A longtime friend asked me at church on Sunday about Windows 10. My answer was fairly succinct: Windows 7 has five years left in it, so we’ll probably all end up running it at some point.
Microsoft made a number of announcements last week, so here’s what you need to know about it.
It has a Start menu. Fundamentally changing how people have been using your product for 20 years is a bit jarring, and it seems Microsoft has gotten the memo. The Start menu has evolved considerably over the years since 1995, but those gradual changes were much easier to adjust to. The Windows 10 menu is a bit different from Windows 7 but the change is gradual this time.
It took me 30 seconds to figure out I didn’t know how to use Windows 8, and after a week or two of trying, I still didn’t. It took me 30 seconds to figure out where all the critical stuff in Windows 10 is. If you sit down and try to use Windows 10 like you use Windows 7, you’ll be OK.
It will be free for a limited time at least. If you have Windows 7, 8, or 8.1, it will be a free upgrade for the first year. Some people are speculating it will be extended, but there are no guarantees of that. I typically wait about a year before I migrate all of my machines to a new version of Windows because it helps me avoid problems, and clearly this is to speed people like me up a bit. So I won’t wait a full year this time.
The other thing this does is take away the fear of buying a PC now and being stuck with Windows 8.1. You can buy an 8.1 PC now and not be afraid of having to turn around and spend $100 to upgrade it in six months.
There’s talk of Microsoft trying to make the money on subscriptions rather than selling software outright. It’s unclear whether Windows itself will move to a subscription model or if they’ll try selling Windows cheap or giving it away and make up the difference with subscriptions to Office365 and Onedrive.
Don’t bother waiting for Service Pack 1. I’ve mentioned this before, but Microsoft is moving away from service packs anyway. The service pack for Windows 8 was Windows 8.1, and there’s every reason to believe the service pack for Windows 10 will be a new version in its own right as well. Keep in mind that the days of Windows making revolutionary changes under the hood are gone–there was more difference under the hood between XP Service Pack 1 and XP Service Pack 2 than there is between Windows 7 and Windows 10–and the reason for waiting for service packs was due to fears that Microsoft would release radical new technology before it was ready.
It will have a new web browser. The 20-year-old Internet Explorer is showing its age, so Microsoft is cutting it loose. Windows 10 will still have IE for backward compatibility, but the primary browser will be a new, slimmed-down browser built on a new codebase, which will certainly provides the opportunity for it to be a lot faster and more secure. Some of the decisions Microsoft made with IE in the late 1990s are coming back to bite them now, so the new browser will help.
The new browser isn’t in the technical preview they released late last week.
The requirements are pretty modest. The 32-bit version will run in 1 GB of RAM while the 64-bit version runs in 2 GB, and either one requires about 16 GB of storage. A system that runs Windows 7 nicely will run this nicely as well. Conventional wisdom says to double all of those specs, but that’s still a really lightweight PC these days. Keep in mind the same build has to run on tablets, so Windows is slimming down to compete.
When I installed it on a system with a 16 GB drive, I ended up with about 3.5 GB free. So, yes, they’re serious about that minimum, but if all you want to do is surf the Web, you might be able to get by on 16 gigs. And if you install it on a 128 GB SSD, which is a much more likely scenario, you’ll still have most of it free for your other software.
Migration from Windows 7 to Windows 10 will be easier than the migration from XP to anything else was. There have been quite a few changes under the hood, but not to the fundamental things that made migration off XP especially difficult. Drivers and applications written for anything as far back as Vista still work in Windows 10.
You can try it out now. Join Microsoft’s Insider program, which is free, and you can download it for free. Using it on a primary machine isn’t a good idea in case you do run into problems, but if you have an extra machine laying around, you can give it a try on it.
I downloaded it over the weekend and spent some time with it, as you can probably tell. I’ll be sharing my experience with it as I find things worth noting. There’s some functionality that clearly hasn’t been added back in yet, such as attaching a network printer, but there’s enough stuff there to get a feel for what the next version will be like.