Thinking About Windows 10 Alternatives

Posted on January 20, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 102 Comments

Thinking About Windows 10 Alternatives

With Microsoft looking at new ways of monetizing Windows 10—in many cases, with ever-aggressive advertising in the product itself—I’m getting a lot of questions about alternatives. And while the case for moving off Windows 10 on PCs is not clear, I feel the frustration too.

In fact, I spend a lot more time than you may realize exploring those alternatives. This week alone, I’ve done work on macOS, using my MacBook Air, and I’ve installed the latest versions of Ubuntu and Mint Linux. In other recent weeks, I’ve spent time with a surprisingly high-quality Acer Chromebook as well.

I do this with no sense of joy. And to be clear I still find Windows 10 to be the obvious winner when I evaluate what it is that I’m looking for personally. And that’s true regardless of my job: Were I to suddenly hit the lottery, I’d keep using Windows 10 myself. I mean, I’d probably buy a really expensive Surface PC. But I would stick with Windows 10.

This isn’t the case on phone, of course, nor is it true on tablets. On these form factors, Windows 10 is either unusable (phone) or pointless because of the lack of ecosystem support (tablet). Phones and tablets, though, are more clear-cut: You should choose iPhone or Android on phone (I prefer iPhone), and iPad if you want a tablet. (I am not aware of a single decent Android tablet, which I still find curious.)

But the PC? Hm.

There are all kinds of ways to evaluate other platforms, and of course we all have our own needs, wants, and time-hardened workflows, any one of which will bias our view of these alternatives. But if you look at this from a high level, there is a simple comparison to make: Do you miss any key functionality from Windows 10 when using a different platform? Conversely, are there features or functionality in that other platform that make it superior, in some way, to what you’re using now?

Broadly speaking, I feel that Windows 10 does well when I make this comparison, and that is something I do fairly regularly. For all the nits—the in-OS advertising, in particular—Windows 10, to me, is still the clear choice.

But. There’s always a but. I have found things in other systems that I really appreciate. The ability to easily sign-in to a Chromebook simply by having your Android phone nearby, for example. (Something like this is coming, eventually, to Windows 10.) And the simple iCloud-based syncing features in macOS which let you view and access the contents of key system folders, including the desktop, across both Macs and i-devices. (Something that would have prevented my recent data loss.) That kind of thing.

So I evaluate. And I compare. And I will keep doing so, and if the worst thing that happens is that I can state with some degree of experience that Windows 10 is still the best choice, then great. If I find that not to be case or, more likely, can point out places where Windows 10 is falling short, then that’s great too. Maybe by prodding Microsoft a bit, we can all help Windows 10 better as a result.

With all that in mind, and in increasing order of craziness, here’s a quick look at the Windows 10 alternatives. Your take on the relative pros and cons of each may differ, of course. But here’s where I’m at.

#1. Windows 8.1

Advantages: It’s like Windows 10 without most of the bullshit, modern desktop UI, runs Windows desktops applications

Disadvantages: Will never see another feature update, “Metro” apps are stuck in time and it doesn’t support UWP apps, would be expensive to purchase

Bottom line: If you stick to the desktop environment—which you should, frankly—Windows 8.1 is an interesting alternative. Assuming, that is, that you already own Windows 8.x (or, more to the point, your PC came with Windows 8.x): Buying a copy of Windows 8.1 and then installing it over whatever version of Windows your PC came with would be expensive and could be problematic if that version was Windows 10, so I can’t really recommend it. (Nor will I test it.) But if you upgraded to Windows 10 … Hm. Moving back to Windows 8.1 isn’t a terrible idea. In fact, it’s the best of these choices, I think, assuming you can do it. Lots of assumptions in there, I know.

#2. Windows 7

Advantages: Runs Windows desktops applications

Disadvantages: Updating is purposefully broken, will never see another feature update, doesn’t support UWP apps/Windows Store, may require additional security software, dated look and feel

Bottom line: While Windows 7 has its fans, I find this system to be dated looking, and the update story is a mess. But it still offers universal compatibility with the Windows desktop application everyone uses, which is Job One, of course. That said, like Windows 8.1, you’re not going to take a new Windows 10 PC and revert it to the Windows 7, for the most part. So this option is really only available to those who have a PC that came with Windows 7 originally. And have the install media.

#3. Mac

Advantages: Clean system for technical users, MacBook Air laptops are not expensive, cross-platform features with i-devices are impressive

Disadvantages: Modern Macs are very expensive, requires you to buy a new device and learn a new OS, you need to accept Apple lock-in for the best experience, learning curve, no multi-touch or pen support, doesn’t run Windows apps

Bottom line: The Mac is not easy to use at first, but it has a smaller learning curve than Linux, and you can’t argue about the quality of the hardware, even for out-of-date devices like the MacBook Air. What you get when you fork over your credit card is a clean system best suited for technical users or those who willingly toss aside choice to embrace Apple’s admittedly solid cross-platform capabilities. The combination of a Mac with an iPhone and/or iPad is a sight to behold, and Apple offers features—like the ability to send and receive text messages through macOS—that Microsoft is still stumbling around trying to figure out. Again, you pay for the privilege—with both your wallet and your soul—but it’s not hard to understand why so many make this choice. But it’s a big step into the unknown, too.

#4. Chromebook

Advantages: Simple to use and maintain, Android app support is coming, inexpensive hardware

Disadvantages: Still feels limited compared to PCs or Macs, learning curve, Android app support is still a dream, requires you to buy a new device, doesn’t run Windows apps

Bottom line: Chromebook still feels like the type of thing you’d give to a child. But with Android app support coming and a new generation of touch-capable 2-in-1-type Chromebooks appearing this year, that could change. Regardless, Chromebooks win big in the simplicity department, even now, and if you know someone who only runs a few web apps and only sometimes needs a keyboard, it’s a viable option. Just not for me.

