Microsoft always gets flak whenever they stir the OS pot. Any interface change, is met with torches. Any new feature is met with skepticism. Of course there have been very good reasons for that over the years. Windows 95 was the first really lauded version. It came out as I was getting out of High School. It was the first version to really prove people wrong. A lot of folks, most folks some would say, vowed that DOS would reign forever. Obviously that hasn’t happened. But 95 would prove itself, only to be replaced by 98 which was loathed. Bugs, performance issues kept it down, until it’s revision Second Edition came out. Suddenly Windows was loved again. Then, when XP would be delayed came a stopgap version of 98 called Millennium Edition. This was probably the worst version in the history of the OS. Fortunately XP came along, and for 14 years, made people forget about it.
But even good OS software goes obsolete. So Microsoft brought us Vista. It let us access more RAM, take advantage of 64 bit processors, in exchange for a lot. Particularly displeased were businesses that used expensive proprietary programs. All met with the reality of either keeping all of their old stuff running, or buying the latest versions of their proprietary software because the developers weren’t patching the old versions to run on Vista. But along came Windows 7, which basically took the Vista structure, and patched up a lot of Vista’s headaches. People were okay with that for a while, a lot of folks started buying tablets. So Microsoft gave us 8, which tried to blend the desktop, and tablet interfaces.
While nowhere near the travesty of millennium Edition, or Vista, people really didn’t dig the new interface on their desktops. Eventually people on the whole got used to it, an 8.1 update beefed up some security, and things began to settle down.
So now we have 10. Should we be happy, or should we grab the torches again?
PROS: Start button menu returns. DX12. Performance gains. Edge performs better than IE. Free for a year.
CONS: Does very little to excite the average person. Only free as a digital upgrade for 7, 8, or 8.1 users.
BLAND: The light/dark theme in Edge.
Installation went fairly easy, and brisk. Normally I opt to go for a physical copy in case I need to wipe a drive, and start over. But with the free upgrade offer, I took a shot in the dark. In my case I had no problems. Windows 8 update easily downloaded the upgrade files, and then gave the option to go through the installation when it was ready. Of course I still advise anyone to back up any important files (pictures, documents, songs, video footage, etc.) to an external hard drive before you begin. Though you should be doing that anyway. Because if something glitches out you may end up needing to wipe the drive, and start over. Which means losing everything on your primary hard disk. Anyway, once it was completed, the only drivers I even needed to download manually were for my video card, and for my printer. Windows 10 actually found all of my other drivers on its own, with little to no trouble.
Windows 10 comes off as another 8 at first. The art design from 8, carries over while at the same time bringing back some of the functionality we saw back in Windows 7. The most obvious one being the Start button menu. Now you can once again, click it, and go to all programs (now called all apps), and choose your executables that way. You can still go under File Explorer, and search your drives that way. You also have the power, and shutdown options there. However there are also the tiles from Windows 8.1 you may have gotten used to by now. You can still customize, and rearrange them, making it handy for things you use all of the time. It isn’t exactly the same though. There are limits on the number of programs it will list, and often times instead of simply putting an .exe file shortcut instead it has a folder with a drop down menu.
Microsoft also has a new browser called Edge in Windows 10. It sits there on the taskbar waiting for you to go web browsing. But it isn’t just for web browsing. As Internet Explorer did in Windows 8 to an extent, Edge also lets you search your entire computer. It’s embedded in almost everything, even putting a search bar on the taskbar. Overall, at least on its face, it doesn’t seem much different from Internet Explorer. You still have tabs, a favorites list, and the options to tweak the look. The theme is a little bland however. Pulling up the browser settings is similar to Windows 8’s charms bar. A side bar flies in from the right with the options you’d expect. You can look at your favorites, history, and other options pretty easily. The browser adds a couple of new functions. A reading mode that lets you make the content of a page or document the center of attention. You can also have a reading list that queues up things of interest. Joining the mode is the Cortana application from Windows Phone. It is embedded in Edge’s search function. (You can also run it as a separate program) Cortana works as well as it does on phones here. So long as you have a microphone or a headset for the program to hear you even if it does seem a little weird to use on your desktop. They also gave tablet, and touch panel users the ability to write notes on web articles. If you prefer to use Internet Explorer or another browser, you still can.
