Windows 10 is upon us, but you may be wondering if it is time for that upgrade? I mean, Microsoft is giving away the operating system for free! So why not, right!? Well, let us delve a bit deeper, and examine if Windows 10 is worth the hassle of a upgrade.
Gone – mostly – are the tiles that were the dread of most who delved into the waters of Windows 8 and 8.1. Most notably about the interface is the absence of a lot of things. Instead of trying to hammer in a new way of interaction like they did with the past iteration of Windows – this version of the popular operating system has decided that keeping things simple is the way to go. The tiles are still there, but are now locked within the confines of the Start Button. You do have the option to switch everything to a tablet mode that acts similarly to the Windows 8 interface, but it is now an option and not the rule.
Let’s begin with the Start Menu. It is back, and is very easy to manage what is going on. The tiles are back, but even those are much more useful than before. You can widen, or shrink the width of the Start Menu to adjust to tiles. The tiles themselves can be very easily rearranged, and removed at will. Just a matter of right-clicking the tile, and pick the option you wish. You can not – at this time – get rid of the tiles completely, but to be very honest they do not get in the way. Honestly, I’ve found them to be very useful. Gone are the day of clicking a tile that takes over the entire computer. Now it simply opens up a window like any other app, or program. Quick, simple, and something I feel people will use a lot.
It is easier than ever to reach the settings menu. It is right there when you open up the Start Menu. The option choices have been drilled down to a handful of general choices, but everything you need is easy to find. The search bar is now located right next to the Start Menu for easy access to anything on your PC, or even the internet itself. It does a pretty good job on deciphering if you want to access a file, or search a term by using this menu. Just note, that the search engine by default is the Bing search engine.
Now let’s talk about Cortana. Cortana is named after the video game character in the game Halo. In the game she plays as as sidekick. Always there to offer advice, or context for the hero. Now for Windows 10, she is back to play a very similar role as the automated assistant. My time with Cortana has been interesting. Many are familiar with other voice guided assistants like Siri, or the Google Search app. Cortana fits in this space as being the best I’ve seen at deciphering natural speech. You can keep the commands direct, but you don’t have to be as precise in your statements to Cortana as you have to do with other digital assistants. Yet, as I stated before, it uses Bing as the mechanism to push everything forward. While for basic things like finding food, or theater information it will do well – I’ve noticed more direct search items were a bit lacking. In a pinch though, Cortana is a very capable digital assistant. You activate her by saying “Hey Cortana” and asking the question. It is very fast, and unless I intentionally slur my words it picked up everything I had to say fairly accurately. I see Cortana becoming more useful over time, but I’m still hesitant.
Microsoft Edge is the new browser designed with Windows 10 in mind. I am happy to say that Microsoft Edge is very good. When it comes to speed, memory use, and overall functionality it really surprised me. This is not Internet Explorer. You can even write notes on web pages, or highlight certain sections with a simple button click. I ran into no issues with any site I visited. It does have its drawbacks. The biggest one is the lack of some basic options that all current browsers have. Things like removing tabs, and then reattaching tabs is non-existent. Plus, Microsoft Edge does not currently have a way to add extensions. Microsoft states that is coming soon. I just hope the extensions come, and Microsoft doesn’t bloat this browser like they did with Internet Explorer. They seemed to be on the right track, but only time will tell if Microsoft Edge will be the next great web browser.
Power users have a lot to like in Windows 10. The new operating systems does give users the option for multiple desktop displays. With a simple click, you can set up multiple desktops with different apps running. So, if you have Word and Excel running at one desktop – you can then switch to the other desktop that may be running other programs. Plus, you can also snap many windows to the corner of the screen. Simply drag the window of your choice to a specific corner, and it adjusts properly. This ability to snap windows, and jump being multiple desktop instances will be extremely helpful to many who need more space to work with.
The interface is a mixture of new, and old concepts. It pulls a lot from the Windows 7 space, but also injects a bit of Windows 8 to create an interface that is much more familiar yet fresher than the past iteration. It shows that Microsoft was listening to those complaining about the intrusive nature of the tiles, but found a way to make them more useful.