#5. Linux

Advantages: Free, runs well on older (or newer) PC hardware, easy to evaluate on older PCs or in a VM

Disadvantages: Doesn’t run Windows apps, too many distribution choices, learning curve, complex underpinnings will be daunting for many users, mostly dated look and feel

Bottom line: Despite many attempts to simplify Linux and make it look or work more like Windows, it remains the most technical alternative available. But it’s free–like, really free—and can be easily evaluated. It’s also an interesting option for an older PC, since Linux tends to run well on such machines. If you don’t mind a bit of complexity and uncertainty—or, maybe that is what you’re looking for—Linux has matured greatly over the years. Start with a user-friendly version if possible, like Ubuntu or Mint Linux with Cinnamon.

Or, just keep calm and carry on with Windows 10

Advantages: Runs Windows desktop applications and modern UWP apps, modern look and feel, works well across form factors, modern hardware support, gets regular feature updates

Disadvantages: Update reliability issues, constant updating can trigger unwanted reboots, in-OS advertising is getting worse over time

Bottom line: Look, I love Windows 10. There are issues both real (in-box advertising/update reliability) and invented (privacy FUD), but it’s still the most modern PC platform available. It works well on an incredible range of form factors, is available on an ever-increasing range of often-innovative new PCs, and it works with both the desktop applications that we need today and the UWP mobile platform that I feel is the future of Windows. I don’t see myself ever looking back. But as noted, I will continue to evaluate other platforms, if only to discover those occasional gems that need to make their way to Windows too.


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Comments (102)

102 responses to “Thinking About Windows 10 Alternatives”

  1. 4841

    Why is in-OS advertising such a hassle when you can just go to 'Settings > System > Notifications and Actions' and turn off 'Get tips, tricks and suggestions as you use Windows'? And that's if you're getting them: I've been using Windows 10 for almost two years and never got a single ad.

    • 5456

      In reply to Demileto:

      It isnt only the ads staff. Its also that with every Update, MSFT did cut some features from the Pro Versions and keeps telling how I should use Windows 10. And, there is no easy way to uninstall the Windows 10 build in apps like Mail, Groove, Photos and so on.

      • 5027

        In reply to SherlockHolmes:

        Yes actually it is quite easy, use Powershell. We have removed almost everything on our Pro installations, it is really not that hard. We have even removed the Store

      • 4841

        In reply to SherlockHolmes:

        That feature cut from Pro was bad form, I agree, but to be fair I only saw Microsoft do it once, when they released Anniversary Update. 

        About uninstalling Windows 10 built in apps: I could swear that they announced that they'd widen the ability to uninstall those apps, but I guess I misunderstood it somehow because that indeed can't be done trivially through an Uninstall option in Start's context menu.

        • 5456

          In reply to Demileto:

          So what makes you think that there wont be a feature cut with the Creators Update? The other thing is that MSFT thinks that their customers are stupid. With every Update there are lesser choices. I want to decide for myself if I want to use a lockscreen or not.

      • 1377

        In reply to SherlockHolmes:

        Maybe no EASY way to uninstall bundled cruft, but Powershell can eliminate most of the cruft (though sadly not the new holographic cruft which is pointless on PCs which lack holographic devices).

        Consider this convergence: Windows becoming more like Linux, needing a command line more often.

        • 442

          In reply to hrlngrv:  "Maybe no EASY way to uninstall bundled cruft, but Powershell can eliminate most of the cruft "
          Right click, uninstall.  I'm sure how easier they could make it?  And not everyone wants to remove everything, or needs to.


          • 1377

            In reply to Narg:

            Not all bundled apps have Uninstall entries in their right-click menus, e.g., 3DBuilder, Groove Music, Movies & TV, Solitaire Collection, and, for someone who has Office 365 installed, the utterly worthless Get Office.

            Of course some don't want to remove anything, and they're about the only group MSFT satisfies entirely. However, one of Windows's strengths compared to OS X/macOS over the years has been the greater customization of Windows. Are you saying this has been a mistake, and MSFT is correcting that mistake by adopting a more Apple-like approach?

        • 5456

          In reply to hrlngrv:

          The problem is most users wont use Powershell. Like Mary Jo Foley for an example.

    • 6453

      In reply to Demileto:

      The stuff I really don't like are the start menu tiles for media and entertainment. Even on a clean ISO install, one click on Candy Crush and my preteen children are now in a social-heavy in-app-purchase game with other people that have usernames based on reproductive organs.

    • 314

      In reply to Demileto:

      Vote with your wallet people!!! Just say no to Windows 10.

  2. 4325

    You put doesn't runs UWP apps as a disadvantage but constantly point out that there aren't any good ones, that the store hasn't taken off and never will. 

    • 1377

      In reply to adamcorbally:

      Have you noticed that on Windows Weekly there are weekly beer picks but never any Windows Store picks?

    • 6453

      In reply to adamcorbally:

      I wish app stores would lose the movie-poster-like front pages.

      And somehow figure out how to put exact-match search results at the top.

      Also allow a "details" view that can sort or filter by publisher.

      If someone searches an app store for "facebook," maybe just maybe they want the actual Facebook app made by Facebook, and not dozens of me-too knockoffs that only included the name for SEO.

      • 1377

        In reply to karlinhigh:

        As a practical matter, the Windows Store's probable customer base would be 80% PC users, 15% Xbox users, 5% phones, tablets, IoT and Hololens users, so what could possibly be wrong with designing it for the 20%?

