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
Of all the people I’ve talked to about surprise Windows 10 upgrades, very few were happy with the event even if the upgrade actually ended up in a functional computer (a good percentage don’t). One woman in California was angry enough to sue Microsoft over the unwanted upgrade, and actually prevailed. You’ll notice I didn’t say “won” as Microsoft admitted no wrongdoing on their part and dropped their planned appeal in order to avoid further litigation costs. Truth be told, I’m fairly certain Microsoft could have easily won by throwing their third-string litigation team at this case with microscopic impact on their finances, but perhaps some smart folks got in front of the lawyers to prevent what would surely have been a PR nightmare. Microsoft has been part bully/part implacable juggernaut when it comes to Windows 10 upgrades, and a lot of my clients have been asking why they are pushing so hard.
This is easily answered with one word: Money
But wait, isn’t Microsoft giving away Windows 10 for free? Absolutely, and it’s still available up until the end of July for the same low, low price of zero bucks. But just as your favorite aged relative is fond of saying, “Ain’t no such thing as a free lunch!” What many folks don’t know is that Microsoft is intending for Windows 10 to be their gravy train for the foreseeable future by converting the OS to a subscription model, just like they did with Office, which, by the way, is another big money-maker for them. It’s free for now, but at some point in the near future, the next upgrade won’t be. It will only be available for computers that have paid subscriptions to Windows 10. That’s right, your first “hit” was free, but now that you are hooked, you have to pay to support your “habit”.
That’s not the only hook. Some of you noticed that some of your favorite time-wasters like Freecell are now only available through the Windows Store, another “convenient” feature available in Windows 10. By pushing millions of Windows computers to their new operating system, Microsoft is hoping to create a new source of revenue that is sitting right on your start bar. If it sounds familiar, that’s because Microsoft has taken a page from Apple’s playbook, replicating the incredibly profitable app store model used on iOS devices. The forced Windows 10 upgrades will supply the demand, and the supply is handily built into their new OS.
Though they “warned” everyone that they were making a change to the way the Windows 10 upgrade was being offered to Windows 7 and 8 users, it was still distressing to discover exactly what Microsoft meant when it said it was making the Windows 10 upgrade a “recommended update“. Instead of an increasingly annoying pop-up “upgrade now” message, many of my clients woke up last week to a brand-new Windows 10 upgrade that they did not approve, nor initiate. Prior to that, only a small handful of my clients had experienced the spontaneous Windows 10 upgrade since it launched last year, and one even experienced the full combo: upgrade and then rollback, neither initiated by him. It was like some sort of social experiment gone awry. If you happened to be the surprise owner of a Windows 10 computer, you are not alone: thousands of reports are rolling in of unwanted, unapproved upgrades.
What this means for you:
If you fall into the camp of as-of-yet unvictimized Windows 7 and 8 users, you need to do the following immediately if you want to avoid your very own Windows 10 surprise party:
Easy-mode: Call us at 818-584-6021 and we’ll take care of it for you.
DIY-mode (view a step-by-step video here):
- Go to the Windows Update control panel and disable (uncheck) “Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates”.
- Download and install GWX Control Panel from Ultimate Outsider, or if you are worried about visiting a strange site, you can download it from the C2 Datto Drive .
- Click the following buttons in GWX Control Panel: “Click to disable Get Windows 10 App”, “Click to Prevent Windows 10 Upgrades”, “Click to Disable Non-critical Windows 10 Settings”.
- If you never plan to upgrade to Windows 10 and the buttons are available, you can also use these buttons, “Click to Delete Windows 10 Programs”, “Click to Delete Windows 10 Download Folders”.
- If you’d like the control panel to watch for more upgrade attempts, you can also use “Click to Enable Monitor Mode” which will run in the background and warn you when Microsoft tries to upgrade your computer again.
For the record, Windows 10 is a perfectly serviceable OS and is, in many ways, an improvement over Windows 7 and 8. However, an unplanned upgrade can cause a loss in productivity while you learn your way about the new OS which is the best case scenario. A worst case scenario could result in loss of data, incompatible applications and severe performance issues. Don’t let Microsoft dictate how you use your computer. If you want to upgrade to Windows 10, plan for it and make sure you have experts on hand to ensure long term success.
