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Top Windows 10 April 2018 Update features you need to know

Microsoft's latest update to Windows 10 helps IT pros and users alike. On the user front, Focus Assist can help employees silence notifications while they work.

Spring is known as the season of rebirth. Flowers bloom, snow melts and people get back outdoors. Microsoft is following in that spirit by releasing the latest update to Windows 10, which provides organizations with new productivity, security and efficiency.

Many anticipated that Microsoft would call the latest update the Spring Creators Update in the wake of the Fall Creators Update, but Microsoft chose Windows 10 April 2018 Update to avoid any confusion with last year's Creators Update, which also debuted in the spring.

Before any IT professionals go out and enjoy the improving weather that comes with spring, they should familiarize themselves with the new features and how they affect user productivity, privacy and more.

User productivity

Microsoft announced Timeline last year, and it's finally making its debut in the Windows 10 April 2018 Update. With Timeline, users can press Tab and the Windows key at the same time to pull up a window showing the apps they recently used and specific files within those apps they were working on. This makes it easier to jump back into tasks from users' desktops on their mobile devices, as long as they are signed into their Microsoft accounts. If users do not want Timeline tracking the apps and files they work with, they can disable it in Activity History, which is in the Privacy section within Settings.

Microsoft renamed Quiet Hours in the Windows 10 April 2018 Update. The feature is now called Focus Assist, and it gives users the power to specify which notifications the OS or apps can deliver to them and when. Users can turn notifications off altogether or prioritize them to determine which ones will pop up at certain times. To set the priorities, users can either access Focus Assist in the System section of Settings, or right-click the Action Center icon.

The My People app, which allows users to pin contacts to their task bar, now allows users to place up to 10 people on the task bar, rather than the original maximum of three. In addition, users can drag and drop the icons representing people to prioritize them.

Microsoft Edge also added some user-friendly enhancements in the Windows 10 April 2018 Update. Users can now mute specific tabs and autofill payment forms. In addition, more browser extensions now work in private mode than before.

Privacy and security

IT pros can restrict which applications can access which folders more easily.

When it comes to privacy and security, Microsoft upped the ante in the Windows 10 April 2018 Update in a couple of ways.

Windows 10 Defender Application Guard is now available in the Professional edition of the OS. Previously only in consumer editions, this tool containerizes browser sessions in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer. If a user accesses a malicious site, Application Guard automatically launches it in a Hyper-V container so the site cannot access any other aspects of the company network. In addition, if a user accidentally downloads malware, it won't be able to access the rest of the network.

IT pros can also restrict which applications can access which folders more easily. In the Privacy section of Settings, IT can now allow or deny applications access to the Documents, Pictures, Camera and File System folders.

Overall efficiency

The Windows 10 April 2018 Update offers some tools to make life easier for IT pros as well. The Diagnostic Data Viewer provides IT with a one-stop-shop for viewing diagnostics, including what information the OS sends back to Microsoft, the apps users work with, web histories and more. IT can then home in on specific information by selecting a diagnostic event to see the data associated with it. IT pros can filter by category or search for particular items of interest. The caveat is that the information is not presented in layman's terms. The IT pro must understand some complicated terminology to truly comprehend what the Diagnostic Data Viewer is showing him.

To help with resource management, the Windows 10 April 2018 Update allows IT pros to decide which graphics processing unit a high-powered device with a supplemental GPU will use to process images on the screen. They can do so on an app-by-app basis to set whether an app will use the onboard GPU on the device or the supplemental GPU. Choosing Power Saving mode will force the app to use the built-in card, and selecting High Performance will use the supplemental GPU.

Staying in the realm of resource management, IT pros can now use the Group Policy Editor to determine how much bandwidth a particular app or Windows Update can consume. They can adjust the bandwidth consumption levels by the time of day or by a particular device.

Plus, Microsoft has taken steps to simplify and shorten the process of transitioning to the Windows 10 April 2018 Update. Now, a significant chunk of the update happens in the background while users are working, and downtime is only about 30 minutes for user data migration to occur. In addition, Microsoft ramped up the role of machine learning to determine when a device is ready for the update. By analyzing real-time feedback, Windows Update automatically begins the installation in the background, and when it's ready for the offline portion, it lets the user decide when to perform the necessary reboot. Or users can begin the process manually by clicking Check for Updates under Windows Update in the Update and Security section of Settings.

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