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Windows chief Terry Myerson. (GeekWire File Photo).

This week is a pivotal one for Windows users, with some big decisions looming.

Microsoft is ending its free Windows 10 upgrade offer on Friday, July 29, and preparing to release a major update to the operating system on Tuesday, Aug. 2 — giving Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users just a few more days to decide whether to make the move, unless they want to pay for the upgrade later.

(Note: Dates corrected since original post.)

That makes next week’s Windows 10 Anniversary Update a key consideration for people using older versions of Windows, as the deadline approaches for making the free leap to Windows 10. In a briefing with GeekWire last week, Microsoft showed some of the features that the company hopes will get users on board with latest version of the operating system.

The Windows 10 inking experience evolves to include a dedicated Windows ink workspace, activated by clicking the eraser on the digital pen by default. It includes sticky notes, a sketchpad and the ability to quickly capture and annotate the computer screen, effectively bringing inking to any app.

Users can also “enable insights” to let Windows look up a flight number or street address written in digital ink on the screen. Windows 10 Anniversary Update also adds the ability to customize what happens when users click the button on the digital pen, such as the one included with Microsoft’s Surface Book.

Windows Hello biometric authentication expands to selected apps in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. (Photo Credit: Microsoft)

Windows Hello, the built-in biometric authentication technology, will be expanding beyond the log-in screen to selected apps, starting with OneDrive, Edge, Dropbox and iHeartRadio, reducing the need for passwords.

Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant in Windows 10, can now be used from the lock screen, letting users instruct the computer to play music or set reminders, for example, without logging in.

So is the Windows 10 Anniversary Update worth the upgrade?

Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet tests the new version and offers her opinion: “My advice, after using the Anniversary Update for the past few days is any Windows 7/8.X user who is thinking at all about going to Windows 10, now’s the time. Whether or not you care about Windows Ink, Cortana, or Hello, this update to Windows 10 makes the operating system and the apps integrated with it more reliable and better performing.”

Tom Warren of The Verge outlines his favorite features and concludes, “Overall, I’m impressed with Windows 10 Anniversary Update. After just a year, Microsoft has managed to update Windows 10 with a solid amount of new features. This is the exact promise of Windows as a service, and it’s encouraging to see it in action. There are still many bigger things I’d love to see in Windows, but it’s often all these small additions that make for a better operating system overall.”

Longtime Windows watcher Paul Thurrott gives the Anniversary Update an extensive review and writes: “To be clear, this is mostly an iterative or evolutionary update, unless of course you’re a tablet PC and pen fan. … But it’s still a major milestone, and a further realization of Microsoft’s goals to keep Windows 10 evergreen. Plus, it’s free to current users of Windows 10. What’s not to like?”

So now it’s up to you, Windows users: What’s your plan?

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