With less than one month to go before Microsoft ends its current offer for Windows 7 and 8 users to upgrade to Windows 10 for free, you may be wondering whether it’s time to make the switch.
While you may be wary of Windows 10’s less celebrated features, there are arguments for choosing Windows 10. Here are five of the most compelling.
1. New features
Though not everyone agrees about the value of Windows 10’s new features, the new OS undoubtedly offers more than previous versions of Windows.
Windows 10 introduces the virtual assistant Cortana, the ability to log in to Windows with your face via Windows Hello, the new Edge web browser, better support for digital pens and, like Windows 8, integrated antivirus in the form of Windows Defender.
How worthwhile these features are depends on your point of view. Cortana is supposed to help organize your day, giving you traffic and weather reports for your daily journey into work, flagging up upcoming trips, as well as answering simple questions. However, there are complaints that, as with many so-called smart assistants, Cortana isn’t that bright, often responding to queries with a Bing search rather than an answer. Similarly, the Edge browser is fast on paper but in practice I found it freezes when loading heavy pages. Nevertheless Microsoft continues to refine the OS with updates that add new features and fixes — so these elements should improve over time.
Under the hood Windows 10 boasts less obvious but perhaps more compelling improvements that significantly speed up boot times from Windows 7, allow storage from multiple drives to be pooled and offer much more effective support for multi-monitor setups.
Rendering of 3D graphics in games and other applications in Windows 10 is also boosted by support for the DirectX 12 APIs, while the addition of the Windows Subsystem for Linux will allow developers to run a raft of Ubuntu software on Windows.
2. Future proof for longer
Windows 8 and even Windows 7 still have plenty more years left before Microsoft stops updating them, but switch to Windows 10 and you’ll likely be set for the lifetime of the machine.
Machines upgraded to Windows 10 today will be patched against bugs and other security threats until October 2025, which is when extended support ends.
In comparison, mainstream support for Windows 8 will end January 2018 and extended support January 2023. Mainstream support for Windows 7 has already finished and extended support finishes on January 2020.
So if you’re on Windows 7, upgrading to Windows 10 gives you another five years before you have to switch OS, as well as the promise of new features until the turn of the decade.
3. The return of the Start Menu and a better desktop
Windows 10 sees Microsoft bring back the familiar Windows desktop and Start Menu — following the unpopular decision to remove the menu from Windows 8.
Windows 10’s Start Menu looks similar to that found in Windows 7, but with part of Windows 8’s tiled Start Screen welded onto the side.
The design of the menu may not to be to the liking of some Windows 7 users however, particularly the inclusion of ads for Windows Store apps. However the Start Menu is customisable — with users able to remove and add tiles.
There are also some pretty nifty upgrades to the Windows desktop, such as support for Virtual Desktops and the enhanced Task View, which makes it trivial to jump between apps and virtual desktops.
4. It’s free
This benefit is rather obvious.
After July 29th Windows 10 will cease to be a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8.x users. From this point on, Microsoft has indicated that these users will have to buy a full version of the operating system, which will cost $119 for Windows 10 Home and $199 for Windows 10 Pro.
That said, Microsoft has set itself a target of Windows 10 running on one billion devices by summer 2018. Given the pressure to hit that target, there is debate over whether Microsoft will offer some other incentive for Windows 7 and 8 users to upgrade.
5. Better access to data
Windows 10 takes advantage of internet connectivity in a way its predecessors don’t, plugging users into a wider range of information and automatically syncing information with cloud services.
New for Windows 7 users will be Live Tiles. Found in the Start Menu, these tiles link to apps but can display dynamically updating information, for instance a tile for a weather app might show the latest forecast or a stocks app might show the latest share prices.
Search from the box in Windows 10’s Taskbar and the OS will also look beyond files and software stored on the machine, also searching Windows Store apps and Microsoft’s Bing. Meanwhile, Windows 10’s integration with cloud services such as OneDrive helps automatically sync files between PCs and Cortana can share your profile between devices.
This may not be a positive if you’re concerned about privacy, however, as it means sending more queries over the internet.