By all accounts, the launch of Windows 10 is probably Microsoft’s most successful release since Windows 95. From an IT professional’s perspective and given Microsoft’s history with OS launches, this is definitely the least troubled release since Windows 7 (2009). Despite this, I have gathered enough feedback on the upgrade process, both through my own and client experiences as well as reports from around the web, to not recommend it YET for my clients’ business machines, especially if they are operation-critical devices. While the upgrade process seems to go relatively smoothly and painlessly, the actual problems start to crop up after the process finishes and you attempt to get back to work. Historically, operating systems have never worked well on Windows machines, and while 10’s experience seems to improve on Microsoft’s track record in this area, it’s still a risky path at the moment. Unfortunately, despite my recommendation (one shared by many other pros in the business as well) to avoid upgrading your Windows 7 or 8 machine, Microsoft is essentially forcing you to download a copy anyways, whether you plan to upgrade or not.
What this means for you:
Depending on the amount of free space on your hard drive and bandwidth usage cap of your internet connection, this may be no big deal, especially if you do intend to upgrade to Windows 10 at some point. Microsoft sneaks the package onto your machine via Automatic Updates and stores the 3-6GB download in a hidden folder called “$windows.~BT” (the $ hides directories in Windows and is not a wry, insiders joke made by greedy MS programmers). It will do this even if you have been studiously ignoring the pesky system tray app that constantly reminds you that your free Windows 10 upgrade is just waiting to be installed. According to Microsoft, this is by design and ostensibly done to make the process quick and easy:
For individuals who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help upgradable devices get ready for Windows 10 by downloading the files they’ll need if they decide to upgrade.
To be fair, some folks (rather impulsively in my opinion) seem to make the decision to upgrade to Windows 10 on the fly, possibly because of the way Microsoft has relentlessly pushed the new OS.
Unfortunately, if you choose to use Automatic Updates (and you should unless your technology is managed by an in-house IT department, at which point they will make that call depending on organizational policy), then you can’t avoid this download without some messy registry hacking and fussing with your computer. I can hear some of you scoffing, “6GB? Who doesn’t have room for 6GB?!” Well, 128GB SSD laptop users for one, and I know many, many folks running older computers with smaller 250GB hard drives that are on the edge of being completely full. On top of this, many folks use cellular broadband on their laptops, and this sizeable “update” could easily push their bandwidth allotment over the edge. While I applaud Microsoft’s forced march towards a modern operating system on all Windows machines (see “The World Still Clings to Windows XP”), this heavy-handedness on top of the privacy concerns has me revising my ranking of this release lower and lower.