Windows 10 Should I Upgrade

Windows 10 is finally here. You’ve seen some of its best new features, even heard what it’s like to use every day. But you might be wondering if you should upgrade. For some, it’s free, a great update, and a foregone conclusion. For others it’s better to wait, or think about other options. Let’s see where you fall.

You’d think upgrading would be a done deal, considering that Windows 10 is a free upgrade for so many people. But not so fast! We learned from past OS X upgrades that free doesn’t always mean “good,” and with something as serious as a Windows uplift, you should still think about whether that upgrade is right for you before you click “Begin Install”.

Who Can Upgrade to Windows 10 Now

With that out of the way, there are some people who, once you’ve prepped your PC, don’t need to hesitate if you don’t want to. Tweakers, bleeding-edge enthusiasts, people who have been running the beta or the tech preview: You can all upgrade right away. For the rest of us, here’s a general list of people who should definitely get Windows 10:

  • Windows 8/8.1 Users: We’ve never been on the hate wagon for Windows 8, but it’s also not fair to say it was entirely without problems. Well, if you’re comfortable with Windows 8, Windows 10 improves on almost every aspect. It also brings back some of the things from Windows 7 you had to install third-party tools to get. For you, it’ll be an evolutionary upgrade, packed with features you’ll find useful, but not transformative or difficult to get used to. The only Windows 8 users who might want to hold off are the ones who paid for (and use) Windows Media Center, since Windows 10 doesn’t support it, and will actually remove it during the upgrade.
  • Windows 7 Users Willing to Embrace Change: If you’ve been running Windows 7 and are interested in some of the new features Windows 10 offers (Cortana on the desktop, virtual desktops without third-party tools, much-improved Aero Snap, the all-new Action Center for notifications, and more) — not to mention the ones that came with Windows 8 (like those lightning fast boot times, many security improvements, or tighter integration with your Microsoft account, OneDrive, or Xbox) — upgrade as soon as you’re ready. Your hardware and drivers, PC games, and apps will all continue to work (again, nothing major has hit our radar that’s just outright broken.) Best of all, your upgrade is free as opposed to the hundred bucks Microsoft wanted for Windows 8. However, again, if you rely on Windows Media Center, you’ll lose it, so keep that in mind.

Let’s just get it out in the open: Windows 10 is a worthwhile upgrade for most users and most PCs that can support it. We’ve been testing it here for months, both in technical preview and in beta. Like any new OS, it’ll take a little getting used to, and some things you may be familiar with have moved around. Stability-wise, it’s solid. Functionality-wise, there are definitely its share of quirks and inconsistencies, and some things we miss, but nothing so serious you should avoid it entirely.

Should I upgrade to Windows 10? Can I downgrade again?

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. Microsoft has built in a simple process that only requires a few clicks to have the system roll back to your previous version of Windows (if you haven’t deleted the windows.old folder in which the previous version lives).

This helpful feature it successfully took data and installed apps with it, meaning you’re good to go as soon as the process is complete. 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.

Who May Not Want to Upgrade at All

Of course, with every new operating system, there are some people who just shouldn’t bother with it at all. In this case, the people who really consider Windows 10 fall into a few simple groups, and probably already know who they are:

  • Anyone Relying on Windows Media Center: As we mentioned above, Windows 10 means the end of Windows Media Center. If you had it already, you’ll lose it, so if you rely on it, you may just want to stick with Windows 7, or Windows 8 with the WMC add-on. There are alternatives, of course, including Kodi (formerly XBMC) or Plex, but neither handles things like live TV the same way that WMC does, and if your setup is built around WMC, you’ll probably want do your homework, choose an alternative that works best for you, and migrate on your own time, if at all.
  • Windows Vista Users: Windows Vista is a lot like Windows 8.1. By the time the furor around it died down and a few service packs were released, it was pretty solid. Vista users can expect support from Microsoft, including patches and security updates, well into 2017, and considering Vista systems don’t qualify for the free upgrade to Windows 10, you may want to hang tight instead of dropping the $119 retail price. Particularly if you stash the money and save up to buy a new computer that comes with Windows 10, as PC World notes.
  • Windows XP Users: If you’re still running Windows XP, there’s probably a reason, and you know it. That said, there’s no guarantee that an XP machine meets Windows 10’s system requirements, and combined with the fact that the upgrade will cost you full price, we’d hesitate to tell you to upgrade. If you’re still rocking XP on older hardware, it’s time for a new computer. If that’s not an option, we have some other suggestions.

Of course, there’s one more group of people who won’t want to upgrade to Windows 10: People who are perfectly and completely happy with what they have now, or either don’t use Windows or are leaving Windows entirely. We’re sure some of you are running Windows 7 who’ll never ever upgrade for any number of personal or aesthetic reasons. Similarly, if you’re no fan of the direction Windows has taken and you’re planning a move to OS X or Linux, clearly Windows 10 isn’t for you either.

Windows 10 Upgrade Positive Features

It’s Free! Yes, you read that correctly. Windows 10 is free. Microsoft waited until July 17th to clear this up, but its lifecycle support page now states users Mainstream Support (adding new features) will continue until October 13, 2020 and Extended Support (security updates) will last until October 14, 2025.

This is great news. These time spans fall in line with previous paid editions of Windows and whatever Microsoft has planned for ‘Windows as a service’ in future (subscriptions perhaps?), users can sit on Windows 10 until the end of Extended Support in 2025 without any worries.

