Last Updated on August 3, 2017 by Dave Farquhar
Now that Windows 10 is out, the questions I see most frequently are why someone should upgrade, or what benefits they get if they upgrade, or if there indeed is such thing as advantages to Windows 10.
While I understand the skepticism, and I think most people probably should wait a few months before upgrading a Windows 7 machine that’s working well, there are a number of compelling things Windows 10 has to offer.
Better privacy. While Windows 10’s default privacy settings have been the cause for alarm for some people, you can really tweak Windows 10’s privacy settings in ways that Windows 7 didn’t allow. You can limit what applications have access to your camera and microphone, for example, which is a very desirable feature. It makes it much harder for someone to use your laptop to spy on you. You can access these settings by typing privacy into the search bar, then work your way through the settings, selecting what you’re willing to allow and disallow. And the settings are intuitive enough that you don’t have to be a security professional to understand it. So while the default settings are worse than Windows 7, once you’re done tweaking, you can make them a lot better.
Better performance. One of the problems with Windows upgrades in the past has been poor performance on existing hardware. Windows 7 reversed that longstanding trend, and Windows 10 continues it. At worst, Windows 10 is no slower than Windows 7 was, and at least on some hardware, I find Windows 10 is faster. From boot time to app loading time to graphics performance, it’s quicker than Windows 7 was or ever will be.
Better longevity. Windows 10 is going to be supported for 10 years from the day you start using it. Windows 7 won’t be supported after 2020, and while it’s possible you won’t be using the PC you have today in 2020, you may also be surprised. PCs last a lot longer than they used to, so if you can get a few more years of longevity out of one by upgrading to Windows 10, it’s worth your while to do it, and you can hedge your bets by waiting until June 2016 to do it. No one will blame you.
There’s an app store. No, I’m not kidding. I’m not a fan of walled gardens, but it’s really hard to download common Windows freeware apps these days without accidentally getting something with a malicious payload included with it. I suspect when people say Windows is insecure, that’s what they’re talking about. Having a trusted site you can visit to download software is a plus. Being able to find an app that does what you need in the Windows store instead of relying on Download.com is going to mean a lot fewer infected PCs over time.
I get frustrated when people say app stores are foolproof because automated testing never finds everything, but automated checks are much better than no checks at all. Windows 10 gives you the option to tell your friends and family to only download apps from the app store, and they’ll be better off than they were yesterday, without feeling 100% deprived. And as this advice circulates, the selection in the Windows store will only improve.
You can still load software via the means we’ve used since the Windows 3.0 days and for a lot of people that’s important, but for casual users, moving forward is even more important.
Better security. A lot of the things I talked about tie into security, but there’s a lot of under-the-hood stuff going on too that most people may never notice even though it benefits them. Windows 7’s security was pretty good, but Windows 10’s is better. Windows 10 makes use of virtualization to isolate device drivers from the kernel. If you don’t understand that, it’s OK, but it makes Windows harder to hack, and device drivers are one of the things people expect will be a new target of attack in coming years.
Bandwidth savings. If you have more than one Windows machine, in the past, every machine downloaded its own set of updates. Windows 10 can download updates, including virus definitions, then share them with your other Windows 10 machines. That means when you build a new machine, you won’t have to wait half a day for it to download all the updates, and in the meantime, your Windows updates will interfere a lot less with Netflix or the myriad of other things you do online.
It’s evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. The biggest problem with Windows 8 was that it was just too different from what we were used to. Some people were able to get used to it, but there were far too many things that were quick and easy with Windows 7 that took multiple non-obvious steps with Windows 8. Windows 10 does a good job of blending Windows 8’s improvements with what was good about Windows 7. In some cases Windows 10 took a little getting used to, but I was able to find everything. When I needed to add a printer, I was able to quickly figure out how to do it. If you’re used to Windows 7, there’s a decent chance you won’t have to go buy a book to learn how to use Windows 10, and that hasn’t always been the case with Windows upgrades. I think not having to buy a book to use the new version ought to be a design goal, and whether it was in this case or not, they seem to have met that goal this time.
If you’re running Windows 8 right now, there’s no reason to wait. Windows 10 is easier to use. If you’re running Windows 7, there’s no harm in waiting until April or May of 2016 to upgrade, because it will still be a free update then, but it’s something you’re going to want to do at some point relatively soon.
David Farquhar is a computer security professional, entrepreneur, and author. He started his career as a part-time computer technician in 1994, worked his way up to system administrator by 1997, and has specialized in vulnerability management since 2013. He invests in real estate on the side and his hobbies include O gauge trains, baseball cards, and retro computers and video games. A University of Missouri graduate, he holds CISSP and Security+ certifications. He lives in St. Louis with his family.