Microsoft has done a great job of tarnishing Windows 10’s name by being unnecessarily pushy with the upgrade offer, and they shouldn’t have done so. But Microsoft’s tactics aside, Windows 10 is a worthy upgrade.
Upgrading Now Reserves Your Free Copy, Even if You Don’t Want to Use It Yet
Even if you don’t want to use Windows 10 yet, you may want to upgrade in the future.
So here’s a big reason to upgrade: Once you’ve upgraded to Windows 10 on your current PC, your PC will receive a “digital entitlement” that allows you to install Windows 10 for free in the future–even after July 29. If you don’t want to use Windows 10 now, you can upgrade, then downgrade back to Windows 7 or 8.1 and keep using that. If you ever decide you want to use Windows 10 in the future, you can upgrade to it for free since your computer has that digital entitlement.
If you don’t reserve your free copy before the upgrade offer ends, you’ll have to spend $119 for Windows 10 Home or $199 for Windows 10 Pro to upgrade.
Windows 10 Includes Many, Many Improvements Over Windows 7
Windows 10 made a lot of improvements over Windows 7. Upgrading to Windows 10 doesn’t just get you the improvements and new features in Windows 10. It also gets you the improvements and new features added to Windows 8 and 8.1; the ones that were overshadowed by Windows 8’s refusal to let users boot to the desktop.
Some of the flashiest features of 8 and 10 include:
- The Windows Store and Universal Windows Platform (UWP) applications are Microsoft’s new application platform. In particular, Microsoft is now porting many Xbox games to Windows, but they’re only accessible on Windows 10 and only through the Windows Store.
- The Cortana virtual assistant offers voice searches and automatically delivers you relevant information, and it’s getting even more powerful this summer.
- Live tiles in the Start menu provide quick access to information. They can display the news, weather, your emails, and other information.
- An Xbox application allows you to record PC games and stream Xbox One games from an Xbox One console. It’s useful even if you don’t own an Xbox.
Even if you just want old-fashioned desktop programs, there’s a lot to like:
- A Task View interface allows you to quickly view all your open windows and sort them into multiple “desktops”, a feature that Mac and Linux users have been taking advantage of for years.
- The “reset your PC” feature provides a way to quickly wipe your Windows system and start fresh without actually reinstalling Windows.
- An improved Task Manager has a streamlined interface and a built-in startup manager for managing the programs that automatically launch when you boot your computer.
- An improved File Explorer includes a new file operations dialog that allows you to pause file operations and more easily manage conflicts. File Explorer also gained other useful features, like the ability to mount ISO disc image files without third-party software.
- A new Settings application includes useful features like the ability to see which programs–including desktop programs–have used the most battery life on your laptop.
- Windows 10 includes improvements to using Windows with multiple monitors, and with modern high-DPI displays.
- Power user features like Hyper-V virtual machines and Storage Spaces for pooling storage are available in the Professional edition of Windows 10.
Under the hood, there are a lot of improvements:
- Windows 10 offers improved boot speed and battery life.
- You’ll find various security improvements, from the built-in Windows Defender antivirus and Smart Screen for scanning downloads to low-level improvements to ASLR (address space layout randomization) memory management improvements and driver signing now being required.
- DirectX 12 and the Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) 2.0 are included, and new games can take advantage of these for improved performance.
If You’re Using Windows 8 or 8.1, Upgrading is a No-Brainer
If you’re still using Windows 8 or 8.1, you should definitely upgrade to Windows 10. Windows 10 is a huge improvement over Windows 8.1, restoring a desktop Start menu and allowing those new applications from the Windows Store to run in windows on your desktop instead of in full-screen mode. Awkward features like the charms bar you head to open by moving your mouse to a corner of the screen are gone.
Windows 10 still offers a special “tablet mode” designed for touch devices, but it’s optional.
Really, we shouldn’t even need to try to convince Windows 8.1 users to upgrade. You should definitely get away from Windows 8.1 while you can.
Windows 10’s “Spying” Is Way Overblown
Windows 10 does include many features that “phone home” to Microsoft’s servers, doing everything from downloading new antivirus definitions to uploading anonymized “telemetry” data about the features you use on your computer.
But it’s a big jump to say that Microsoft is actually “spying” on what you do on your computer. Most of these features are largely a consequence of having more internet-connected features in Windows, like live tiles that need to download information regularly, and the Cortana voice assistant that provides online searches and other information.
Yes, it’s true that you can’t fully disable all telemetry features on Windows 10. However, telemetry is just anonymized usage information. Microsoft can use it to see how many people use features like the Start menu or system tray on a daily basis, for example, so they can make Windows better.
Microsoft has done a poor job of explaining this to average users, and their privacy settings are horribly laid out. That’s certainly one of our criticisms of Windows 10. But Windows isn’t doing anything that every other tech company isn’t already doing.
And no, despite some misleading rumors going around, you won’t have to pay to continue using Windows 10 after July 29, 2016. If you have it installed, it will continue being free to use. You’ll only have to pay for Windows 10 if you want to buy a fresh license to upgrade an old computer, or to install on a new computer you build yourself. New computers you purchase come with Windows 10 licenses the manufacturer paid for.