I’ve spent some time with many games, and Windows 10. When I first installed Windows 10 I was a bit worried. My graphics were distorted, and it seemed all my drivers broke. I currently use a Nvivida GTX 760, and was worried there was a compatibility issue going on. Then I went online, and read it was a very common occurrence. Which again, made me very worried. Once I restarted my computer that fixed a lot of the issues I had with the graphics. Yet, things still felt off. Nvidia cards have a program called the Geforce Experience. This program handles driver updates, adjusting games for optimal settings, and even handles a screen recording software called ShadowPlay. Yet, when I upgraded to Windows 10 the whole Geforce Experience broke. I had to uninstall everything, and then reinstall before the program worked properly again. Many of these issues resolved itself once I did a fresh install of Windows 10.
Once I started gaming, I can say that I did experience a slight performance boost. I was upgrading from Windows 8.1. While Windows 8.1 has many issues it does have the benefit of increasing performance overall on my computer in comparison to Windows 7. The jump to Windows 10 increased it a bit more, but nothing to get really worked up over. If you decide to upgrade to Windows 10, and you’ve stayed with Windows 7 you may see a performance spike on your PC overall. Yet, drivers for Nvidia and ATI are slow to come out. The Windows 10 specific driver for Nvidia fixed a lot of issues, but I can tell that there is still much to optimize. I was able to run games at slightly better settings than before, and I noticed that many games loaded quicker. Which is always a good thing. I didn’t run into too many compatibility issues. I ran games on all the major platforms. Games on Steam, Origin, GOG, and Battle.net ran without any issues. My biggest worry was GOG since I did have some very old games through that service, but everything ran just fine. I will state that this was after I did the fresh install of Windows 10, and not just the upgrade.
Microsoft has said from the very beginning that the Xbox One, and Windows 10 was designed to work together. I had my doubts, but they were not lying. I currently own an Xbox one, and that is very much the case in terms of the Xbox App that comes with Windows 10. The Xbox App allows you to control everything as if you were logged into your Xbox One. Handle messages, start a party, monitor achievements, and even stream Xbox One games to a Windows 10 PC. The interface is touted to be very similar to the upcoming interface update coming to the Xbox One. If that is true, then that is a very good thing. The Xbox App is easy to manage, and gives you a lot of information without being a disaster for the eyes. The Xbox One app includes a game DVR function that lets you record game play similar to programs like FRAPS. The recordings I made with the app was of decent quality, and seemed to not drag my PC down performance wise. Considering that Microsoft plans on having games that cross play between PC and the Xbox One – this feels like an app that will become very useful. Will this increase the sales of the Xbox One? Doubtful, but this is a well made addition if you happen to have a Xbox One.
The biggest feature for Windows 10, and the Xbox One is the streaming service. When you open the Xbox One App you have the option to stream your Xbox One to your PC. This to, at least for me, worked much better once I did a fresh install of Windows 10. The Xbox One to PC streaming is very seamless. You click a button inside the Xbox One App, and it will automatically turn on your Xbox One as long as it is in within the same local network as your PC. It takes about a minute to finally connect to the Xbox One, and then the Xbox One App converts to your Xbox One interface. You can shrink the Window like any other application, but in all measures you are controlling your Xbox One from your PC. You will need to plug in a Xbox One controller into your PC to make it work properly. So how is the delay? The answer to that honestly depends on your internet connection. If you have it connected hard wired on the same network it is one-to-one, but using wireless can lead to different results. I tested it with my Xbox One right by my PC, and in a lower room. It does work, but there is a tiny amount of delay even on the best of wireless connections. Not enough to deter from most game-play, but enough to notice. If the wireless connection lessens you will see a bit more lag, and the quality of the visuals will drop. The Xbox App is still in beta, but overall the streaming can be useful if you have the right connection. Just don’t play anything that requires super fast reactions like a FPS, or Fighting game.