  3. 6181

    I would recommend Windows 8.1 with Classic Shell.  This way you have a pretty awesome OS plus the normal start menu.  And you never get to see any of the metro apps.

    The OS is speedy and performant.  I don't remember the last time it crashed.  Runs all the apps I need.  

    • 5535

      In reply to rgelb:

      Just reverted back to Win 8 today coincidentally.  Having issues with Windows Update finding... ANYTHING.  Is this a common problem nowdays?

      • 10158

        In reply to pachi:

        I had that issue when I upgraded the HTPC from Win 7 recently. I had to format and reinstall Windows 8.1. After that, it runs fine and gets the updates (EPG on WMC worked well too). Seems Windows 8.x doesn't always install cleanly. 

        • 5535

          In reply to Darmok N Jalad:

          Well, I did that already, two clean installs.  This is it worked until I did a big update, and now I am back to the endless, not finding any updates... I hate what MS has become...


    • 5554

      In reply to rgelb:

      Yep.  Windows 8.1 with StartISBack or Classicshell is the best of both worlds. Kernel improvements of 8.0/8.1 that they pushed into 8.2 (Windows 10), minus all the bullshit telemetry and ads and Cortina and forced updates where you could wake up to a borked PC any morning after an update. 

      10 might be a good OS someday, but MS keeps trying to see how much they can get away with before the blowback from Enterprise forces their retreat back to sanity. Fuckem.

  4. 1561

    or...upgrade your Windows 10 license to Pro. It does everything you want and includes less of the crap you don't.

    • 5234

      In reply to gregsedwards:

      I would say LTSB is the best since you don't get any UWP apps, or the store, nor do you get any ads there at all, but it still includes full GPO support and domain joining.

  5. 4183

    I can't help but think the advertising issue is over-exaggerated by the press. I've seen very few ads and I've had it installed since July 2015. 

    On the one hand there are constant complaints that the Store doesn't have enough apps, so they try to drive eyeballs to the store with very unobtrusive suggestions and all of sudden you have pieces here suggesting roll backs to Windows 7, 8.1 or even changing to MacOS! Absurd.

  6. 996

    What in-OS advertising? I don't see any at all :/

    • 397

      In reply to Lewk:

      You have only to open up Edge to see an advert in the front page somewhere, for starters!

    • 6242

      In reply to Lewk:

      It's really a non issue. Every time I search on google I am hit with some type of ad. In Windows 10...have no idea how it interferes with anything at all.


  7. 5485

    Personally if budget is not the core concern I would put the Mac on top anytime.

    I'm a technical person, so according to Thurrot I may be biased, yet my family is not. My wife, a teacher, the least non technical person I have met, was disgruntled when I said ... you need to use my Surface Pro 2 now. Better when she started using the Surface Pro 3, but she told me the other day ... "I'm waiting for your upgrade to get yours". My 6 years old is using the MacBook Pro from 2009, runs swell for what he wants to do ... he actually prefers it to the iPad for certain tasks (6 years old, go figure). My eldest is using the Surface Pro 2 now for his school work and an Android tablet for other stuff.

    The main problem of Mac is not the lock-in. Its locks you in as much as Windows. People say over and over again, the main concern with Mac is that it does not run Windows apps ... well that is pretty much down to Windows lock-n isn't it? Still you always have Parallels.

    The main problem is price, people need to learn it, most people were "born" to tech in Windows still. On the other hand the price of entry. If you want a brand new Mac, one needs to shell out at least $1000. 

    Is it worth it? Yes, for me is for many reason. (if you  are a conscious user with a non consumerist mentality the middle range (1500) can go for 4 to 5 years and after that, still have better performance than a low end Windows 10 PC, it is still to ask)

    I the idea of Windows 10, in practice, I'm not really that impressed.

  8. 1292

    Windows 10 all the way here. Don't think the alts. including MAC hold a candle. As a recent user of Android however, Chromebooks on a 2 in 1 platform seem interesting. Perhaps this is response to the lousy Android tablet experience.  

    • 3233

      In reply to FreeJAC: I try to love Windows but it is a mess (getting better) - I was a heavy Windows user since 3.1 until Windows 8 and I gave up and went to the dark side , though I still use both daily .... Windows 10 for work. OSX is cleaner and just works (High DPI support etc) and integrates with its mobile devices well, just think about iMessage, Continuity , Handoff etc ... Microsoft dropped the ball big time , even the Windows mobile devices we were made to use at work are being replaced with Android or IOS devices. Microsoft are only now finding their way back ... but geez even the much lauded Surface Pro 3/4 is a buggy mess which exudes heat and a stupid amount of fan noise when asked to do anything. And Windows on a tablet you have to be having a laugh ! Search also works properly on OSX .. I do prefer Windows explorer though to finder - I just wish MS could get their act together quicker.


      • 124

        In reply to markiehill:

        I just don't get it.

        "but geez even the much lauded Surface Pro 3/4 is a buggy mess which exudes heat and a stupid amount of fan noise when asked to do anything. And Windows on a tablet you have to be having a laugh ! "

        I had an original Surface Pro.  Never had a problem and yes it ran a little warm with fan blowing. I just upgraded to a Surface Pro 4. Fantastic machine and only hear the fan on rare occasion like when I put it to sleep or shut it down.  I also have a dell tablet which I use mainly as ebook reader.  Desk top machine and all run mostly smoothly.  Occasionally a glitch.  I have a MacBook also and truthfully have had about as many problems with it as my Windows machines.  So my guess is either I am really blessed or others are just the opposite.

