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Should I Upgrade to Windows 10?

10 JUL
Windows 10

With the release of Windows 10 around the corner (July 29th), I bet I’m not the only one asking myself “Should I upgrade?” If you’ve come here looking for the short answer…

the answer (for most people) is a resounding YES!

Still can’t make up your mind? Well you’re in luck, because - as usual - my follow up answer is much longer and more detailed. To avoid one of my usual long tech ramblings I’m going to give you my...

 

Top 5 reasons to upgrade to Windows 10

1. Easy-peasy Upgrade

In my experience, something that puts most people off upgrading is the actual process. From sourcing the right version to spending time installing it, or re-installing all your software, replacing your current (comfy as an old pair of shoes) operating system has always been somewhat of a nuisance. This time around, though, Microsoft has simply got this bit right!

If you’ve kept your Windows software up-to-date, you may have noticed a small Windows icon on your Taskbar. This intrusive upgrade assistant (officially the Get Windows 10 App) allows you to reserve your copy of Windows 10 and check your PC and software can run it - before guiding you through the install.

This one-stop-portal takes all the faff out of upgrading. Once reserved, the 3GB update will download automatically (as soon as it’s available) and prompt you to install… or you can pick a more convenient time. The install is no more complicated than a regular Windows Update and promises to keep all compatible programs and user files in place.

TIP: Those wondering about a ‘fresh install’ - it's possible, but you must upgrade to Windows 10 first and reinstall via recovery options.

 

2. It’s FREE! (for most people)*

Windows 10

*Free if you upgrade before July 2016
Yep, you read that right - Windows 10 will be a free upgrade! Which is quite a big deal… I probably should have led with that bit (if I didn’t hate upgrading so much I would have). If you have a qualifying copy of Windows 7 or 8.1 you’ll get the equal updated version, i.e. if you have Windows 7 Pro you’ll get Windows 10 Pro.

What’s more - you’ll get any future Windows versions for free, too.

Well… sort of. Here’s the official line from Microsoft:

“This is more than a one-time upgrade: once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we'll continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device – at no cost. With Windows 10, the experience will evolve and get even better over time. We’ll deliver new features when they’re ready, not waiting for the next major release.”

The caveat ‘lifetime of the device’ most certainly means one device. Licences aren’t transferable, but if your PC packs-in, Windows will likely come with your new one. It’s the ‘supported lifetime’ bit that has people guessing. Right now, we don’t know how long that will be.

 

3. Return of the Start Menu

Windows 10 Start Menu

Despite all the improvements Windows 8 brought, adoption was hindered by the removal of the much loved Start Menu. The full-screen ‘Live Tiles’ Start Screen never took off on anything but a tablet. Microsoft hopes to bring the best of the traditional Start Menu and Start Screen together in Windows 10 - pleasing both mobile & desktop users.

The left of the new Start Menu will look instantly familiar, except it’s much more customisable than previous incarnations. You can change the background colour, transparency and move things about a bit - which comes in handy if you want to reduce the size of the new Live Tiles on the right, or get rid of them completely (yes, you can do that!)

 

4. "Hi, there. How can I help?"

Windows 10 Cortana

Integrated into the new & improved search engine is Cortana - Microsoft’s go at a hands-free, voice activated, ‘personal digital assistant’. If you haven’t heard of Cortana, or Siri, or GoogleNow - you’ve probably seen movies or games where characters interact with machines using natural language (like the artificial intelligence Cortana from the Halo series… we see what you did there Microsoft!)

Far from just being an assistant you can set reminders with, dictate emails to, get answers from or execute commands - Cortana has a ‘Notebook’ to store personal information. Over time, Cortana learns more about your specific patterns and behaviours - like what time you might travel home from work, for the purpose of providing traffic updates without you needing to ask.

Microsoft have also introduced the Universal Apps Platform. This basically promises any application you have on one device (a PC, lets say) will work on any other device you have (such as a tablet). This is because developers don’t have to write a special version of an application to run on another device.

Any PC, tablet or mobile (or future device) that runs Windows 10 promises to run any Windows app. Having Cortana on all those devices also syncs your notebook… so any reminder you set on your phone, or email you start on your way to work can be picked up on your PC when you get into the office.

 

5. And the rest…

The Universal Apps Platform is also behind a new feature called Continuum. In its simplest form, Continuum alters the user interface depending on device form factor. For example: if you remove a keyboard attached to a tablet (which runs Windows 10 like a desktop) you’ll be prompted to enter ‘tablet mode’ which makes the UI more tablet friendly - applications and the Start Menu run full screen and touch gestures come to life.

Joe Belfiore (Vice President, Microsoft) shows off Windows Continuum

The most powerful aspect of Continuum, though, is what you can do with a Windows 10 tablet or mobile phone - connect them (wired or wireless) to a screen and watch as a full desktop UI springs into action. Apps scale-up to take advantage of the increased screen real estate, and you can even connect a keyboard & mouse if you wish to complete the experience.

 

Microsoft Edge

If the reasons above don’t float your boat - how about a brand new internet browser ‘designed for interoperability with the modern web’? That’s what Microsoft hopes to do with Microsoft Edge. It does away with older web browsing technologies to bring performance improvements and new features - like being able to annotate web pages and share them.

 

Microsoft Xbox One

What about gaming? Windows 10 brings us DirectX 12 which promises speed & fidelity improvements to herald in true 4K gaming. The best of Xbox One is also coming to the PC; from playing against console users on PC or streaming games from your Xbox One to your PC or tablet - it’s all possible with Windows 10.

 

Windows 10 Update

Windows 10 will also boot-up, shutdown and resume faster than any other version of Windows before. It has more in-built security and keeps itself up-to-date without you ever having to do anything… and remember, those updates are completely free.

 

 

But...

Do you remember my actual answer to this question? A resounding yes... for most people. Because, with the relentless stampede of technical advancement, there are going to be some trade-offs. As well as forcing a Microsoft Account and updates, Microsoft is leaving behind some of its own freeware, so if you use it you’ll have to find alternatives.

Windows Media Center is not supported in Windows 10. So, if you watch/record TV on your computer, or listen to music and organise your photos with it, you’ll have to find something else. Speaking of watching things, you can’t natively watch DVDs - you’ll now need a separate program. Desktop Gadgets have been axed and pre-installed games (like Minesweeper) are no longer pre-installed.

However, you may have moved your music and photos to the cloud, or use on-demand services instead of DVDs, and you can download Minesweeper from the Microsoft Store… so we’re all smiles and sunshine again!

 

Summary

So there you have it - a free & easy upgrade, your favourite Start Menu and a digital personal assistant, as well as a wealth of other new features and improvements. Sound good to you?

I’ll be updating to Windows 10 as soon as it’s available. Why? Simply because I believe it to be the best Windows operating system I've ever seen, and Microsoft have set up a fantatic platform for the future. If you're upgrading too (or don’t wish to) I’d love to hear your views in the comments section below.