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Over 75 million people have already installed Windows 10. So is it time for you to take the plunge? In order to make an intelligent decision, let’s take a good look at this entire issue.

First, is the Windows 10 update really free?

Yes. It is a free update for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users, even the ‘Pro’ edition users. The only caveat is that Enterprise editions of both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 are excluded. Also Windows 8 users will have to install the free update to Windows 8.1 from the Windows Store before they are eligible.  Windows XP and Vista computers are not eligible for the free update and, in most cases, do not have the hardware to support the Windows 10 update anyway. There will be an update for Windows RT tablets, but they will not be upgradeable to Windows 10.
Those who upgrade to Windows 10 within one year, that is before July 29th 2016, will have it free for life and it will be kept up-to-date at no additional charge.

If you upgrade after this date you will have to pay the standard retail costs: $119.99 for ‘Windows 10 Home’ and $199.99 for ‘Windows 10 Pro’.

Does the Windows 10 update keep my data intact?

Yes. The Windows 10 update is designed to keep your data intact. However, it is always a good idea to back up your data before any large update like this. There have been a few instances where the data seemed to be deleted and the users had to jump through a few hoops to get it back. So be sure you back up all your data including your address book contacts if you use Outlook, Windows Live Mail, or any other mail program that stores your contacts locally on your computer. I mention the contacts specifically because I’ve seen the issue of lost contacts quite a few times.

How does it compare to Windows 7 and Windows 8?

Windows 10 is designed around the desktop like older versions of Windows including Windows XP, Vista, and 7. For the most part if you have used one of these older versions of Windows you will be comfortable with Windows 10. Of course, some things have changed, but the software is intuitive and much easier to learn than Windows 8. Several of the major problems with Windows 8 have been eliminated with Windows 10.

Do the new Windows 10 features make the update worthwhile?

The answer to this question is unequivocally yes. Here are just a few:

  • Better security — Windows 10 is much more secure than any previous version of Windows.
  • Log-in Alternatives — Windows 10 has alternatives to a password, such as using a pin or familiar picture to sign in. Windows 10’s new PIN system means you can protect your Microsoft account with a long, strong and very secure password, but still use a simple PIN code to sign into your PC.
  • Synced Settings — If you log in with a Microsoft account your settings and saved passwords are synced automatically to any other Windows 10 PCs you use. So you only have to set up one Windows 10 computer and then you will see your desktop and settings in every other Windows 10 computer that you log into.
  • Voice Assistant — Cortana, Microsoft’s new virtual assistant lets you do verbal searches and perform tasks like starting a program with a verbal command. As shown here, she will also present you with your appointments and current news.

windows 10 update - Cortana

  • Game Friendly — Windows 10 is very game friendly. You can wirelessly stream and play an Xbox 360 game on your PC in the study even if the Xbox is located in the family room.
  • Hololens — This is the only version of Windows that will support the upcoming HoloLens. If it proves to be as capable as shown in the demo released by Microsoft, this new virtual reality headset will be very popular.
  • Faster — Windows 10 boots faster than previous versions of Windows. It even goes to sleep and wakes from sleep slightly faster. As developers tweak the settings to optimize their software, many applications will run faster too. Developers will not give this kind of attention to their software on Windows 7 or Window 8 computers.
  • New Edge Browser — Windows 10 comes with a new browser called ‘Edge’. This browser is much cleaner and faster than Internet Explorer. It also has some great new features like the ability to add comments and marks to a web page and then to save it or share it with others. It has full integration with Cortana, a distraction-free reading view, an off-line reading list, and more. Since its introduction, Edge has added some much-needed features, but it still has a ways to go.
  • Easier Multi-tasking — Aero Snap now offers both half-monitor and quarter-monitor sizes when you drag a window to one part of the Desktop. It also lets other open windows fill any open space automatically. The Windows + Tab shortcut shows clear thumbnails of open with Windows. Even better, Windows 10 also supports multiple Desktops.

Are there Windows 10 update installation problems?

