Most individuals who are using Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 have received Microsoft’s intrusive “Get Windows 10” advertisement, asking you to “reserve” your free upgrade to this new OS and prep your PC to download it so you can install on day one. Which is all well and good. But should you? And if so, when?
There are no easy answers here. Upgrading a perfectly good Windows PC to a new version of the OS is fraught with peril. It may not work. And if it does work, Windows 10 is new enough that you may be confused by how it works. And you may want to bend Windows 10 to your will, and make it work more like the Windows version you previously used.
My job is to help with all that, of course. But for now I’d like to focus just on the upgrade and the reasons one might actually undertake this risk.
If you have to ask … doesn’t actually apply here. During the beta, if people asked me whether some build of Windows 10 was good enough, or reliable enough, to install on their daily-use PCs, I’d say that just asking that question suggests you’re perhaps not technical enough to do so. But with Windows 10 shipping in non-preview form on July 29 for the first time, the calculation changes. We can and should assume that a fully supported new Windows version will generally be good enough for even novice users.
Should I install Windows 10 on July 29? This is a more specific question related to timing, and here that pat phrase works well. If you’re seriously wondering whether Windows 10 is good enough, stable enough, or reliable enough to install on day one, then please wait. Windows 10 will only get better over time, and while millions of people supposed tested this OS, hundreds of millions of people will be using it on their real daily-use PCs within a year. And when that happens, we’ll know more about how well it really works. And Microsoft will have fixed any serious issues that didn’t come up during testing. Which, by the way, happens every single time Microsoft releases a new version of Windows.
When should I install Windows 10? It’s impossible to answer that right now, but the timing will vary according to your technical proficiency (particularly your ability to recover from disaster) and the real world reliability and stability of the OS. Technical users—people who really know what they’re doing and have backed up any relevant data and can restore their PC to a factory-fresh state—don’t need to wait, of course, and many of these people are enthusiasts who will want Windows 10 as soon as possible. More typical users—those in my family, for example, have a full year before they need to take advantage of the free upgrade offer. There’s no need to rush this.
Why would I even want to upgrade to Windows 10? Every new Windows version comes with some advantages over its predecessors in the form of functional improvements, support for new hardware, more and better built-in apps, or whatever. In the case of Windows 10, the big bang underlying platform improvements came in Windows 8, but that version of course ruined the interaction model for over one billion users, so Windows 10 fixes the biggest issues in the form of a new Start menu and modern (universal) apps that can now run in windowed form side-by-side with other applications on the desktop. For Windows 7 users, the upgrade is slightly less compelling. But Windows 8.1 users in particular should seriously consider upgrading as soon as they are comfortable doing so. Either way, there are some interesting advances in Windows 10: a real notification center, a voice-activated Cortana digital assistant, deeper integration with your Xbox consoles, and a new virtual desktops feature that power users will enjoy. For those with tablets and 2-in-1 PCs, a technology called Continuum will make the transition between tablet mode and normal desktop operation more seamless.
You don’t have to upgrade. Remember, Windows 7 with SP1 is fully supported by Microsoft for over four more years, and if you’re using a Windows 7-based PC, you’ll likely want to upgrade to a new PC by then anyway. For Windows 8.1, the support lifecycle stretches out even further, and of course these PCs are newer and more modern, and Windows 8.1 works pretty well in my opinion, and besides, you can use excellent and inexpensive third party utilities like Stardock Start8 and ModernMix to fix Windows 8.1’s biggest problems without having to go through the perils of upgrading to a new OS version.
You can always reserve the Windows 10 upgrade and the defer updating. If you want to make sure your PC is registered with Microsoft so that you can get the free upgrade and then just install it at some later date—literally, whenever you want—then go for it. You do not have to install Windows 10 just because you said yes to the Get Windows 10 utility.
Windows 10 will only get better. Windows 10 will never really be done, and Microsoft plans to update it regularly for years to come. The version of Windows 10 you install in September, or December, or in July 2016 will be significantly better than the version you could get this July. There is no harm in waiting.
What am I (Paul) going to do? I’m going to upgrade all of my PCs to Windows 10 as soon as I can. I will do that in part because I’m writing a book about Windows 10, and because I want to understand the issues that others will see when they upgrade their own PCs. And of course I focus on current and future technology here on Thurrott.com, and there isn’t going to be much new to say about Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 going forward. But as a technology enthusiast, I’m very interested in anything new, and with Windows 10 in particular I am very happy to see a return to desktop-centricity in this release since most of the PCs I use are traditional form factor devices with keyboards and mice.
Here on this site and in the book Windows 10 Field Guide, I will provide all of the information you need to upgrade to Windows 10 safely, and to recover back to your previous OS version, with all your data intact. But only you can determine whether you even want to do this, and if so when. That’s not a cop out: I will give you the information you need to make the right decision for you. If you do choose to upgrade, you should do so at your own speed, when you want, and how you want.
Let me know if you have any questions. Windows 10—and in particular the effort of upgrading to this new OS version—is going to be the defining topic of our next year, I bet.