To upgrade or not to upgrade? Our Software Developer, Steve, shares his thoughts on Microsoft’s new operating system.
I, like many others, have decided to upgrade to Windows 10. More out of curiosity than necessity.
In the past I have found that the latest operating system created by Windows is not always the best system to adopt. I say this after extensive experience of Windows ME, Windows Vista and of course Windows 8. These particular versions of Windows have not been particularly well received, mainly due to Microsoft’s unwillingness to listen to consumer needs.
However, Windows 2000, Windows XP and Windows 7, were all very well received by Windows users, perhaps due to the issues that were addressed after the release of the other OS’s.
It was with this in mind that I was reluctant to try Windows 10. I was more than happy with 7; its performance was satisfactory so ‘why should I upgrade to 10?!’ was the question.
Well, for two reasons actually.
Firstly, it was likely to follow the one good, one bad sequence that Windows seemed to follow.
Secondly, it was free!
The main brief for 10 was to allow one OS for all devices and to ensure that these devices were kept as up to date as possible. I think the main reason 10 was released free of charge (to qualified users) was to implement this philosophy and try to achieve their aim of having Windows 10 on 1 billion devices.
Okay, so you installed to windows 10 I hear you say, loads of folk have done so, big deal.
I’m going to give you my first impressions of Windows 10 and my thoughts on the process of upgrading, customizing and tweaking it for the purposes of a more advanced user.
Many of you will have noticed the ‘Get Windows 10’ icon in your task bar, by reserving your copy you instruct Microsoft to download and install an application to your machine which will undertake the process for you. If like me you do not want to wait for the Media Creation Tool to appear, you can download directly from Microsoft’s website and start the process manually.
We discuss the risks of doing this in another blog post.
I downloaded the tool which had options to automatically install, or to download an ISO file to be burnt to DVD or USB. I chose to download the ISO so I could use it many times.
I initially tried to perform a clean install on a spare laptop with a blank hard drive. Once installed I attempted to use my Windows 7 key to activate the software, this was not possible. I had to upgrade an existing installation which converts your 7 key to a 10 key.
I reinstalled a basic installation of Windows 7 without updates, activated it and instantly ran the Win 10 DVD. The upgrading process was very straight forward, much like the install process for Win 8. I had entered my location when I downloaded the ISO so did not need to apply the location and keyboard settings.
The usual user settings dialog appeared with Microsoft encouraging the user to sign in with a Windows account (Hotmail). This is to allow a user with more than one windows device to sync their settings, theme and apps across those devices. It also would suggest that Microsoft can better track the usage habits of users, I opted to create new .outlook account to use for the test.
Once logged in I was welcomed by an actual desktop and did not need to install a tool to reinstate the start button, this was a very welcome change from 8. The layout is logical and while MS have reintroduced many familiar features they have listened to the users and added things we never knew we needed.
The new start menu is logical and well thought out; it is also very easy to use and apply changes to its layout. There are options as to which apps can be shown on the start menu and items can be displayed such as network settings and documents.
This is where things get a bit shady…
As mentioned previously, Microsoft are trying to restrict user settings, this does not sit well with me. A big issue I have is with the automatic update not being able to be adjusted or the ability to hide updates like in previous versions. The test machine was a Lenovo T400 laptop from 2009 with a dual core processor and 2GB of RAM.
The machine is more than capable of running Win 10 but the insistence of the OS to force install update (including drivers) left me with a touch pad that was unusable. Microsoft want to pass the responsibility of driver updates to the vendor which puts the onus on them to produce compliant drivers etc. This is fine on modern machines but my aging laptop is probably not in Lenovo’s plans.
Because the hide programmes option is disabled, the touchpad kept updating and subsequently stopped working. A quick search reviled the reason and a solution. Microsoft have accepted that this is not a good thing, and have had to act quickly to offer a solution by releasing a new tool.
I rolled back the driver to the one installed by Win 10, ran the tool and disabled the found update. This solved the problem and I would not be surprised to see this feature introduced in further updates to the OS.
Windows app and your Microsoft account
When signing into a machine with your Microsoft account, you are automatically logged in to services such Windows Mail, People, Calendars and the App Store. All of your user settings are saved to Microsoft OneDrive cloud services and you can also save files to the OneDrive folder to be synced across your devices.
I have always taken my privacy very seriously (this is why I created a new account to log in with) but since using a smartphone I am aware that this is now no longer possible and sadly seems to be the way computing is going. Thankfully these services are useful so at least there is a payoff. The idea that companies can make money from the data I provide makes me nervous!
Pretty much everything else is as it was in Win 7 & 8, just with a new User Interface. Microsoft claim to have built Win 10 from the ground up but I don’t believe this to be true. A lot of the files used in the OS are present in some form or another in an earlier version of the system. This does however provide a familiarity to those moving from earlier versions.
The latest release of Microsoft’s operating system should please most of their customers. For those with experience only of Win 8, it marks a vast improvement. For Win 7 and previous users it should satisfy their requirements whilst not being too much of a digression like Win 8. For the more technically minded user, there will no doubt create more and more work around the OS to give them access back to their machine.
Personally I am glad I did the upgrade. What started as a pessimistic learning project has turned into a full scale adoption of Win 10 on both my main laptop and desktop. I will however be keeping an eye out for the tweaks and tools available to give me back the full control I like (but perhaps don’t need) in the future.
It is to be pointed out that for enterprise users who are on large networks, the roll out of Win 10 will happen at a later date, after the general public have found the hidden bugs and lack of features. Also if a work network is not properly configured, the network could be subjected to multiple downloads of the ISO (3.1 GB ish) taking its toll on download speed and bandwidth.