        • 3233

          In reply to lwetzel: 

          Well I have had two surface pro 3's and both have been noisy under load , fans running unless I hack around in the registry to throttle the CPU - keyboard sometimes doesn't work, sometimes device does not start up and hangs at the surface screen, comes on in my bag if I use connected standby and then drains the battery - all well documented problems. I am a heavy user of my surface ! I would rather bring my MacBook any day of the week. I am hoping drawbridge will help with getting Windows onto ARM processors in a useable form. 



          • 241

            In reply to markiehill:

            I have a SP3 and a SP4. The difference btw them is night and day. SP3 gets very hot/fans run very loud.  SP4 is not like that at all. It is not an iPad but I use it every day, more as a tablet vs. a laptop. I recently stopped using a Dell Venue Pro 8 but used it for years as a consumption device.  I have a iPad mini (1st gen) that is so clunky to use. Yes, it is 1st gen but geez, I am just using web browser, Kindle, Audible, TuneIn, Groove, etc.

          • 6242

            In reply to markiehill:

            P.S. The keyboards suck on Macs - mushy keys. I do remember them being better but now they are really not good at all.

      • 6242

        In reply to markiehill:

        OSX is horrible. It is such an unclear user interface design - OSX/Macs are living off a reputation from the 90's. Windows 10 is by far and away a superior operating system and much easier to use.

  9. 2235

    I loved Windows 8.1. I liked the metro apps, the hot corners and especially the performance. I still feel Windows 10 has a lot to catch up on in that regard. I never understood the insane level of push-back it received. The desktop was always just a click away. It is much better for 2-1s than Windows 10. 

    • 1377

      In reply to potzy1:

      For most it seems one click away was one click too many.

      Myself, it seems obvious that providing more UI choices, including a true 8.x mode rather than the current tablet mode, as well as a more customizable Start menu would make the greatest number of Windows users as happy as possible. It seems MSFT has little or no interest in maximizing user happiness.

  10. 3233

    How about great high dpi support on OSX , if I see one more blurred interface on my 4k monitor with Windows 10 I am going to scream (I use both daily, though OSX is my daily driver these days)

    • 6242

      In reply to markiehill:

      I will agree however it is really the applications that need to be updated. I like the progress that MS is making. I have two three screen setups I go between and generally it works very nicely every time I dock up.

  11. 4482

    The one and only reason I switched from Mac to Windows was to run some applications that are not available anywhere else. It's all about software availability. You all keep saying how "professional" and "productive" this OS is, but I'm not seeing it.

    Even just scrolling in supplied applications doesn't work and Microsoft opened a bug for me.  What do I mean? Open Edge, News, Money or similar apps and try to page up/down. It won't. Get past the start page, and it works. Probably a framework issue, but this is scrolling I'm talking about.

    PDF editing is non existent without paying Adobe, and yeah, I often need to deal with businesses where moving pages around in PDF documents is necessary. On Windows, it is easier to re-print the document and use Vuescan to scan it. Not the built in scanner, mind, because it doesn't work to my networked scanner.

    Yeah, I'm just griping. Once I'm in the apps I need to run, I couldn't care less what's behind the screen. And I'm stuck with those apps, so here I am.

    • 124

      In reply to bservies:

      You have problems but I don't think it is windows.  PgUp and PgDn works fine on my machines.  There are many less expensive PDF viewers and editors.

    • 2585

      In reply to bservies:

      "PDF editing is non existent without paying Adobe"

      You're in an OS swimming with half decent PDF editors, many are free and several for the cost of most apps ($10 or less). Also, if you have MS Word, it works for PDF editing too.

    • 6242

      In reply to bservies:

      I just set up a graphic designer with a new iMac 5k system. OSX is a painful experience. If a new user with no computer knowledge tried to get up and running on OSX they could not figure it out easily without help from someone. Windows 10 is a vastly superior OS for experienced users and for the first time user. Mac's need an overhaul when it comes to ease of use.

  12. 158

    Paul, are posts like this an indication that this site will broaden it's topics more beyond Microsoft related news as it was the case until now? Brad said in one of the podcasts that there will be changes to this site and more travelling and as I heard that, I was wondering if you are planning to broaden the focus here. Am I wrong?

  13. 5108

    Having done enough Linux distros in the past, it's an obvious fail for anyone but the "leet". Move on people.

  14. 5510

    *Rolls eye*....just keep Windows 10, for now. For The people who read and actively participate on this site, where are they going to go? They are not going to Mac, because Macs are boring and expensive. It won't be for another 10 years until you can touch the screen on a Mac for effect.

    As for Linux, don't waste your time. Why go thru all the hassle of learning a new OS with extremely limited capability? Yes, Linux is the most secure, trusted and arguably the best OS in the planet, but it's not user-friendly. In 2007, Leo Laporte convinced me, in one of his podcasts, that Ubuntu was on par, in terms of user-friendliness, with Windows and Mac, but it was not. I built an Ubuntu machine for a lawyer colleague/friend and he had a terrible time using it. He had no choice, but to buy a retail copy of Windows and install it.

    As for Android,...Paul said no good tablets? Funny, I don't recall ever reading a blog post from Paul of him reviewing a Pixel product other than the recent Pixel phone. Again, the trademark"Pixel" means all Google. The trademark "iOS" means an Apple product. In addition, there is a difference between a Pixel and a Nexus. Paul can't tell the difference because he does a half-a**'d job analyzing the Google products.

