On August 2nd, a little over one year after the initial launch of Windows 10, Microsoft will release its first major update: the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. It will be delivered in the usual way -- via Windows Update -- and will install automatically on its own.
However, if you're curious (or apprehensive) about the upcoming update, you don't have to wait until the final release date to check it out. Microsoft has been releasing public preview builds, each one a little bit closer to the final version. Anyone can get and install those builds by first becoming part of Microsoft's Windows Insider Program, then joining what's called the Fast Ring.
Want to keep track of what builds are available when? What follows is a list of every preview build of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, starting with the most recent and going back to the beginning of the year. For each build, we've included the date of its release and a link to Microsoft's announcement about it. Also included are links to Computerworld's reviews of the major builds.
(Note: This covers only previews for the PC version of Windows 10, not the phone version.)
We'll update this page as new builds are rolled out so you'll always be up to date.
Release date: July 18
This minor build has, in Microsoft's words, a “handful of new fixes,” including improving the reliability of the Start menu, Cortana and the Action Center. It also lets iPods be mounted as USB mass-storage devices.
Release date: July 15
This minor build introduces the Amazon Assistant for the Edge browser, designed for shopping on Amazon. Other than that, Microsoft fixed only a single small bug: When someone who was using a non-US English-language version turned on Developer Mode using the "For Developers" Settings page, they would see the error code 0x80004005.
Release date: July 12
This extremely minor build focuses on bug fixes -- a mere 44 of them. The main ones have to do with improving reliability and battery life. Several bugs related to the Narrator (which reads text on your screen aloud) have been fixed as well.
Release date: July 9
This minor build focuses on bug fixes, as most builds will likely do from now on. It kills one nagging annoyance: No longer will a notification pop up telling you that your Windows evaluation copy expires on 7/15/2016. In addition, Surface devices should get better battery lives and Spotify should no longer crash when it plays music. Other bugs have been squashed as well -- Microsoft claims a “few hundred” of them.
Release date: July 7
This minor build focuses on bug fixes, but the detail-oriented will notice a sign that the code for the Windows 10 Anniversary Update is close to being final: the usual desktop watermark identifying the build number is now gone. There will still be updates between Build 14383 and the final shipping version on August 2, but taking away the watermark indicates that major changes are locked in.
Release date: June 30
This exceedingly minor build had only a handful of bug fixes and tweaks, including one that solves a problem with the Action Center potentially crashing after dismissing a large number of notifications.
Release date: June 28
This build focused on minor tweaks and bug fixes -- Microsoft claimed 1,800 in all. Likely you won't notice any, though. Among them are a Store update with better performance and reliability, and many other very small ones.
Release date: June 23
Only a day after the previous release, we got a minor build focusing on bug fixes. The only thing notable about it was a new extension for Microsoft Edge: Evernote Web Clipper. This extension, like existing ones for Chrome and Firefox, lets you clip web pages to Evernote. However, it’s a bit buggy, and won’t work on all web pages.
Release date: June 22
This minor build fixed the Windows 10 activation issues some people encountered when using "genuine" -- in other words, properly licensed -- Windows devices. When some users made hardware changes on their devices, such as replacing a hard drive or motherboard, Windows 10 wouldn't activate, because after the hardware change the device was no longer recognized as the one that Windows was licensed for. If that happened, you'd still be able to run Windows, but you'd get frequent reminders that it's not genuine, your desktop background would be constantly changed to black and you wouldn't be able to get non-security upgrades.
To prevent that situation, this build introduced an Activation Troubleshooter, which is designed to fix those issues. You get to the troubleshooter by going to Settings > Update & security > Activation, and selecting Troubleshoot.
The build also fixed a variety of bugs.
Release date: June 16
This build, which showed up only two days after the last one, focuses primarily on bug fixes. But it also includes a feature that long-time Windows users will welcome: The ability to easily perform a clean install of Windows on your PC.
To use it, go to Settings > Update & security > Recovery, and choose "Learn how to start fresh with a clean installation of Windows." You’ll then be directed to a Microsoft Community page that has instructions about how to do a clean install, as well as a link to download the necessary tool.
The bonus here is that the process will delete any applications that don't come standard with Windows. That means it will not only delete apps you've installed, but pre-installed apps that came on the system as well. So if you wish, you can run this as soon as you get a new PC and remove all that irritating bloatware.
