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Upgrade to Windows 10?

posted 30 Jul 2015, 05:03 by WillisITServices WITS   [ updated 25 Jul 2016, 00:45 ]

http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/features

Windows 10 is here. This will probably not come as a surprise to anyone using Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 as a Windows Update installed a nice polite notice back in June nagging you to reserve your upgrade copy! Subsequently I have been asked "should I upgrade?" This isn't going to be a simple answer:

Hardware

Upgrading to a newer version of Windows will never make your computer a better computer. It still has the same hardware. Fortunately most recent Windows upgrades have not imposed a greater hardware requirement, so it won't necessarily be slower.

Support

The main advantage of upgrading Windows is to be compatible with the latest software. However, Windows 7 will be supported until January 2020, and Windows 8.1 until January 2023. By which time, many current computers will be nearing the end of their useful life anyway. Realistically, Microsoft tend to prevent their latest other major software packages from running on Windows as it nears the end of it's support cycle. For example, although Windows Vista is still supported until 2017, you can not install the latest Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, and a few other Microsoft programs. So if your computer is relatively new, upgrading to Windows 10 will ensure it stays fully supported for the life of the computer.

Cost

Prior to Windows 8, upgrading to a new version of Windows has always involved a cost. Windows 10 will be free to all users of Windows 7 and 8 if upgraded within the first year. The cut-off date is 29th July 2016. Once a computer has been upgraded, there are no additional costs after this date. After that, expect the upgrade cost to be similar to previous versions. So, excepting the Windows 8.1 minor upgrade, Windows 10 will be the first time that a major upgrade has been totally free. So that's compelling.

Ease of Use

To most of the computer users I encounter and support, the easiest product to use is the one most familiar. Regularly updating requires further learning. I found that with Windows 8, the initial training and setup process was essential in providing users enough basic familiarity to easily achieve all frequent tasks. Windows 10 will be most familiar to those who have used Windows 8. Making the jump from 7 to 10 will require a greater learning curve.

After updating to Windows 10, nearly all computer users will benefit from a short amount of work to improve and personalise the layout. This will make Windows 10 more logical and quicker to use.


Reliability

Unfortunately, approximately 30% of all the computers I service have not upgraded successfully. The problems range from being unable to access the start menu, to being unable to locate any existing documents and other personal data. In most of these situations, no data is lost, and the computer can be repaired.

Some Windows upgrades are far worse however: Upgrading Windows is a major software change. Such changes can highlight problems with hardware, specifically memory and hard drives.

Prior to Windows 10, it was rare to upgrade a Windows version during the life of the computer. This was mostly limited by cost. Upgrading specifically means installing a newer version of Windows over the top of an older version. This keeps all your files and programs. In my experience, this is not as reliable as a clean install. A clean install of Windows involves backing up all your data, formatting (deleting all data), and re-installing Windows and every piece of software required.

In the above case of 30% of unreliable upgrades, only a very tiny percentage can be repaired without a clean install of Windows 10. However, this would be the best method of changing to Windows 10 anyway, so upgrading is worth the gamble.


Features

Windows will always be simply a method of accessing the programs or data that you need. Once you have opened your program i.e Google Chrome, Microsoft Word, the version of Windows is irrelevant and mostly invisible until you require another program. If you spend a lot of time switching between different programs, managing your files, and changing settings, using the most familiar and easy version of Windows can make a big difference. Newer versions of Windows tend to make it easier to do this, but will require learning. You will not necessarily be able to access and manage your programs, settings and data using the same techniques from one version of Windows to another.

Windows 10 includes lots of new built-in software such as the Edge web browser, new Mail, and Calendar apps. Whilst offering a very fast and efficient experience, they lack a lot of the features offered by existing email and web browsing software.

Compatibility

This point is simple: the older the software and hardware you have, the less likely it could be properly supported in Windows 10. Although preview releases have been available since October 2014, the final public version was released on 31st July 2015. There are always some compatibility issues with a new version of Windows as every third party software or hardware company gradually provides updates (or not). Generally, after the first year of problems, feedback, and continued development, an update is released which dramatically improves Windows. In the form of Windows XP, Vista, and 7, these were called Service Packs. Windows 8 was updated to 8.1.

Windows 10 will provide a new, regular stream of improvements called Windows As A Service. The first of these updates was released in November 2015. The following article on Ars Technica investigates the improvements:

This earlier article also explains the new features and bugs from when Windows 10 was brand new:

Conclusion

Upgrade to be supported in the future, and upgrade while it's still free. Be brave with new features if you're curious, or ignore it if the idea of learning everything again is abhorrent. Do upgrade if your computer is quite new, don't if it isn't as it may cause more problems than it solves!
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