Microsoft letting users of Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 upgrade to Windows 10 for free is a very big deal. It is the first time any Windows platform offered this level of upgrade at no charge for the general public. Yet, don’t think the free upgrade doesn’t come with a few catches. In exchange for a free upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft has embedded within the operating system a slew of ways to pull personal information about the user for advertising purposes. Some of which are hidden deep within the settings menu. So it is pretty evident that Microsoft did this on purpose, and is currently an integral part of the Windows 10 design. Some aspects take no consideration that some users of the new operating system may have data caps on their internet. If you do not disable certain functions it will constantly pull information. Microsoft has stated that this was designed so Windows 10 can learn behavior, and therefore present suggestions that will most likely interest you.
Luckily there is a way to choose what to share with Microsoft. Click on the Start Menu, click settings, and then click the Privacy option. You can then turn on, or off the option to share information. Be careful to read everything before you make a choice. This also includes options that lets Windows 10 access basic functions that you do want on. So read it all carefully before making the choice. Luckily, you can always turn it back on if you realize you’ve made a mistake. There is one, even more hidden, advertising opt-out you can choose. This decides how direct adverting will work when using Windows 10 apps. If you want to turn off this functions all you have to do in click HERE.
If you do have an internet data cap I implore you to do this next step. Click the Start Menu, click Settings, click Update & Security, under the Windows Update tab look at the bottom where it says Advanced Options and click that, then click on the phase ‘Choose how updates are delivered’, turn off the first option, and then pick the ‘PCs on my local network, and PCs on the Internet’ option. What this does is remove you from pulling Windows Updates through a connected internet system that downloads/uploads data with all PCs with Windows 10, and reverts it to downloading directly from the servers at Microsoft. I find it very upsetting that Microsoft inserted many of these options, and even more disturbing that many of them are hidden. Is there is one glaring issue with Windows 10 – it is this.
Upgrade vs Fresh Install
I will first mention that both the upgrade, and fresh install process on Windows 10 is very seamless. When I upgraded from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 the process took less than a hour. Yet, I found over time that the upgrade was a bit sluggish. Driver issues appeared a bit more, and it just felt like I had a bit more errors with programs that I use on a regular basis. That is when I decided to do a fresh install to see if that clears up these issues. I downloaded the installer to my flash drive, and the process was fairly automated until the end. It kept all my files, and settings. When it came to the fresh install – that was another story.
You have a few options when you wish to do a fresh install of Windows 10. To do a fresh install you first go to Start Menu, click Update and Security, click Recovery, and then you have two options that appear. One stating to keep your files, and the other stating to remove everything. I would highly suggest picking the ‘remove everything’ option. Then you get presented with a very odd choice. An option to do a fresh install, but states that it is designed for those who wish to keep their PC. The other option specifically states that this is designed for those who are selling their PC. I made the mistake of picking the second option, and the whole system crashed. So it caused me to reinstall Windows 8.1, and then upgrade to Windows 10 – to only get back to these options. Ensure you pick the option that wipes everything, but states you plan on keeping your PC. This option works, and does exactly what you want. A simple, straight-forward fresh install of Windows 10.
Once the fresh install was completed I found my PC was much faster, and overall a much better experience. Just ensure you pick the right option to avoid the giant headache that I went through. It goes without saying, you must back up all your important items before doing a fresh install. You will lose everything if you do not back things up. Yet, once the whole ordeal was done my PC worked much better. The driver issues I had with the upgrade are gone. The sluggish feeling I had when running programs dissipated as well. So in short, when you get the chance I would highly suggest doing a fresh install. Just make sure you pick the right options when you do it in order to avoid disaster.
Windows 10 is a worthy successor to Windows 7. Other than a few driver issues, and the crash that happened during a fresh install – Windows 10 has been very solid. I’ve almost forgotten what it was like to navigate through Windows 8.1 and that is a good thing. Yet, privacy is a big thing with me and Windows 10 is rot with intrusive options that are turned on by default. I’m glad there is an option to turn them off, but some of those options should have never been turned on to begin with. Even with all that, Windows 10 is presenting itself like the next step for Microsoft. The framework to turn Windows 10 into something great is here, and it is now up to Microsoft to not screw it up. I still encourage everyone to wait a few months before upgrading while drivers are updated, and patches are created for some minor issues. I would also suggest to do a proper fresh install once you’ve done the upgrade to maximize performance. In the end, Windows 10 is what I wanted Windows 8 to be and I’m ready to see how it evolves.