First, it should be noted that Microsoft says it will be operating under a “Windows as a service” approach from now on, meaning that Windows 10 will be the company's last major OS release. Updates will be automatic now, which has garnered mixed responses. Some security experts feel this constant, ubiquitous updating will ensure that no Windows laptop is vulnerable; meanwhile, others see the default automatic updates as a potential vulnerability – since files will be added to one's computer without the usual manual checks.
Indeed, the difficulty to turn off automatic updates meant that Gizmodo author Sean Hollister had some issues with his data connection while using a cellular “mifi” connection on a train:
Windows 10 was secretly downloading and installing new updates in the background the whole time I was on the train.
Yeah, in case you haven’t heard, Windows 10 updates aren’t optional—and though they’re not supposed to download over a metered data connection, I couldn’t find a way to specify that. “Set up data usage limit” is one of those settings you’ll see in search that goes absolutely nowhere. When I got home, sure enough, Windows told me it had installed some new updates. I sure would have liked a chance to veto them!
None of these things are particularly terrible. None of them are reasons why you’d need to wait to upgrade to Windows 10. And I expect most of them will get fixed.
Even so, the bugs will be ironed out by those who first adopted the operating system. And Microsoft is releasing the operating system in waves to specifically account for bugs within the first batch. It’s important for companies to give their products to the user. Without the user, a company operates within its own vacuum without the knowledge of how or what to improve. For many people, the failure of previous Microsoft products was due to its inability to understand what its customers wanted, and the success of this will be due to whether it can correct that.
“Usage is the oxygen for ideas,” says Matt Mullenweg, a founding developer at Wordpress.
And the first users of Windows 10, those who download it even with the bugs, are the ones who decide whether it works in the future.
With the constant update structure of Windows 10, the company will be able to see what its users want, account for bug fixes, and change its product based on what works and what doesn’t in a much quicker release cycle than its “Patch Tuesday” strategy of years past.
But aside for the bugs, there are some interesting new features in Windows 10. Overall, it’s been seen as intuitive and many have noted that it fixes a lot of the problems laptop and desktop users had with Windows 8. Here are three examples of how:
Microsoft has not scrapped the “metro” design it laid out with Windows 8. But with Windows 10, users are given a Continuum option that switches between a desktop and tablet preset view. For users with hybrid computers, this works depending on preference or feature. It also allows customers who prefer Windows 8 or Windows 7 to choose a theme that best suits their needs.
Trying out Continuum on a hybrid laptop, I found it useful when only using the product as a tablet. The layout makes sense for touch-screen users and with a flick of the finger, a panel can be extended that switches the view back to something more comfortable for desktop users. Though the Start menu has returned, its layout also changes depending on platform, which helps solve the problems of previous Microsoft tablet operating systems. Certain aspects of the tablet mode, such as Window’s “Screen Snap” feature, still need improvement, but as a concept, it seems very useful for users on multiple platforms.
And that’s partly what Microsoft has been pushing: all of your content on all of your devices. Microsoft Office 365’s service, Azure cloud, Microsoft’s OneDrive – all are examples of the company trying its best to unify customer data in an age when multiple devices means that work is continuous and disk space is irrelevant.
And with large amounts of data comes the need to search through it all. Cortana acts as Microsoft’s response to Siri and Google Now. Windows 10 adds a Mac Spotlight-like functionality built right into the OS, as well as Cortana search within apps and as contextual searches. When highlighting a series of text in Windows’ new Edge web browser, an option will pop up to “Ask Cortana.” Cortana will pull up the relevant information, whether it’s a definition or business hours or directions or a recipe – pulled from Bing – and will show the information in a convenient sidebar without ever leaving the page.
Users can also activate Cortana by saying “Hey Cortana” to their computer, but one reviewer at The Verge noted that he only used that feature to show the functionality to friends and family.
Microsoft’s new operating system brings back some old features while adding some new ones. In addition to having Minesweeper, Windows 10 will allow users to stream Xbox games from their console to their PC. With an improved user design, Microsoft takes a cue from Apple in its reorganized settings menu and ability for users to create virtual desktops and view all open apps.
Windows 10’s redesigned interface also brings back the Start menu in a way that’s reminiscent of Windows 7, but with some tile functionality. In tablet mode, the Start menu becomes an easy-to-scroll series of applications and icons that users fond of Windows 8 will enjoy.
The operating system also ships with Microsoft’s successor to Internet Explorer, called Edge, which Wired says still feels fairly bare-boned and prototypical. For users who want to switch to Chrome as a default, they will have to dig through many settings to disable a security feature that prohibits applications from setting themselves as default. This can be frustrating, and echoes early concerns with Windows Vista's User Access Control that prevented users from easily interacting with non-Microsoft products.
There are certainly pros and cons to upgrading. On one hand, Microsoft will no longer release operating systems in this type of fashion, so Windows loyalists will be forced to switch over eventually. However, it’s notable that Windows 10 is a marked improvement over the operating system’s previous interfaces, with some new features and formats that allow for improved function and flexibility in user experience. It certainly still has its bugs – not everything works and even some features feel as if they’re not finished – but those are soon to (hopefully) be corrected. As a free upgrade, it truly depends on whether or not you’d feel comfortable risking the inconveniences for the features and security of the new operating system. It does a lot of cool things, and the consensus among reviewers seems to be that, once the kinks are ironed out, it’ll be a great OS.
It should also be said that when upgrading to Windows 10, all your files and programs will remain exactly where they were.
Still a good idea to backup your files beforehand – just in case.