Release date: June 14
This minor build focuses primarily on bug fixes. It also adds a new extension to Microsoft Edge that lets people view, edit and create Office files inside Microsoft Edge without having to install Microsoft Office. In addition, it has temporarily halted adding any new features to Windows 10 in previews during Microsoft's Windows 10 Anniversary Update June Bug Bash, during which beta testers help the company find and squash bugs.
Release date: June 8
This minor build included the LastPass password extension for Microsoft Edge, the ability to user Docker natively in Windows 10 using Hyper-V Containers, and improvements to Windows Ink. It also brought small changes to the Settings app and a variety of bug fixes.
Release date: May 26
This minor build included two new Cortana features: One that lets you use Cortana to play music from Microsoft's Groove Music Catalog and another that lets you use Cortana as a timer. Also launched were changes to Microsoft Ink, including an updated Sticky Notes feature, among others.
Release date: May 10
This relatively major build made Microsoft Edge extensions easier to obtain by letting them be installed from the Windows Store rather than via a rather complicated download-and-install process. The build also included four new Edge extensions: two ad blockers; a developer-focused tool for improving a website's compatibility and performance; and Save to Pocket, which saves articles, videos and other web-based media so they can then be viewed either online or in the Pocket app for iOS and Android.
The preview also killed the controversial Wi-Fi Sense feature, which was designed to automatically connect guests to Wi-Fi networks without their having to typing in passwords. However, people feared that Sense might invade their privacy by sharing all their Wi-Fi passwords with their Outlook and Skype contacts, and with their Facebook friends -- and all of their friends' friends as well.
Here's the full review.
Release date: April 26
This minor build made improvements to the command line and the Linux Bash on Ubuntu feature. It also gave Cortana the ability to search Office 365, offered improvements in battery life, and fixed a variety of bugs.
Release date: April 22
This build was a major update -- the most significant update in the entire series, and one that clearly laid out Microsoft's vision for the final Windows 10 Anniversary update.
Cortana took center stage with a host of improvements, including understanding natural-language requests such as "Email Bill the Excel spreadsheet I worked on yesterday." Cortana also works better with the calendar, doing things such as automatically adding information to the calendar based on received emails, like adding airline flight info if you receive a flight confirmation via email.
Windows Ink was introduced in the upgrade, a feature which lets you use a stylus to write on touch devices and do tasks such as create sticky notes or drawings. The Start menu was revamped so that the All Apps list is permanently visible. Links to Power, File Explorer and Settings were moved to a narrow list on the left side of the Start Menu.
Other changes included having more control over battery settings and the addition of a new dark theme.
Here's the full review.
Release date: April 6
This was the first build released after Microsoft's Build 2016 developers' conference, when Microsoft announced the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. In this build, Windows for the first time got a built-in Linux command line -- a GNU Bash shell. Most users probably don't care about this, but for developers it's a big deal because it's the real thing -- a full-blown Ubuntu command line that is being created in partnership with Canonical.
Cortana was also integrated better across multiple devices, including Android and Windows phones (although not iPhones). Ask for directions on your computer and the directions are sent to your phones as well.
Action Center was tweaked with features such as setting priorities for which apps are more important than others, and the ability to have those apps' notifications show up at the top of your notification lists.
Release date: March 25
This build fixed a variety of minor bugs.
Release date: March 17
This build was the first in which Microsoft Edge finally got support for extensions, something that Microsoft had been promising ever since the release of Windows 10 in the summer of 2015. It was far from perfect -- installation was confusing and flaky, and not all of the extensions worked. Still, it was a start. It also let you pin tabs in Microsoft Edge. Several built-on apps, including Maps and the Alarms & Clock app, were updated.
Release date: March 4
This minor build made Cortana available in more languages in different countries, including Spanish (Mexico), Portuguese (Brazil) and French (Canada). Other minor changes include bug fixes.
Release date: February 24
This build fixed a variety of minor bugs.
Release date: February 18
This minor build made it easier to search for music in Cortana and included a number of minor changes to Microsoft Edge, such as clearing browsing data when you exit.
Release date: February 3
This build fixed a variety of minor bugs.
Release date: January 27
This minor build, which fixed a variety of bugs, was notable primarily because it was a big jump in numbers from the previous build (11102). That jump was more of a housekeeping issue than anything else. Microsoft had united the Windows and Windows Mobile teams, and wanted to sync the build numbers of Windows and Windows Mobile.
Release date: January 21
In this minor build, Microsoft Edge got a new history menu.
Release date: January 13
This minor build focused on making under-the-hood changes to the code shared among all Windows devices.
This story, "Windows 10 Anniversary Update: A guide to the builds" was originally published by Computerworld.