It’s time for Decision 2016, but unfortunately not the decision most of us would rather get out of the way to get on with our lives…or is it? Microsoft is ending its year-long offer this Friday of a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8 machines to Windows 10. Though I may say with no small amount of sarcasm that I’m surprised more people haven’t taken advantage of this offer (or been taken advantage of, depending on your vantage point), Microsoft is sticking to its guns and after Friday, Windows 10 Home upgrade will be $119. And the decision, in case it hasn’t already been made for you (sound familiar?), is whether or not you should upgrade to Windows 10. With nearly a year of watching people being flung into the upgrade abyss without warning, my answer hasn’t changed, and the release of the cost of taking the free road makes it easier for me to explain why. For every single trouble-free upgrade I’ve come across, I’ve come across 3 that are in varying degrees of dysfunction. If you like those odds, or value multiple hours of your time at less than $119, then push that button before Friday.
Dang it, Woo, why you gotta be such a Debbie Downer?
Windows 10 on a brand new machine runs great. It’s a nice evolution of the Windows operating system, and for the most part it runs just like Windows 7 with a little 8 for spice. The new OS isn’t the problem – the problem is your old computer and its years-old operating system. Even if it’s been professionally managed, kept squeaky clean and “barely used”, all Windows operating systems build up what I call “cruft” over time. With use, Windows computers builds up the technical equivalent of barnacles, but unlike ship hulls, we can’t dry-dock your PC and scrape it clean. If you want to upgrade your computer to Windows 10, the most trouble-free experience will only come if the computer hard drive is wiped clean and Windows 10 installed fresh. Even then, there are no guarantees that your computer (despite Microsoft’s insistence) is really ready for Windows 10. The most common, aggravating problems my clients have experienced have come from buggy drivers for their video cards, network interfaces and peripherals, as well as forced upgrades to Internet Explorer 11 which many times will render older corporate web apps unstable or unusable. The latter problem will be fixed (over time, maybe), but for some older hardware, there won’t be upgraded drivers, forcing you to upgrade the affected device, if you even can. Another inexplicable and (eventually) untreatable problem is a slow degrade in performance after your OS is upgraded. Windows 10 will run, but parts will frequently crash or just won’t open their interfaces. Your computer will take long pauses for no apparent reason, sometimes for Windows updates being applied with no notice, and many times just because.
If you really want to upgrade your computer to Windows 10, here is the recommended path:
- Backup your entire hard drive – sometimes called “imaging” or making a bootable copy
- Backup your data and settings separately.
- Make sure you have installation media/files for all your critical applications, including activation keys, codes, proof of purchase, etc.
- Let Microsoft upgrade your computer to Windows 10, and then activate your copy online when the upgrade is complete.
- Create Windows 10 installation media (either DVD or bootable thumb drive)
- WIPE THE DISK
- Reinstal Windows 10 from scratch
- Re-activate your install
- Restore your data and apps to your brand new Windows 10 computer.
- Have a much better day than your peers who stopped at step 4.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will be free for users upgrading from Windows 7 and 8. There is an asterisk behind that statement however, and depending on your world-view, it’s a big one. First off, it won’t be free forever – only for a year after its release. It’s not clear what that means if, for example, after upgrading your Windows 7 machine to 10, you need to wipe the hard drive and reinstall. Do you have to reinstall 7 first and then upgrade to 10? Is there a cost if that happens after that initial year has lapsed? Microsoft has also been deliberately vague on what this means for enterprises and organizations with large installations of 7 or 8. Do they get it for free?
What this means for you:
Some experienced industry analysts predict that there will probably be a different “flavor” for the corporate world, especially as Windows 10 will come hard-coded with Microsoft’s new update/upgrade “Windows as a Service” model where improvements and fixes will come at a more rapid pace than most IT organizations have traditionally been willing to follow, and that “versions will no longer matter.” While this might sound like music to the average consumer’s ears, trends like this are rarely viewed favorably in tightly controlled IT environments, especially when it means maintaining compatibility with legacy apps and systems. Microsoft is still fuzzy on when Windows 10 will arrive – “later this year” is the current expectation, but you can bet that most large enterprises and organizations will probably forgo an immediate upgrade, as they have traditionally done for previous iterations of Windows. If you want to see Windows 10 right away there is a preview build which is still in very early development, but unless you are a stalwart early adopter and understand the pitfalls that lie ahead, I’d recommend waiting until it’s officially released. You can also watch Microsoft’s 2+ hour long presentation on the latest build of Windows 10 online.