Windows 10 Is Coming
First, be sure to check out any “rumors” you see online, as there have been some rather false reports about the upgrade that have shown up the last few weeks. Stories claiming everything from you will be forced to upgrade to you will be charged a subscription fee – both are false. The best places to turn to are of course Microsoft or at least a reputable technology website, like Thurrott, C|net, or PC Magazine.
The basics of the upgrade are this: If you are using a legal copy of Windows 7 (with service pack 1 installed) or Windows 8.1 (with Update), you can get the upgrade for free, as long as you install it by July 28, 2016. Microsoft is even inviting you to do so with an app, the Get Windows 10 app, that will install itself on your PC as a required update on Windows 8 or an option update on Windows 7. It will show up in the taskbar, near the clock. Microsoft’s website on the Windows 10 upgrade process details what to look for and how to get the upgrade using the app. Also note that if you are using any version of Windows 7 or Windows 8, you can upgrade to the minimum version of that system for free by using Windows update to get the required service packs, just look for the links on the Windows 10 specifications page or go to Control Panel, System and Windows Update to check for updates.
The main question is, of course, should I upgrade? If you are getting a new PC or recently purchased one, the answer is almost surely yes since the hardware will most likely not have any issues with the new software. PCs with Windows 10 already installed should be showing up on store shelves at the same time the update is released, or within a few weeks. Even older PCs that are supporting the required base versions of Windows mentioned above should be able to handle the upgrade. If you are not sure, you can check out the Windows 10 specifications page or use the compatibility checker in the Get Windows 10 app. ZDNet has a nice article on how to accomplish this task using the app. Once you run the checker, you will get a list of devices and programs that may require some attention after the upgrade. In many cases, a device might require a driver update so check the manufacturer’s website to see if one is available before doing the upgrade. For software, you may be able to download a new version for free or purchase an upgrade; again you want to check with the software developer by visiting their website. In both cases, it is a good idea to download the required update to a flash drive so you will have it handy once the update finishes installing.
If you do qualify for the update and decide to upgrade, there are a few things you want to do before actually doing the installation. The first is to run the compatibility check mentioned above, even if your PC is new. In some cases, particularly in regards to antivirus or security software, you will need to uninstall or, at the very least, disable it during the upgrade process to avoid delays or other issues. In most cases, it is best to uninstall the antivirus or security software since they will most likely require an update to work with Windows 10 anyway, as most are based on protecting the operating system and changing the operating system usually means needing to get the newest version. As mentioned above, most software vendors are offering free upgrades to users who have an active subscription, so do check with them and download any software to a flash drive so you can re-install it after installing Windows 10. I know those two points were repeated, but it is that important to check compatibility and make sure you have the fixes for any problems that have been identified before you start. The last bit of advice in terms of preparing for the upgrade is to back up your data. Windows 10 will install as an in-place upgrade (a clean install can also be done), meaning it will just update the existing version of Windows and retain your settings and documents. However, it is always a good idea to back up any documents, pictures, or media files to a portable drive or cloud storage before doing any operating system change, in case something goes wrong and you need to restore the PC to the factory default. Of course, it is always a good idea to have a back-up of your data anyway, so doing one for the upgrade is a good excuse to get it done.
After the upgrade, what should you expect to find in Windows 10 that makes it better than Windows 8? Well, if you are one of those people who never got used to Windows 8, the look is going to be familiar to you, starting with the return of the Start button. Microsoft’s Windows 10 site does have a run-down of the features to look for, so I suggest looking those over before upgrading so you get a sense of what to look forward to. Aside from the return of the modified Start button, the most notable new features include the new web browser, Edge, and the appearance of Cortana, which is currently available on Windows Phone as the Microsoft version of Siri. Cortana can work with many apps and is built into the Edge browser for voice searching, much like Google Chrome.
Still not sure? C|net has posted an early preview and TechRadar has a review of the latest test version of Windows 10 so you can see what the experts think.