Windows 10 is the next release of Windows. There’s been speculation and even some comments from Microsoft as to why it’s not named Windows 9 but nobody seems to be totally sure of why this is.
A “technical preview” of Windows 10 was made available at the beginning of October. This is a free to try version of what is, essentially, an Alpha version of the OS. I installed it to dual boot alongside Windows 7 on a spare laptop and I had and was impressed at its stability. When I came to recently rebuild my desktop PC I therefore decided to install Windows 10 on it as its primary operating system. So, how did it go?
Let’s look at the features first. The most obvious is that the Windows start menu is back – press the Windows icon (or the key) and instead of pushing you out to the Start screen (as it does in Windows 8) a revised version of the Windows 7 start screen appears. “Revised” because it now allows you to add app tiles to it, providing useful information at a glance. Indeed, the apps, which used to only run full screen, can now run in Windows from the desktop itself. This provides a nice bit of integration of the two eco-systems although it’s very obvious which type you’re using (when running an app on the desktop the “charms” are reduced to a new menu option that appears in the title bar). You can still switch back to the Start screen if you wish.
Another feature is the ability to create virtual desktops – something that’s been possible within most other OSs for some time. This is probably more of use for the “power user” though.
The biggest change “under the hood” though has only really been hinted at though. Windows 10 will provide a single point for all platforms. So run it on a tablet and the start screen will become default, on a laptop it will be the desktop. It should (although has not yet been seen) also be the default for phones as well. It’s an exciting and well needed change – one OS for all platforms but one which operates differently, suiting the individual requirements.
For businesses, these changes will probably mean they may now look at Windows 10 as a possible upgrade, something that many haven’t been doing with regard to Windows 8.
Back to my experience – building with Windows 10 was quite painless. I’d already downloaded the ISO and created a bootable USB stick with it. It installed easily with no issues experienced.
Where I did have problems was with that venerable favourite – drivers. Some of the drivers and their matching utilities supplied for my motherboard didn’t work. I had an odd issue, for instance, where one wouldn’t install due to a problem with the .Net framework. I ended up without the Intel Raid Utility, for instance, which was a nuisance. However, it’s worth saying that the Windows 10 did work, by default, with a lot more hardware than Windows 7 does. For example, I have a WiFi USB dongle connected to my desktop – this just works automatically under 10 but requires a third-party driver install to work under 7.
Program installs, on the other hand, went smoothly but with the exception of Kaspersky Internet Security. That doesn’t work under Windows 10 at all – neither the current or back level versions.
One neat touch of 10 (although this may have been the case in 8) is that I can change the default location for the standard folders (Documents, Music, Pictures and Video). Useful in my case as I store these on the D: drive. One thing I didn’t like, though, is the inability to modify the programs list on the Start menu. So, if a program installs itself and adds a Start menu folder of its own you cannot then change this – there are no movement or renaming options available. When you click on “All programs” on the new start menu it also shows all the apps first, before the desktop programs.
In the end, though, I put Windows 7 back onto my desktop. Why? Stability. It was fine on my laptop but, then, I hadn’t used it much rather than to look around at the new features. It regularly came out of sleep with issues – the mouse often not responding and the screen resolution having changed. A number of times it locked up entirely and needed a hard reboot. I also experienced problems with corrupt items appears on the start menu and in a new notification area that has only just recently been added.
At one point, it locked up and I rebooted only for it to go through the initial setup procedure that occurs after you’ve first installed it. However, at the end of it, my programs and settings were still intact. However, it was at this point that the notification area appears, so looks as if an update of some kind had taken place – weird, and worrying that it causes it to go through the setup process again.
But that’s not to say I didn’t like it – it’s very capable and much better than Windows 8. It’s just not ready for regular use – but that’s the point of these early releases. The current technical preview includes a feedback tool, which allows you to easily report issues. Mac OS has done this for a while but, importantly, Microsoft makes it even better by showing you results of others who may have reported the same problem and you can then add a “me too” to it, so Microsoft can get an idea of how many people a problem is impacting.
There are rumours that Windows 10 may be free to those who already own Windows 8, but nothing concrete has been stated yet. If this is the case, I’m sure they’ll have a winner. However, my remaining concern is how very little (certainly visible) has actually changed. This is less Windows 10 and more Windows 8.2.