The caveat: you can only upgrade to Windows 10 free if you do so within 12 months of release (that’s July 29th 2016). Upgrade outside this period and you will have to pay the standard retail costs: $119.99 for ‘Windows 10 Home’ and $199.99 for ‘Windows 10 Pro’.

Windows 10 Upgrade - DirectX 12 for Gamers

Gamers will take heart that Microsoft is building in features to enhance the experience in Windows 10. These include the ability to stream games from your Xbox One to your PC (great if someone else is watching the television), a new gameplay recording capability called PC Game DVR, and of course the latest version of DirectX 12 which is already garnering praise for its performance improvements on graphics cards and CPUs.

Windows 10? 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.

It will now allow you to control elements of your PC by using your voice. Clicking on the search section of the Taskbar will open up Cortana, and from there you can make web queries thanks to the new universal search facility that incorporates the internet as well as your device.

You can also schedule appointments in your calendar, dictate notes and reminders, control your media, get map directions, and a host of other commands. What’s even better is that Microsoft is releasing version of Cortana for Android devices and the iPhone, so no matter what your choice of device you can still sync up your data.

Edge Web Browser

Windows 8 features the latest updates to Microsoft’s long standing web browser, Internet Explorer, but Windows 10 brings a whole new browser with it, called Microsoft Edge (previously Project Spartan). This uses a whole new rendering engine and has a host of new features, too.

These include a reading mode that will remove all the clutter from web pages to make them easier to read, a reading list for creating temporary ‘read later’ bookmarks and will integrate Cortana for adding context aware information while you browser the web.

Of course, many people choose to simply use other browsers anyway, such as Chrome and Firefox, but Spartan looks like it will be a big improvement over Internet Explorer at the very least.

Virtual Desktops

Technically Linux was the first platform to offer Virtual Desktops, but they have been popularised in OS X (Apple calls them ‘Spaces’) and now Microsoft is finally aboard as well. Windows 10 allows users to create multiple virtual desktops: this could mean one for work, one for leisure, one for holiday planning, however you wish to set them up you can. And it’s about time.

The Bad Stuff of Windows 10 Upgrade

It’s Not Free For Everyone. Given the Windows upgrade market is just a tiny slice of the company’s revenues (the vast majority comes from purchases of new PCs) it irks me that Windows 10 has a number of restrictions.

Firstly Windows Vista and Windows XP owners are excluded. Combined Vista and XP remain over 13% of the global PC market and anyone still running a Vista or XP machine is likely to have upgraded it during this time so it may be in a position to run Windows 10.

If the PCs can’t then there’s no hit for Microsoft, but the good PR remains because the offer was made. Meanwhile Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 8/8.1 Enterprise and Windows RT/RT 8.1 users are excluded, as are pirates.

Forced Updates

Easily the most controversial factor about Windows 10 is what you give up for the free update: Control. For owners of Windows 10 Home (most consumers) and Windows 10 Pro (most enthusiasts and businesses) you accept to receive, download and install any and every update Microsoft sends your way with any advance notice. This could be an important security update, a new feature (even if you don’t want it) or a driver.

Delays are possible (Home users can stall up to one month, Pro users up to eight months) but after this they override and are installed automatically. It is actually part of the Windows 10 EULA (end user licence agreement) which you agree to and the consequences of this are troubling.

In just the last week a bad graphics driver and a buggy security update were automatically installed on millions of Windows 10 beta testers computers and caused repeated crashes on many machines without warning. If the troublesome updates were removed, Windows 10 automatically reinstalled them again.

OneDrive regression

This concern applies only if you use OneDrive in Windows 8.1, and if you put a lot of stuff in OneDrive. For those of you using OneDrive in Windows 7 (and Windows 8), there’s no change in behavior with Win10. But if you’re accustomed to seeing all of your OneDrive files in Windows 8.1’s File Explorer, you’ll be in for a bit of a shock.

Windows 10 makes you choose which OneDrive folders you want to be able to see in File Explorer. Once you’ve made that choice, the other folders aren’t accessible in File Explorer - or nearly about anywhere else in Win10, including, say, the Word File Open dialog. The only way to see what files you have in OneDrive is by venturing to the OneDrive website.

That can lead to difficult situations like the one in this screenshot, where you’ve unwittingly created a folder in File Explorer that duplicates one in OneDrive, and it all turns into a can of worms. It can also lead to situations where you can’t find a file you really want. It’s a huge mess. So if you don’t like it - just Disable OneDrive.

Is Windows 10 Update for me?

Any new version of Windows has advantages and disadvantages and Windows 10 is no different – except that the free upgrade for the first year makes it more tempting to go for it without necessarily thinking things through. Be sure to check how well Windows 10 will work on your PC, and how your various installed programs will cope with it.

While one might expect some legacy applications and hardware/peripherals to stop working in Windows 10, we found Microsoft’s flagship OS to be particularly accommodating when it comes to old software. Look at the new features Windows 10 offers and decide how useful they are to you, and look at the changes and the features that you’ll lose in order to decide if any of those will cause you problems.

And while there aren’t any major flaws in Windows 10, if you’re worried about the niggles, remember that you don’t need to rush – the free upgrade will be available for a year after Windows 10’s launch and Microsoft keeps adding improvements and fixes.

If you’re on the fence, you can always upgrade and try Windows 10 for yourself and roll back to your previous version of Windows if you subsequently decide it’s not for you (just ensure you make a good backup first). Note that if you ultimately decide not to upgrade, you can always install Windows 10 features on prior Windows version.