    As for Chromebooks,...huh? Paul says that one disadvantage is "learning curve?" Is he kidding me? Relatives of mine who are in their 70's are using their Chromebooks flawlessly. Seriously, what learning curve is Paul talking about? LOL...that's funny. My mother, who had a hard time navigating thru WIndows 7 is running her Church group with her Chromebook and Samsung Galaxy S7. She creates newsletters with Google Docs and even USES it's extensible features. Not only that, but she forms events and using Google Calendar and sends invitations thru it. Those people who don't use Google Calendar, when she sends those invites, gets an ICS file to click. LOL..she even creates guestlists thru Forms and Sheets and even edits photos using Google Photos and Autodesk's Pixlr. People, this is MY MOM...who still has a hard time figuring out how to get to the Amazon Firestick on her HDMI output,...but she can operate her Chromebook very well. So when Paul says that you can't do real work on a Chromebook or anything other than a Windows PC, he is either not telling the truth or doesn't know how to work.

    If a Windows 10 user is really bothered by the small ads and is afraid that the it's only going to get worse, then use Windows 7. In terms of usability, there is no big difference between Windows 10 and Windows 7. NONE, whatsoever. Even after a year and half since Microsoft gave Windows 10 away for free, people STILL OPT to keep Windows 7. Hmmm...why is that? Is it because, it just works and people just use it to go on the internet? Yeah, that's EXACTLY IT! That's why Chromebooks are rising in popularity. Google sees it and guess who else? MICROSOFT.

    • 10158

      In reply to Bats:

      Eventually, you stop caring if an OS is boring, and you start caring if it works as expected. I have an iPad, and the battery life is amazing. Put it to sleep, and it will wake up the next day with the same battery percentage as when you last used it. It sleeps very well, and it WAKES from sleep correctly and rarely needs restarting. Every Surface I've owned has had wake issues--from not loading SD cards or detecting the type cover upon resume, to simply not waking at all. They also lose a decent amount of battery when sleeping. I use my iPad a few hours each day and only have to plug it in a couple times a week. That iPad experience led me to get an iPhone and a Mac mini. Heck, Office365 makes it that much easier to switch. 

    • 1377

      In reply to Bats:

      Re Chromebook learning curve, the article includes learning curve for everything not Windows, so it seems to mean adapting to other than how Windows does things. Certainly the launcher in the shelf is different than Windows's Start menu/screen or macOS's Dock or Finder.

      People who aren't gamers, don't need full Office, don't need PhotoShop can get by remarkably well with Chromebooks. Heck, large enterprises with Citrix or VMWare remote computing services could get by quite nicely indeed with Chromeboxes as most employees' desktop computer.

      • 6181

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        I agree with you regarding the learning curve.  I do not agree on the remote computing services for large enterprises.  That is what my employer implemented (I believe the Cisco branded one) - and there are all kinds of issues.  From speed to rendering issues and so on.  Sometimes a mouse click will take 500ms to 1s to register.  I mean, the workers got used to it, but they hate it.  I hate it because the software that I painstakingly wrote and cared for is now thought of as slow and clunky because of the Remote Desktop issues.  

        My feeling is that for RD technology to work well, you need a really stable 10Gpbs network.

        • 1377

          In reply to rgelb:

          Networks are likely to get faster, so latency should decrease over time. OTOH, the economics of centralization have been, are and will continue to be compelling not least because the only software which needs to be maintained on each client machine are the OS and the remote desktop client app.

          My own experience is limited to Citrix, and I've had I/O latency problems, but there are advantages too, e.g., Excel models with lots of VBA. I've written WSH scripts to automate Excel and VBA in order to automate updating VBA modules on client machines. Not the most robust task in today's workplace software maintenance. Much easier and more robust to update one copy on a server.

          Also, I'm old, so I can remember REAL LATENCY like mainframe terminals with 110 baud dial-up connections. The young are so spoiled.

  15. 8578

    If you need legacy Windows programs there's really no reason to switch away from Windows. I prefer Windows 7 although I recognize that it isn't going to be supported. I don't care about UWP apps (like most Windows users I suspect), "modern look and feel" just means different UI design choices, about as meaningful to me as "New and Improved" is to floor wax. Working well across different form factors would matter if anybody was going to use W10 across different device types but the number of people doing that is statistically irrelevant. 

  16. 5530

    The only good thing about Windows 8.1 is the speed and stability. Usability wise, it's a disaster, there is no way i'm going back by choice to dealing with the stupid charms menu and hot corners. The ads in Windows 10 are a small price to pay to escape the disastrous UX of Windows 8.

    Windows 7 is simply a non-starter on new hardware. Windows 7 also can take around 5 seconds to boot on a SSD. Windows 10 would boot up in 2 seconds. There's no question about it.

  17. 1377

    What security advantages does Windows 10 have over Windows 8.1 besides UWP packaging for desktop software?

    I run 8.1 and 10 (Insider builds) in VMs, and I find 8.1 runs faster and uses fewer system resources. Since I use Classic Shell and don't use either Modern or UWP universal apps, the only thing 8.1 lacks which I find occasionally useful in 10 is workspaces, but they're not enough to justify moving from 8.1 to 10 for me.

    As far as Linux goes, once you start using a separate partition for /home, you'll discover one of the major advantages of Linux over Windows. Windows really can't handle registry hives not on C:, so no way to put %USERPROFILE% entirely on a different partition. Maybe this is too techy for most, like regular automatic backups.

  18. 8275

    Interesting what you said about Windows 8.1 I found it to be the exact opposite, in fact I think it's far more suited to tablets than Windows 10 is. I get what Microsoft needed to do with Windows 10 to make it more desktop friendly, but I actually really wish I could run 10 on my laptop and 8.1 on my Surface Pro.