Microsoft also carried over their digital storefront application to 10. If you happen to use their store, the handbag icon on the taskbar takes you there as it has before. The layout has changed, and the selection has expanded somewhat. But on the whole it is going to feel familiar, and easy enough to navigate. This is where you’ll begin to see some overlap with the Xbox branding. You’ll find many of the apps, including video games will run on X86 or ARM so you can download them to a Windows Phone, Tablet, or computer. It still has a long way to go to catching up to Google or Apple storefronts, but it looks to have made some headway here. The apps themselves often feature a Windows 8 style side bar which makes them useful on Tablets which many of them are geared for. Still, they’re easy enough to navigate on a mouse as well. So should you want to run one of them on your desktop, or notebook it isn’t going to confuse you.
Windows 10 also takes a page from Aero 3D with its Task viewer. You can see several window panels laid out upon clicking the icon on the taskbar, and then selecting the window you want. You can also snap the windows side by side, or even on multiple monitors if you have such a setup. Down next to your clock, you once again will see your volume, notifications, hidden icons, and network connection status. Most if not all, of the shortcuts you’re used to using are also back. Basically if you’re still on Windows 7, this is going to be pretty easy to get used to. If you’re on 8, you’ll have some “Oh, that’s right.” moments. But beyond these interface changes is there anything else? For those really obsessive about security it does support biometric scanning through it’s Hello software. Provided you have a supported fingerprint reader, and don’t trust yourself to make new passwords very often. It should also be noted that Windows 10 does something 8 probably should have done, and that is make the Start screen a default tablet interface, and the desktop a default well, desktop interface.
But as this is a gaming blog, you’re going to want to know if Windows 10 is a valid upgrade for gaming. I would have to give you a resounding yes. At least in my case, Windows 10 seems to use considerably fewer system resources than 8 or 8.1 ever did. As a result, most anything I do on the system runs noticeably smoother. There has been a lot of positive buzz for Direct X 12. But since I don’t have a DX12 card, and nothing utilizing DX12 is out yet, I have no way of testing that. However, a host of my games ran better than they ever had on Windows 7, 8, or 8.1. Chivalry, Insurgency, Ultra Street Fighter IV, Mortal Kombat 9, Giana Sisters Twisted Dreams, and Rise Of The Triad (Reboot) all performed 15-25% better on my machine. Running the 3DMark Fire Strike 1.1 (standard version) even scored slightly better at 5732 instead of 5687 I had before. If you predominantly use your computer for gaming, it’s worth downloading, and installing Windows 10. If the rumors about the next DX revision hold true, you’ll especially want to download, and install it. Because they won’t be bringing it to the older versions of Windows, and hardware manufacturers will certainly support it.
For everyone else, it’s going to depend on the situation. The average person will probably get used to it rather quickly, and the quicker response time is likely going to impress them. The returning Start menu although not identical, is still similar enough that they probably won’t mind it. Some however, may want to wait. particularly if they’re in a situation where they’re required to run an expensive proprietary utility in a business, that may need patches or other updates to run on the new OS. Realistically however, this time it is likely a much smaller number of users than it was with the last few versions.
Overall I would say Windows 10 is certainly worth the upgrade, more for the game fan, but with benefits for the average computer user too. It’s just too bad there isn’t much outside of gaming that it offers to get excited about. Further uniformity between platforms, comfortable interfaces, and security improvements are certainly important. They’re just not that exciting. Still, they are all things you may have been wanting since the days of Windows 7. If you have, you may want to follow your gaming brethren into the pool.
Final Score: 8 out of 10