You Can’t Afford to Ignore Windows 10 Anymore

Over the last several months, I’ve been watching the headlines about Windows 10 go by without really paying a lot of attention to them. Perhaps you have as well. Win10 fell into the category of “Things I Need to Look More Closely At When I Have Time.” After all, it hasn’t been that long since I upgraded to Windows 8.1. Then the news broke that “general availability” will be July 29, leading to one of those “Wait…what!?” moments. With the release now less than two months away, I realized I needed to make time.

So I bought another 8 Gb of RAM for my 64-bit Fujitsu laptop (blowing it out to a total of 12 Gb, woo hoo!), installed Client Hyper-V (which was amazingly easy to do in Windows 8.1 Enterprise), signed up for the Microsoft Insider Preview program, downloaded the Win10 ISO image, and built myself a Win10 VM.

My initial reaction is that it looks pretty good. The current preview build (10074) looks stable, seems to run everything that I’ve thrown at it, and my complaints are pretty minor. I can’t really test multimedia performance, as the preview build doesn’t have drivers that will allow audio pass-through from my Win10 VM to my host PC, but that’s not surprising at this point.

The Start menu is definitely a step in the right direction, but still doesn’t have that one piece of functionality that drove me to install Stardock Software’s Start8 utility: I love being able to click on the Start button, mouse up to, say, the Word or Excel icon, and immediately see the last several documents/spreadsheets I’ve opened, so I can jump directly to them. In Win10, if I pin, say, Word to my taskbar, I can right-click on the Word icon and see a list of recent files – but my personal preference is to reserve my taskbar for programs I’m actually running rather than taking up space with icons for programs I might want to run. Instead, I use the QuickLaunch toolbar for quick access to programs. (What – you didn’t know you could have a QuickLaunch toolbar in Windows 8.x? You can, and it works in the Win10 build I’m running as well, but that’s a subject for another post.) So, when Stardock releases a version for Win10, I’ll probably upgrade to it.

Speaking of upgrades, you’ve probably also heard that users who are running Windows 7, 8, or 8.1 will get a free upgrade to Windows 10. That’s true, depending on what version you’re currently running. There is an upgrade matrix at that tells you, for the Home and Pro editions, what version of Win10 you’ll get. And if you’re running Win7 SP1 or Win 8.1 S14, you can get the upgrade pushed to you via the Windows Update function.

Windows Enterprise users will not get free upgrades…apparently the rationale is that most Windows Enterprise users are part of, well, large enterprises that typically have a corporate license agreement with Microsoft that entitles them to OS upgrades anyway, and these enterprises also want to have tighter control over who gets what upgrade and when.

There are also a few other caveats to bear in mind. First, if you’re running Win7 SP1 or later, the chances are pretty good that your system will run Win10 without any problems…but “pretty good” doesn’t mean “guaranteed.” There’s a helpful article over on ZDNet that will walk you through how to find Microsoft’s compatibility-checking utility.

You may also be surprised at the things Windows 10 will remove from your system as part of the Win10 upgrade.

And bear in mind that if you just happily accept the automatic upgrade to Win10, you’re also opting in for all new features, security updates, and other fixes to the operating system for “the supported lifetime” of your PC. These will all be free, but you won’t have a choice as to which updates you do or don’t get – they’ll all be pushed to you via Windows Update. Businesses, whether running Windows Pro or Enterprise, will have more control over how and when new features and fixes roll out to their users, as Mary Jo Foley explains over on ZDNet.

Finally, Ed Bott is maintaining a great Win10 FAQ over on ZDNet that he’s been updating regularly as more information becomes available. You might want to bookmark that one and come back to it occasionally.

I confess that I’m kind of excited about the new release, and I’ll probably upgrade to it as soon as the Win10 Enterprise bits show up on our Microsoft Partner portal. It will be interesting to see how these major changes in how the Windows OS will be distributed and updated will play out over time. How about you? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below…

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