    Also your comment about not being able to run Windows apps on Linux and Mac is completely wrong (the exception being UWP.

    • 8578

      In reply to mattgoldman:

      The problem was MS trying to create a one-size-fits all OS. Doing so inevitably leads to a compromise of either phone/tablet or the desktop. In the case of Windows, both platforms were compromised. Keeping iOS and OSX separate certainly hasn't hurt Apple.

      Having said that, MS was probably too late to market a "finger-touch" OS successfully. The current Surface devices are fundamentally Win32 machines with UWP as a bonus (and still niche devices in the PC world). The poor sales of WinRT devices made it clear that there's not a market for a touch-only version of Windows.

    • 1377

      In reply to mattgoldman:

      You touch on the real weakness of Windows 10: it's an existential compromise. I've never used Windows tablets, but I have heard from many others that Windows 8.x had a better tablet UI, and certainly its All Apps view is superior to the Windows 10 equivalent. Would it truly have been too much to have expected from MSFT to have the straight Windows 8.x UI (maybe even including charms) as Windows 10's tablet mode, and something like the customizability of Classic Shell for the Start menu in PC mode?

      Apparently it is too much to expect. Instead we get an OS UI guaranteed to disappoint the largest number of users while not pissing them off as much as Windows 8.x POed PC users.

      • 7414

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        Windows 8.x did have a better tablet interface than Windows 10 until Anniversary Update was released.  Many of the best features returned, like side-scrolling by swipe when browsing.

  19. 8616

    I'm using Manjaro linux for about half a year now, started with ubuntu a couple of months before that. I just wanted to see if I could do everything I normally did on Windows and the answer is 'yes'.

    Is it a better OS? I don't know, but I like that I'm more in control of what's going on on my machine. I like the ability to tweak the GUI without 3rd party tools. 

    It's was partly a personal challenge and partly because I was getting irritated with Microsoft for messing around and taking way too much time to make Windows 10 a great OS. It feels like there's no driving force behind it, just a bunch of people with great ideas.

    • 1377

      In reply to Igor Engelen:

      . . . without 3rd party tools . . .

      Since the kernel developers, core utility developers, editor developers, application developers overlap only occasionally, pretty much everything in Linux (and BSD) is 3rd party tools. Distributions are little more than collecting and curating 3rd party tools. It's the rare distribution which develops much itself (Canonical/Ubuntu develops Unity, Linux Mint develops Cinnamon).

  20. 6525

    For those with a high concern about data privacy, other alternatives are:

    1) Use Windows 10 offline only. Use other computers with other OSs online.

    2) Convince Microsoft of enabling completely turned off telemetry / diagnostics in Windows 10 Home / Pro. Windows Updates must be the only optionally permitted communication to Microsoft servers.

    3) Microsoft must offer Windows 10 Enterprise as Anytime Upgrade, without having to reinstall any drivers, for a reasonable one-time price.

    4) Microsoft must offer Windows 10 Enterprise as SystemBuilder at a reasonable one-time price per device or per user so that the price is reasonable for a user having only one Windows computer.

    • 1377

      In reply to RobertJasiek:

      Re 3 and 4, why MUST MSFT do either? It's in MSFT's interest to push subscriptions and drop one-off perpetual license pricing. I'd prefer continuing perpetual licenses, but I accept that MSFT wouldn't.

      • 6525

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        If MS does not offer choice between one-time payment and subscriptions, MS loses all those potential customers preferring one-time payment because they do not want to, or cannot, afford subscriptions. If MS does not offer Enterprise licenses for a single computer or user, MS loses all those potential customers (or upgrade customers) for whom a) multiple licenses are too expensive for a use on a single computer and b) privacy of Pro is not good enough because they want, or (because of their business and national laws, e.g. medical care in Germany) are required to use, Enterprise (or else Linux or Windows 7). Keeping many more customers is in the interest of MS.

        • 1377

          In reply to RobertJasiek:

          If MSFT has gotten itself into the position in some countries that Windows 7 Pro is OK but only Windows 10 Enterprise is adequate, then MSFT has indeed screwed up royally. If that's the case in Germany currently, then MSFT has corrections to make. Myself, I'd prefer they returned Windows 10 Pro to the status of a la carte Enterprise near equivalent, but I kinda suspect MSFT prefers ALL businesses pay more for Enterprise.

  21. 5520

    Well now I'm in retirement, after starting in IT nearly 60 years ago and having been a full on Windows user since W3.11, I've simply become fed up with the twists and turns of keeping W10 viable for my family use. I've started on a migration towards Chromebook with setting up a Linux file server for our mass of data and expecting to move over to Chromebooks in late 2018 once the Chromebook/Android apps/Andromeda dust settles

  22. 442

    My vote, keep calm and carry on.  :)

  23. 10572

    I upgraded early from my Windows 7 Professional operating system to Windows 10 home OS being bought MS legal license from ODosta Store at:, Which takes 5 hours due to the internet slow speed, But faced many technical issues.
    Beside of, I got everyday new updates from Microsoft server, That's why I disappointed with performance of new OS, That's why I format it and again install windows 7.
    Last week, I read at your blog as Microsoft has stopped continually updates and now we may use constant windows 10, So I purchased its license and upgraded my OS.
    Now its working well. Thanks for providing us great information and support.

  24. 5027

    Why not just use Windows 10, and turn off suggestions?

    And " 'Settings > System > Notifications and Actions' and turn off 'Get tips, tricks and suggestions as you use Windows'? " like Demileto  already mentioned

  25. 10177

    In reply to burog25c:

    There are three tricks to easy use of Linux. 

