for the 'Windows as a Service' process that Microsoft is using to develop Windows 10. Last year's November Update polished the release version of Windows 10, while this release continues that process, concentrating on the daily features you likely use the most, including some useful refinements to the Start screen and Action Center interface. But it also introduces some brand new features like the Ink Workspace.

The Edge browser has matured quickly and gets support for extensions, and the key UWP apps like Mail, Groove and Skype have also improved significantly. Cortana is gaining more features and Windows Hello is more reliable, as well as ready for apps and websites that support the new FIDO 2 specification that is bidding to replace passwords with biometrics. Improved browser security is a major plus.

Performance is improved from the already impressive speed of the release version of Windows 10 – booting your PC is a second or so faster on SSD-based systems, and battery life has improved on laptops (especially if you're using the Edge browser, but the new Battery Saver option that appears when you click or tap the battery icon also maximizes battery life).

Battery Saver

On the other hand, those uncertain about Windows 10 won't find solace in the fact that Anniversary Update only lets you roll back within 10 days to save on disk space, or the fact that, like any new release, there are problems (including some systems with SSDs freezing, and the well-documented problems with webcams that won't be fixed until another update arrives in September).

Latest news

The Windows 10 Creators Update is right around the corner, what with Microsoft officially stating that it’s only “a matter of weeks” away, and anonymous sources telling MSPowerUser that it’s set to arrive on April 11. 

What’s more, those affordable Windows 10 VR headsets Microsoft has been raving about since last October are finally tipped to reach developers by the end of the month – or at least Acer’s contribution is. At GDC 2017, Microsoft confirmed that the Acer “Mixed Reality Development Edition” is slated for shipment beginning in March.

Now, with the next major update still basically a month away, let’s take a look at how Windows 10 has progressed up to this point.

Windows is more than just an OS

Microsoft believes the future of Windows is as a platform for all. Like Android, the strength of Windows is in the thousands of companies that develop for it and use it in their products – on multiple devices.

That's why Windows 10 is no longer just an operating system for 32 and 64-bit PCs. It also runs on ARM chips as Windows 10 Mobile for smartphones (and, eventually, Microsoft promises, smaller tablets). That's thanks to the OneCore foundation of Windows.

Like Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8 before it, Windows 10 is built on the Windows NT kernel, but much more of Windows is now shared between the different devices, and apps built for the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) will run not only on PCs, but on Windows 10 phones, Windows 10 for IoT devices, HoloLens headsets and Xbox One as well.

Note that we've published a distinct Windows 10 Mobile review here, for those of you who want the full lowdown on the OS from a smartphone standpoint.

First reviewed: July 2015

Joe Osborne and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this review

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Contributor

Dan (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Former Deputy Editor and is now in charge at our sister site T3.com. Covering all things computing, internet and mobile he's a seasoned regular at major tech shows such as CES, IFA and Mobile World Congress. Dan has also been a tech expert for many outlets including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and the World Service, The Sun and ITV News.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Contributor

Mary (Twitter, Google+, website) started her career at Future Publishing, saw the AOL meltdown first hand the first time around when she ran the AOL UK computing channel, and she's been a freelance tech writer for over a decade. She's used every version of Windows and Office released, and every smartphone too, but she's still looking for the perfect tablet. Yes, she really does have USB earrings.