Should We Upgrade to Windows 10 now? Short answer: no.
July 27th, 2015
Microsoft has begun doling out the “free” upgrade from Windows 7/8/8.1 to the new Windows 10 operating system. This is a first for Microsoft, as previous OS version upgrades were typically performed via an upgrade disc and license key (along with a one-time purchase price). You may also be seeing a notification on your computer indicating your computer is ready for Windows 10.
So you already know our immediate opinion, but let’s delve a little deeper as to why we’re saying “no” right now, when we’ll say “yes” (or “maybe”), and other considerations you should know before diving into the latest Windows release.
Windows 10 is fairly exciting in the tech space because:
- It features Cortana – Microsoft’s analog to Siri on the iPhone.
- It has a new web browser, Microsoft Edge, which replaces Internet Explorer.
- The Start menu is back (a long standing complaint of Windows 8) with new features.
- The schizophrenia between Windows 8’s “metro” interface and the traditional desktop has been elegantly solved.
- Windows 10 will reportedly work effectively the same on all devices, big and small, allowing a truly contiguous user experience.
- With extended support for Windows 7 ending in 5 years and the inevitable discontinuation of new systems shipping with Windows 7, Windows 10 is likely to become the de facto PC operating system for quite a while.
You can read all about the new windows here: http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/features.
We’ve performed extensive testing on Windows 10 and have been surprised at how compatible it is. In fact, on one of our older test systems that we had substantial trouble getting peripherals (such as the finger print reader) to work on Windows 8, we were completely stunned that virtually every doodad appeared to work flawlessly without additional driver downloads. Furthermore, we were pleasantly surprised that the new interface was fairly intuitive. That said, it was very clear that Windows 10 had much more of Windows 8 underneath than Windows 7. Thus, we frequently found system changes had to be done the Windows 8 way instead of those familiar to Windows 7.
Windows 10 also poses some very big challenges for our clients:
- Since Windows 10 is much more Windows 8.1 than Windows 7, users familiar with Windows 7 will still find Windows 10 somewhat foreign.
- Software that works on Windows 7 but had trouble on Windows 8/8.1 will likely continue to have trouble on Windows 10.
- While Microsoft has made herculean efforts to provide support for virtually all hardware that works on Windows 7, there are undoubtedly countless peripherals and components that work fine on Windows 7 but will have issues with Windows 10.
- No operating system release in human history has been more tested than Windows 10, but it is still new and thus getting support for applications on Windows 10 from software vendors will be initially difficult.
- All signs point to Windows 10 becoming a “subscription-based” operating system. Thus, what is “free” today will likely become a monthly/annual renewal at some point. While it’s unclear what will happen if you don’t pay or what you get if you do, it’s safe to say that Windows 10 (and subsequent Windows releases) will not be a one-time expense nor “free” by any stretch.
Thus, we’re strongly advising against installing Windows 10 or purchasing systems with Windows 10 preinstalled for at least a few months for the following reasons:
- As with all new operating systems, there are inevitably countless compatibility issues at initial release – the majority of these usually get sorted out after a few months at the expense of early adopters’ frustrations.
- From a productivity standpoint, Windows 10 has little improvement to offer the modern desktop. Users aren’t going to start barking orders to Cortana and the replacement of Internet Explorer is likely to create more problems in the business world than it’ll solve.
- Changing the user experience is never a good idea unless there’s an immediate benefit. While Windows 10 certainly starts faster than Windows 7, offers superior touch-screen support, etc., there’s very little the average user will be able to take advantage of vs. the frustration of adapting to a new working environment.
- Upgrading the operating system on a computer that’s currently experiencing problems is highly unlikely to solve any of them. Thus, users with slow or unreliable Windows 7 computers will likely be better served repairing or reinstalling Windows 7 than wasting time with an upgrade that may make the problems worse and increase the difficulty of repair.
- Since the long term costs of switching to Windows 10 are completely unknown, it’s impossible to recommend an appropriate upgrade/update strategy. Until these costs (and perceived public acceptance or refusal of said costs) are better understood, it makes no sense to risk additional licensing expense for the simple sake of having the latest Windows version.
- There are a number of privacy concerns with the Windows 10, the bulk of which have yet to be understood. As the nature, manageability, and intent of the data collection Microsoft has implementing is largely unknown (and highly reliant on third-party research), we cannot assure users their information nor computer use is safe.
Since Windows 7 will be supported by Microsoft until 2020, it’s reasonable to assume that all Windows 7 computers currently in the field or purchased this year be supported for their service lifetime. By the time Windows 7 is no longer available preinstalled for new system purchases (probably within 6 months), we will likely be recommending Windows 10 as opposed to Windows 8.1. At that point, new systems will have hardware specifically designed to work with Windows 10 and the majority of common software/hardware ailments should be sufficiently vetted and solved.
For those users who plan on keeping computers with Windows 7 installed beyond 2020, we have three, distinct, recommendations:
- Upgrade to Windows 10 after 6 months of release (or when sufficient compatibility testing is concluded) while the “free” upgrade is still available (before 7/29/2016).
- Purchase an OEM Windows 10 license/subscription in conjunction with a hardware upgrade sometime before 2020.
- Stick with Windows 7 until 2020, then purchase a new Windows license/subscription or take the system off-line.
There are a handful of situations where an end-user may wish to install Windows 10 shortly after its release this Wednesday:
- They have a personal touchscreen desktop/laptop, tablet, or 2-in-1 that is currently running Windows 8 and are dying for a change despite the potential consequences.
- They have a handicap that makes a virtual assistant like Cortana a huge time saver.
- They plan on using 3-D printing that requires the Windows 10 3-D Builder application.
- They’re an avid gamer with an Xbox One and are looking forward to the Xbox capabilities within Windows 10.
For these situations, we offer the following advice:
- Create a full image backup of the current system onto an external hard drive and make sure you have the recovery tools available (e.g. Windows Recovery media, bootable USB drive, etc.)
- Check ALL your critical applications with their respective software manufacturers to ensure they’re compatible with Windows 10.
- Make sure your drivers and key applications are fully updated.
- Run the Microsoft Compatibility Checker to make sure your hardware is supported under Windows 10. See this article for more information: http://www.zdnet.com/article/will-your-pc-run-windows-10-use-this-well-hidden-compatibility-checker-to-find-out/
- After installation, install any available updates from Microsoft.
- Test, test, test. If there are any potential deal breakers, it’s always better to find out before you invest the time in configuring your new operating system.
There’s zero doubt that Windows 10 is here to stay and will become commonplace in the modern office. However, there is no need to rush headlong into this new world – especially given how well Windows 7 works and how generally comfortable users are with it. Furthermore, there’s little risk of “missing the boat” with the “free” upgrade opportunity as eligible systems will be able to upgrade for a full year after the release on Wednesday. While Windows 7 may become the next Windows XP of 2020 (orphaned by Microsoft but still with widespread use), for the next five years it will remain a completely viable PC operating system and might just be substantially cheaper in the long run.
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