    First, make a list of all of the games and programs you use on Windows that you are not willing to give up.  Research whether they run on Linux, or have Linux alternatives.  If they don't run on Linux, or they're too much work to set up, then just stop.  No sense wasting your time.  In particular, if you're a serious gamer then Linux is a sacrifice.

    Second, back up your data and disconnect the backup from the PC.  You can't accidentally erase your files if they're somewhere else.  I know a lot of people go for a dual boot setup on a single hard drive (or SSD), but if you're a novice I don't recommend it.  If something goes wrong with a dual boot setup, it's a pain to get everything back in working order.  Instead install Linux onto a separate drive, so your Windows files are preserved.  If you don't like Linux, just disconnect the Linux drive and Windows should pick up where it left off.

    Third, most Linux installers will let you run Linux off the USB flash drive (faster) or DVD (slower) before installing.  Try that, and make sure everything works - keyboard, mouse, internet access, etc...  If your wireless card or video card isn't recognized you can decide to research what replacement to get, or look up ways to fix it on Linux, or just give up and stick with Windows.  The important thing is to identify headaches before you install it.

    I have four kids.  We have three Linux PCs, two Windows PCs, and a gaming console in the house and it works fine.  I almost never use Windows - but then I'm not the gamer today that I was fifteen years ago.

  26. 10177

    In reply to gregsedwards:

    But then why did I pay for Windows 10 Home at all?  Isn't it dishonest for them to say, "Get Windows 10, it's great!"  And then once you bought it, "Actually, we meant that Windows 10 Pro is great.  That's an extra $99, please."

  27. 10175

    Paul: you mention never coming across a decent Android tablet. I must confess as an Android user I was quite jealous of my wife's iPad mini until I came across the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8". I'd highly suggest taking a look at it. 

    As for my home PCs and laptops, I'm sticking with Windows 10 for the time being since it is my favorite OS so far and I experiment with all of them from time to time (Mac OS X & Linux included) but I do share your concerns about the slowly increasing messages and ads popping up in Windows 10. 

  28. 7212

    There are no alternatives to Windows.
    For me.
    For most.
    The shift we see unfortunately is that people with mobile devices have been rushed into using inferior operating systems... iOs, Android, Chrome'os'...
    These are not and never will be alternatives.... for me.
    No point making articles with titles like that... for me.
    Windows is evolving, now for 25 years and keeps getting better and faster... I don't need anything else, please keep the rest of that crapply, foogle far from me!
    I'd buy a good Mac book pro if my budget would allow and install windows on it... yes, always the latest build I can get my hand on! of course!
    good luck to you.

  29. 7631

    I don't understand what the problem is with ads. I am using my Surface Book since November and I haven't seen one ad so far. Just disable the suggestions in the settings and you are set to go.

  30. 5486

    Let's be honest here. Most who are running Win10 are only running it because they got it for free. Honestly, if you weren't buying a new PC, most wouldn't pay >$100 for it. It's just not worth it. On release, Win10 was truly a horrendous, unstable mess. It's improved a bit, but is still an inconsistent, buggy, intrusive, feature bloat O/S that constantly thinks it knows better and resets your settings at every opportunity. 

    Windows has probably had it's day, and MS knows it, but they still have to try and stay relevant in this fast moving world, and had to start find alternative revenue streams that stood a chance of being successful as their markets eroded. Win10 only exists as a conduit for MS to gather data and push ads or recommended apps at the user in the hope they take up the offer. The Surface devices are MS just trying to re-invent the PC to help keep it relevant, and try to steal some of Apple's high end thunder - to try and make MS cool again if you like.

    In reality Win7 or 8.1 actually still do pretty much everything everyone needs, but then so do Macs, Linux or Chromebooks. Infact, I don't understand the animosity towards Chromebooks. They're cheap, simple to operate, silent updating, almost zero malware/virus risks, and as pretty much everything is web based these days, fill most requirements. Yes, I know Google gather large amounts of information too, but your not paying an MS tax for Chromebooks - they just do the job. We have a touchscreen Chromebook, and it's brilliant. My kids love it, and don't have any problems at all using it.

    Win10 will get more intrusive as time goes on - it's part of the big plan MS have. For example, right now, you can't turn off Cortana, you can't uninstall some apps, and you're still forced to have all the updates (I don't class 'deferring' as blocking). MS need full control of Win10 to get what they need out of it, it's just how it works.


  31. 8098

    If one looks how fragmented the Windows user base already is, it becomes clear that Microsoft is struggling to get users accept new operating systems for many years now. It also shows how less Microsoft cares about its customers. Windows 10 is the worst case answer of Microsoft to the fragmented user base: in future the stupid, ignorant private customers will be forced to work with each new version of the operating system.

  32. 9201

    oh dear, Paul is still stuck in the past. He and Mary don't even champion UWP, pen or touch, and still think desktop represents the only computing device of interest ( to them)

    The future is Android, plain and simple. It's capabilities are growing, and its getting everywhere, bottom up. Google is Global, Microsoft still US only centric.

    Only legacy business & a diminishing tech geeks champion the bloated Windows platform, with consumers and business are moving to simpler platforms.

    But I still prefer Windows Phone.

  33. 459

    I don't get the purpose of this post.

  34. 958

    Is this advertising thing showing up in Insider Builds or has it made it to official release builds?


