It’s been out for only a few weeks, but millions of computer users already have upgraded to the new Microsoft Windows 10 operating system. It can run on Windows-compatible desktops, laptops, tablets and even mobile phones. If you use a Windows 7 or later device, Microsoft is encouraging you to upgrade and allowing you to do it for free. But the long history of difficult and disappointing Windows upgrades has many users wondering whether it is worth the risk of upgrading this time. Surprisingly, the answer is yes.
It’s true, just as Microsoft says, that Windows 10 combines the best features of Microsoft’s earlier operating systems, including Windows 7’s easy-to-use Start menu and Windows 8’s tablet- and smartphone-like features, along with intriguing new tools. The upgrade is available for free until July 29, 2016, for devices using Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1.
My favorite innovations: An enhanced “Snap” feature allows you to divide each screen into quarters, making it easier to multitask. “Microsoft Edge” is a faster, more secure web browser that replaces the old Internet Explorer. “Cortana” is a digital voice assistant like Apple’s Siri that has been available for Windows Phone 8.1 for the past year but is new to most Windows users.
However, upgrading to Windows 10 can be a frustrating experience for some people. Although my own upgrade tests were bug-free, some users have reported frozen screens, crashes, lost files or difficulty installing apps. Some of these glitches might be due to problems with users’ software or hardware, not with Windows 10. However, you may want to wait a few months until Microsoft addresses these issues and fine-tunes Windows 10. Other things to consider…
For Windows 8 or 8.1 users: All users of Windows 8 or 8.1 should upgrade, especially if you own a desktop or laptop without touch-screen capability. The tablet-style screen layout that Microsoft employed in 8 and 8.1 was difficult to navigate with just a mouse and keyboard. Windows 10 reverts to less tabletlike, classic Windows 7 features such as the Start menu, making 10 easy to use without a touch screen. For those with touch screens, the Windows 10 upgrade has kept popular 8 and 8.1 features such as Live Tiles and introduces Universal Apps, programs that change their look for a desktop or mobile device.
For Windows 7 users: Microsoft will support Windows 7 with security updates until 2020, so there’s no pressure to upgrade, but some significant advantages include much faster boot-up times and a streamlined file-management system. Windows 10 doesn’t come with the ability to play DVDs yet, so you would need to download special software to play DVDs.