With the recent arrival of Windows 10 many users have been eager to cash in on the free upgrade provided to Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 owners and access the highly-anticipated new features that Microsoft has been promising for over a year. But is the hype to be believed and should you upgrade right away?
Let’s start with the upgrade process. The first indication that you are eligible for the upgrade will be the Windows logo displayed in the system tray which you can use to reserve your in-place upgrade. Microsoft will then alert you in the coming hours or days as to when the upgrade is ready to start. Now this is where you need to be careful. If you’ve just come in to the office planning to kick off the upgrade and start your day, think again. Upgrading your computer’s operating system is not a trivial task and involves a complete system reconfiguration. This is not a task that Windows can simply perform in the background whilst you continue working and you should plan an extra-long lunch break whilst the upgrade proceeds. Ideally your IT department or MSP should have an implementation plan already in place for controlling the upgrades throughout the company to avoid those potentially lengthy periods of unexpected downtime.
Feel free to kick off your upgrade on your PC at home but make sure you’ve backed up any important files, photos, videos etc. on your home computer before you do. In most cases you won’t have an issue as Windows is designed not to modify or remove your personal files during the upgrade process. However, unless you don’t have anything you can’t afford to lose this is certainly one of those times where it pays to adhere to the old adage of better to be safe than sorry!
Microsoft has stated the free upgrade period will extend for 12 months from the official launch date until end of June 2016. Beyond the free period or for anyone who wishes to purchase the standalone retail version it will cost consumers AU$156 as at time of writing.
As with any new product there will be features that some will find useful and others irritating. A few of the nicer additions include:
- The ability to run multiple “desktops” alongside each other via the Task View button. Users can emulate a multiple monitor setup without needing to minimise or use Alt-Tab.
- The Web Note feature in Edge allows users to scribble notes with their mouse stylus-style as an overlay directly on web pages.
- Internet Explorer has been replaced by the minimalist Microsoft Edge including a single unified address/search bar.
- The All Apps button lists your apps alphabetically in a user-friendly scrollable column as opposed to the fullscreen, horizontal and clunky method Windows 8 employed.
- The Start menu’s much-loved Windows 7-style functionality has returned with the option to bolt on Windows-8 style app tiles for quick launching your favourite application
Some of the less attractive features:
- Once registered, the upgrade process has been known on rare occasion to start automatically without asking for consent or prompting you to postpone.
- If you did not uninstall any antivirus programs prior to upgrading, you will likely encounter issues with either the upgrade process or post-upgrade with updating AV definitions.
- The Start Menu’s search function tends to prioritise web results over local app installations negating its usefulness to quickly find and launch an application.
- The recently installed programs list in the Start Menu is set to only show the single most recently installed application. This can be frustrating when installing a suite of applications that you wish to pin to the My Apps location.
- Some websites and applets will have problems loading or not load altogether from Microsoft Edge, particularly those that are Java-based.
- At least one recent update to Windows 10 has been known to cause your computer to enter a restart loop. This was quickly recalled by Microsoft but it may affect some machines that already received it.
Whilst there are a few annoyances with Windows 10, it is certainly a much more polished product and has far fewer failings than Windows 8 and you can’t really ask for much more having had such a recent release and no doubt a myriad of updates and hotfixes on the way which will now come down via the new over-the-air update utility. The operating system is also more user intuitive, a result of Microsoft’s return to listening to user feedback and incorporating fixes or features. With Windows 10 they have created a distinct “we’ve designed this for you” feel in stark contrast to the “get used to the new layout” imposition of Windows 8.
In all, if you are keen to try out the latest instalment from Microsoft sign-up for the free upgrade at home and test it out for yourself. For the business environment, certainly best to contact your IT department or MSP first to avoid any headaches.