It would be virtually impossible to install 75 million updates without some difficulties. But up to this time the problems have been minor and since Windows 10 is being constantly updated, Microsoft has already eliminated many of the first glitches that appeared in the first few weeks. I have still encountered several computers that simply stopped in the middle of the installation and reverted back to the old operating system when rebooted. In some instances this was solved by simply going back and installing all of the prior Windows updates before starting the Windows 10 update. In a few cases, I simply advised users to wait a few months before trying again.

How long will the Windows 10 update take?

In the first week, I updated five computer to Windows 10. The fastest update took only 40 minutes. Most took about 1 ½ hours. However, I have seen instances where the install seem to be stopped, but when given more time, it went on to install properly. One install of this type took 12 hours. Hopefully your install will be speedy, but be prepared to be patient and be sure that you won’t need the computer for any urgent work for at least several hours.

Are there other benefits?

One other benefit that is often overlooked is that Windows 10 will have a longer life than Windows 7 or 8. Microsoft shows how long they will add features (Mainstream Support) and how long they will provide security updates (Extended Support) for each operating system on its Windows Lifecycle Support Page.
Mainstream Support for Windows 7 and Windows 8 will end in January 2015 and 2018, respectively. Extended Support for Windows 7 and Windows 8 will be maintained until January 2020 and January 2023, respectively.  For Windows 10 Mainstream Support will continue until October 13, 2020 and Extended Support will last until October 14, 2025. So, as long as your computer lasts that long, Windows 10 will take you to October, 2025 without any worries.

Is there a privacy issue?

There has been much ado about the privacy issues in Windows 10. Although I am not a lawyer, I have reviewed all of the documentation for Windows 10 and compared it to privacy documents from other companies like Google and Apple. Yes. We give up a lot of privacy when we use any cloud and/or syncing service, but I don’t find Windows 10 any better or worse than others. Also during the installation and after the installation in the Settings area, Microsoft lets you control many privacy settings in a more up-front way than was possible in previous versions of Windows. If you don’t trust Cortana, you can turn her off. You can even turn off your microphone completely. You can log into a local account if you don’t want to use a Microsoft account. Of course, the more you tighten the privacy, the more features you lose.

win 10 privacy settings - HS

Are the automatic updates good or bad?

With the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft is changing its strategy about handling Windows. Rather than delivering Windows as a software product, Microsoft is positioning it as a service. This means that rather than putting their development efforts into Service Releases or into a new operating system like Windows 11 or Windows 12, Microsoft will provide continuous updates for Windows 10. These updates will be automatically downloaded and installed. This is good in that it will keep our computers safer with automatic security updates. Also, by forcing all Windows 10 users to stay up to date, everyone’s online safety is improved. It is also good in that the software will keep getting better and better.

Of course, this could be bad if Microsoft issued an update that breaks a lot of computers or has harmful bugs. Microsoft is trying to eliminate that possibility by continuing the massive testing system that they initiated with Windows 10. They have also recently announced that they will now publish the contents of the updates and what changes those updates will make.

I think they need to go further. For instance, every time Amazon makes a change or adds a new feature to their Echo device, I receive an email explaining that change and instruction me on how to use the new feature. I would like Microsoft to develop a similar way to keep Windows 10 users informed about changes and additions.

Conclusion

Choosing whether to upgrade now, later, or not at all, is a deeply personal question based on your own needs and concerns. If you are happy using Windows 7 and the added features of Windows 10 don’t interest you, you don’t have to upgrade at all. I don’t know too many people who are happy using Windows 8, so I advise Windows 8 users to update whenever they have the time to do so.

If you know you want to upgrade, but have no urgent want or need to do so now, you will want to revisit the idea again sometime after November, 2015. Right around that time Microsoft is scheduled to roll out a significant Windows 10 update that will add support for extensions and touch gestures in the Edge browser and possibly also roll out a Universal Messaging app.

Since the Windows 10 update will be free until July 29, 2016, there is no need to rush to perform the update, even this November. Over time, Windows 10 should just be getting better and better with improvements to Cortana, the introduction of the Hololens, and more.

The only thing you have to worry about is that if you decide to wait, you need to make sure you perform the update by July 29, 2016 while it is still free.

Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up’s Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.