  35. 9542


    - updating is seriously broken in W10, and unreliable, and it's in my view the only real negative thing in W10

    - disagree about tablet choice, I'd still choose W10 tablet. iPad (like Mac PC) is good only if you go Apple all the way, and I dislike being locked into their "walled garden"

    Thus, I'm securely in W10 world for anything except phone, and on phone I keep Android... Like I've said, dislike Apple lock-ins. Google/Android has many many flaws, but still easier on my way of thinking than Apple/iOS. Both still seriously lag MS/W10 in many areas. If/when W10 moves back to phones via Qualcomm and with x86 on ARM compatibility, I can see myself moving to Microsoft's phone as well. Their only flaw (but major one) was huge lack of quality apps.

  36. 399

    What's the learning curve with a Chromebook? Unlearning curve maybe, but learning curve? It's like a cut down version of Windows.

  37. 10152

    Unfortunately, I can no longer make a case for Windows on most platforms. My first step was to replace my storage server with FreeNAS, since rebooting for updates & maintenance was no longer an option. It has been a flawless experience.

    The second step was trying out Linux on my HiDPI carbon. Since the DE (GNOME) and all stock applications support HiDPI out of the box, i really started enjoying my laptop again. I found the GNOME DE to be very simple and consistently uniform, a stark contrast to what windows provides today. I really needed a robust system with a great text editor that provides syntax highlighting, spell checking and a dark theme across the board, for the long coding hours at night. Also native integration with online accounts (microsoft, google, amazon, et al) was a big bonus, since i no longer required multiple 3rd party apps to access my online content. Everything from contacts, calendaring, files etc, is nicely integrated with the default contacts, calendar and file manager applications.

    As far as maintenance goes, i was pleasantly surprised to discover i could update my system at my own convenience, top to bottom, from the kernel all the way up to the fonts with one simple command, no reboot required. 

    Finally, as Paul accurately observes, performance is another area where Linux really excels. It's nice seeing a clean system, boot in 3 seconds and handle anything with speed.

  38. 5234

    I don't see Mac's being any more polished than a good distro of Linux.  And by polished, I don't mean Ubuntu.  Ubuntu has way too much adware in it.  I'm talking about versions like Fedora or openSUSE, or even Solus.  Budgie is a better desktop than Cinnamon too.

    • 5664

      In reply to Waethorn:

      Night and day difference. macOS isnt a "desktop environment" running on X11. Remember that the parts of macOS that make it macOS could be ported to other operating systems. 

    • 1377

      In reply to Waethorn:

      Distribution or desktop environment?

      IMO, greater hand-holding and simplicity would be found in Elementary OS or Linux Mint (and I much prefer Debian packages to RPMs). OTOH, mimimalism would favor Bunsen Labs or Arch with i3.

      Anyway, the wonderful thing about Linux is choice. Maybe that's also a weakness, but there's something for nearly everyone.

      • 3233

        In reply to hrlngrv: In OSX or Windows I do not have to drop to a command line to get things done - I can but I don't have to :) Linux has got better but not getting around without the shell for anything other than very basic tasks is not really possible.


        • 1377

          In reply to markiehill:

          Name a commonly performed (weekly, maybe) task under Linux which requires a command line.

          OTOH, try counting the number of dialogs one must go through in Windows to get the same information as lsblk in Linux.

  39. [email protected] 0 X

    I'm sorry painfully so sorry. I tried so hard to like embrace Windows 10 but it's so botched in so many ways. I'm running a fully loaded $3,900.00 Alienware 17R4 and even second tier developers at Dell/Alienware finally admitted windows 10 has been a absolute nightmare for them to support. Assure paid support from Microsoft for $139.00 a year developers apologized to me admitting they have terrible issues they are constantly chasing. I use my computer for AutoCAD Photoshop, Adobe Acrobat Pro 2017 Office Pro 2016 in other words I use the hell out of my system in a productivity sense. I'm not a gamer nor do I just do basic stuff on my system it must perform on the desktop and on the go. Win 10 has let me down as no other OS I've ever used. Update 1809 is a travesty. Win 7 pro and 8.1 pro were faster and far more reliable hands down and there are millions who will blatantly agree. It's as if the new breed of developers are lost and I couldn't be more empathetic. I do have to agree with pretty much of your analysis. But that pill is extremely hard to swallow. I am at the point I hate using my computer and it has made me in many ways poorly productive because I do not enjoy using such a clunky fat and slow OS with no real outlook for it to become what it should be. It is the classic example of software not nearly ready for public release.

  40. 7260


    A post from you that talks about PC options to Windows 10 is a post that underscores the precarious position Microsoft is in from a consumer perspective. 

    Both Apple and Google have market positions that unless they screw up, almost guarantees Microsoft's irrelevance in the consumer space and a crumbling position in the business market longer term.  Yes, it will have a nice business, like IBM, but no longer can it impose its will on the industry has it has in the past. 

    I wonder if in a couple of years, this column will be seen as early eulogy to what we knew as Microsoft in the past.

    Mark from CO

    • 6242

      In reply to Mark from CO:

      Your post is too funny. You do realize Mac's have less than 10% of the PC market, Chrome books...

      Most people use PCs aka Windows in their life. If you are banking on Tablets and mobile phones as taking over the productivity space you are sorely mistaken. There is a growing debate whether tablets (iPads or Android based) will even be a thing in 5 - 10 years from now. Tablets are growing redundant vs a productivity PC and a good mobile device. 



  41. 1243

    Microsoft really lost their way with Windows 10. I get it. They need to find a way to stay relevant and make money in the post software on a disc world.
    It used to be, they could sit back and sell millions of Windows CDs, Office CDs, etc.

    It feels like a rudderless ship, like they're floating in circles and hoping they find some kind of land at some point.

    • 2585

      In reply to pwrof3:

      The "rudder" is a changing business model. Thus anything that leads its users to subscription services (perpetual licenses are essentially dead).