Windows 10

Windows 10 launched globally on July 29th 2015, with Windows 7 (SP1), and 8.1 users are eligible to receive a free upgrade to the new OS. The free update offer lasts for a year, so there’s no pressure to decide right now. With many new features, and various system improvements upgrading is a no-brainer for most people.

Should you upgrade to Windows 10?

One of the first questions we’re often asked when it comes to upgrading a system is how easily can you go back to your old one if you don’t like it. The answer with Windows 10 is that it’s very easy. Of course, as with any operating system installation, you’ll want to make a full backup of your data before you begin either the upgrade or the downgrade.

It’s free!

The biggest decision taken by Microsoft with Windows 10 was to offer the OS as a free upgrade to current users of Windows 7 and 8.1. In fact there’s a good chance that your PC is already displaying a new icon in the system tray, prompting you to update to Windows 10. There has been a little confusion over exactly who can upgrade, but this has been clarified now by Microsoft and boils down to you having an activated and genuine copy of Windows 7 (SP1) or 8.1 installed on your PC. Those with older versions of 7 or 8 should use the Windows Update feature to bring their systems up to a qualifying version. For XP or Vista users Windows 10 will be a paid upgrade.

It’s not just for tablets
Windows 8 will not be fondly remembered by many users. The clumsy interface that favored touch over traditional mouse and keyboard inputs made it confusing to use at first.

Windows 10 avoids the same pitfalls by returning to a Windows 7 style desktop, complete with a Start Menu that features optional live tiles for those who liked that addition to Windows 8.

Modern apps run in windows on the desktop, and the newly introduced Universal apps mean that you purchase something once and then have it available on all your Windows devices – be they a PC, Surface, tablet, phone, or even Xbox One. Of course touch hasn’t disappeared entirely, but now it’s handled by a new feature called Continuum which senses what kind of device you are using and adjusts the interface accordingly. So, for example, if you have a Surface Pro 3 and remove the keyboard, Windows 10 will then switch to an entirely touch based system, and vice versa.

Cortana is great!

Virtual assistants are already helping out on your phone, with Google Now and Apple’s Siri grabbing the headlines, but Microsoft intends to make them big news on desktops with Cortana in Windows 10. This intelligent assistant can now be found on laptops and PCs – not just Windows Phones.

No Microsoft account required

With Windows 8 a Microsoft account was mandatory, as you used it to log in. With Windows 10 you can elect to create standard accounts instead, using whatever email address you want. Of course if you want the cool Microsoft-embedded features that work with OneDrive or Cortana then you’ll still need to sign up.

Handy new features

Another addition in Windows 10 is that of Virtual Desktops. With this neat feature you can use the Task View mode to easily create multiple workspaces on your PC and switch between them as if they were on different screens. You can also arrange windows on your desktop using the Snap Assist feature, so that they take up one half of the screen or even split into four quarters of the desktop.

What if you have old software and hardware?

One possible concern for those moving up to Windows 10, especially from older versions of Windows, is whether their important applications will work on the new OS. For major software releases this will almost certainly be a smooth upgrade, but it’s worth checking with the software provider, as they may still be working on a new version. You don’t want to upgrade and suddenly find you can’t do your normal work on your PC. The same holds true for peripherals such as printers and scanners, which may require the downloading of new drivers to ensure they work properly on the new platform.

Are you upgrading from XP or Vista?

As stated above, Windows 10 is a free upgrade for existing Windows 7 (SP1) and Windows 8.1 users. This offer doesn’t extend to XP or Vista and you can’t simply upgrade even if you’re willing to pay. Updating requires a clean install.

Whether you should buy an upgrade then is a trickier question in this instance. While the advantages of Windows 10 are clear, if you’re running specialist software on your XP or Vista machine, then the chances are it is pretty old and might not be compatible with the latest OS. Then there’s the price to consider. Microsoft Store Pricing for Windows 10 Home edition is $119.99 and the Professional edition is at $199.99.

If your software is compatible with Windows 10, or you’re happy to update to new versions of the software then it’s more sensible to buy a new PC with it already installed, rather than spend the money and install on old hardware. While you might be happy with your machine, if it’s running Vista or XP then the chances are it is quite old, and likely to have parts wearing out.

Bottom line

While Windows 8 was an unpleasant surprise for a lot of people, Windows 10 goes a long way to putting that right. The OS is clean, familiar, and easy to understand, plus it has a wealth of new, helpful features that you’ll actually want to use. The fact that it’s free for the majority of existing Windows users, and can be rolled back quickly to the previous version if you don’t like it, really makes it very, very easy to recommend.