Over the past several Windows Insider builds, Microsoft has discussed a number of changes it has made to Windows 10 Setup in the Creators Update. While the rationale for these changes is understandable, they make for a more ponderous end user experience.
In fact, the biggest changes were made in order to improve the accessibility of Windows 10 Setup, in particular for those with vision problems. This is a laudable goal, and I don’t mean to dismiss the need. But these changes will also be incredibly annoying to the vast majority of people who will in fact be clean installing Windows 10 down the road. And perhaps some compromise can be made.
The other big change, in my mind, is a new set of more explicit privacy settings one can configure. I’m in favor of this kind of kind, not just because it’s more transparent, but because Microsoft has too often taken valuable steps out of Setup in order to make it happen more quickly for users. It’s better to get the system properly configured, I think, than save a few minutes during a process that most people will only experience once.
So let’s look at those and some other changes occurring in Windows 10 Setup with the Creators Update.
As I describe in the Windows 10 Field Guide, Windows 10 Setup undergoes a number of phases while it applies the OS to your PC’s disk. Some of these operations happen in the background and are non-interactive, while others, like the so-called OOBE, or out-of-box experience, require the user to answer questions and make choices.
If you are performing a true clean install of Windows 10, using USB-based media most typically, you will experience three phases. First is an interactive phase in which you are prompted for such things as the OS language, time and currency format, keyboard or input method, a product key (which is optional), to accept the license agreement, determine where to install Windows, and so. After that, Setup will apply the necessary files to disk, installed Windows 10 and associated services and drivers, and reboot a few times while doing so.
After that, the OOBE starts. This is the only part of Setup that those who obtain Windows 10 on a new PC will experience; the preceding tasks were performed for you by your PC maker.
With the Creators Update, the first two Setup phases appear to be identical to previous Windows 10 versions. The changes are in the OOBE. And they are readily apparent, both visually and audibly.
In the first part of OOBE, now called Welcome and named as such, Cortana will blurt out in an overly-loud voice that you can now setup Windows 10 using voice commands. She’s here to help, she says. But this announcement is incredibly jarring, in part because Windows 10 has always inexplicably set the system volume to a very loud level on first boot. (I’ve complained to Microsoft about this privately on many occasions, including as part of the formal Signature PC white paper I presented to them in 2016.)
You can turn off the yelling by quickly clicking a small microphone icon in the lower left of the Setup screens. (You can’t see it in my screenshots here because these images were taken with a virtual machine for which audio services were not yet enabled. But you will see the icon on real-world PC installs.) If you do not do so, you will have to grit your teeth during an overly-lengthy and overly-loud introduction to Cortana.
My advice? Disable this terrible functionality by default and spare most of us the pain. There is no reason why Windows 10 Setup can’t support accessibility. There is no reason for it to be on by default. (For example, I’m OK with Spanish being an option when I call my bank, but I expect for English to be the default. Same theory.)
The new visual style of OOBE is likewise jarring: It looks nothing like the rest of Setup, and if Microsoft is going to change part of Setup in this release, I feel like maybe they could change all of it and make the process visually consistent throughout. At least use the entire screen.
In the second part of OOBE, you connect to a network and thus the Internet, if needed. In a VM, this happens automatically, but on a real PC, you will need to select a Wi-Fi connection—and provide the password—unless you’re on an Ethernet connection at the time. No major changes here.
Next up is the Account part. As with the previous Windows 10 version, you are prompted to explain “who owns the PC,” a step I feel that most people will find confusing. And in part because “My work or school owns it” is the default. This isn’t new to the Creators Update, but this whole step should be removed. At the very least, auto-select “I own it,” please.
Then we come across the next big change in Setup: The “Make it yours” step has been changed to “Sign in with Microsoft.”
The emphasis here may seem subtle, and, I don’t know, maybe it is. But the notion of an explicit Microsoft account is now gone, replaced by what we might think of as an “online account” where you “sign in with Microsoft” by supplying your MSA email address, or a phone number or Skype name that is associated with that account.
And if you want to use a local account, there are fewer steps, but with a new name: Now you click “offline account” instead of “Skip this step” (which was more confusing, yes).
As before, you can supply a simple local account user name (like “Paul”) and, optionally, a password. Though I’m amused at the exhortation to “Create a super memorable password.” Both for the language and because it is not, in fact, required at all.
After that, the Services part of OOBE starts. First up, you are prompted to use Cortana. This is the same as in Windows 10 version 1607, in that you are using Cortana whether you want to or not, really, but selecting “Yes” here provides Microsoft with the ability to make the feature slightly more useful. (To make it even more useful, sign-in with an MSA.)
Next up is another big change, the new privacy choices, which replace the ability to choose “Express settings” in what used to be called “Get going fast.” Thanks to privacy concerns in the US, EU, and South Korea, Microsoft is now providing users with a set of explicit privacy choices to mull over during Setup.
Location. Apps like Weather and Maps need your location data to work properly. If you disable this, those apps can prompt you as needed for this access. The privacy dig? Microsoft uses your location data anonymously to improve its services.
Speech recognition. Cortana and some Store apps can use your microphone to enable speech recognition functionality. The privacy dig? Microsoft uses your speech recognition data anonymously to improve its services.
Diagnostics. Microsoft uses anonymous telemetry data to improve the reliability of Windows 10 and its own services. The privacy dig? Microsoft uses this telemetry data anonymously to improve its services.
Tailored experiences with diagnostic data. Microsoft provides a number of in-box suggestions and recommendations for apps and services that are based on an anonymous analysis of your usage. The privacy dig? Microsoft needs to use this data to know what to recommend.
Relevant ads. Certain Windows 10 apps and services display ads, and while you can’t turn that off, you can determine whether those ads will be more relevant and interesting based on your app usage. The privacy dig? Microsoft uses your anonymous app data usage data to improve these ads.
Note that each of these is enabled by default here, but you can easily change that after a bit of reading.
Note, too, that this step is completely unnecessary and that Windows 10’s privacy issues are nothing but FUD. And that you can configure Windows 10 privacy features to much more granular level anytime you wish, regardless of this step.
Anyway. After all that is over, Cortana is annoying for a few more screens and then Setup continues as it did in previous versions of Windows 10. That is, during a color-cycled, epileptic fit-inducing series of screens that read “Hi,” “This might take several minutes or so,” “We want everything to be super ready for you” (yes, really), and so on, you’re finally presented with your new Windows 10 desktop.
There are actually a few major changes here, too, and since this first trip to the desktop can rightfully be considered a part of Setup—after all, there are tons of things left for you to set up—let’s take a quick look.
First up, Microsoft Edge opens automatically, advertising both itself and a set of other Microsoft apps and services—Cortana and the Mail app—that the firm would really like you to configure now and use going forward.
Cortana integration with Windows 10 has gotten harder to ignore in recent releases, as you may know. But that Mail bit is new: Not only does Microsoft call out Mail in that welcoming Edge window, but with the Creators Update, a Mail icon is now displayed by default on the Windows 10 taskbar. That’s very valuable real estate: Microsoft really wants you to use Mail.
You will notice some other changes, too, including a crazy-big and very graphical new notification welcoming you to use the Action Center. But for the most part the Windows 10 experience now continues as it did in the past.