Most of us have seen the persistent little icon in the system tray, and clicked the many variations of “Not now!” to Microsoft’s constant reminders to upgrade to Windows 10. Some of you even caved in and upgraded your computer to Winodws 10, and an even smaller percentage of you have come out on the other side mostly intact and productive. I still continue to recommend against upgrading existing Windows 7 and 8 computers without considerable caution, planning and the watchful supervision of a trained technology professional. “Cleanly” installed (either on a blank hard drive or from the factory new), Windows 10 is a good operating system that performs well but still has many rough edges, and I have seen way too many upgrade installations go south faster than geese in winter. For reliabililty and performance, Windows 7 is still very hard to beat, and is still considered the standard in enterprise/corporate technology. Despite all of this, Microsoft continues to advance its agenda of “Upgrade all the things”, and has now made the Windows 10 upgrade installer a “recommended update”.
What this means for you:
By default, Windows 7 and 8 are set to automatically check for, download and install critical security updates. There is also another option rug “Recommended updates” which is also checked, and that is where Microsoft gets its virtual hooks into your precious Windows 7 (or 8, I’m not here to judge) operating system and plants the seeds of an upgrade. If your machine is still set to download recommended updates (as it will be if you’ve never changed these settings), you will soon be (if you aren’t already) the proud recipient of a 6GB hidden folder that, if you continue to deny Microsoft the satisfaction of upgrading you to Windows 10, will reside happily on its little 6GB plot of hard drive. Forever. Removing it doesn’t help – Windows Update will cheerfully re-download it for you, to make sure your Windows 10 upgrade experience isn’t slowed down by having to download it when you finally give in to their relentless nagging.
If you have a large hard drive and “all-you-can-eat” internet bandwidth, this isn’t a problem, but for those of you with smaller hard drives (like earlier model laptops with SSD drives) or metered bandwidth, 6GB is a lot of space AND bandwidth. There are ways to combat Microsoft’s insidious peer pressure, but to truly banish the upgrade nagging, you’ll need to fiddle with registry settings or install a third-party utility. If neither sounds like an activity for which you are qualified (either in patience or technical proficiency), why not have a friendly chat with your local tech professional to discuss a more moderate, considered approach to upgrading to Windows 10? If you are a business professional that uses Windows-based computers, its a bridge you will have to cross at some point, but you should do it on your own schedule and on your own terms.
Of all the operating system releases in their long and storied history, Microsoft seems at last to be launching an OS that is at once very competent and highly anticipated. In case you didn’t know what today was, Microsoft is launching Windows 10 to the world, and it’s a sure bet that thousands (if not millions) of people are attempting to upgrade right now. As technology evangelist, I applaud their enthusiasm, but as your technology consultant I strongly advise against taking the plunge on opening day.
Here five reasons why:
- Even though Windows 10 has been large-scale testing and beta for months, there will likely be plenty of as-of-yet undiscovered bugs and problems. This has been the case with every operating system ever released in the history of computing. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say there will be bugs, and it will take time to sort them out. Day one upgrades rarely go well for the average computer user.
- Though supposedly the upgrade process is the easiest it’s ever been, I’ve already seen problems with user-initiated upgrades. If you are not careful, you could lose access to business-critical apps, or even your data. Make sure you back up before you upgrade!
- Unless you’ve already tested them, make sure your business critical apps will run on Windows 10 before upgrading your work computers. Even if they do, make sure the software developer has officially given the “thumbs up” – many are not supporting Windows 10 yet, and it may be many months before they are ready to do so.
- As most will get their free copy of Windows 10 as an upgrade to an existing install of Windows 7 or 8, you need to make sure your current OS is in perfect health. Upgrading a damaged or compromised OS will only lead to heartache and headache, so make sure you get a clean bill of health before upgrading to 10.
If you’d like to read more about Windows 10, I recommend Microsoft’s FAQ. At the very minimum, check with your nearest IT professional about upgrading before you take the plunge, and make sure you have a contigency in place, because, despite our industry’s efforts, Murphy’s Law remains incontrovertible.
True to form, Apple announced at a press event today the arrival of the iPhone 5s and 5c. I’ll keep this one short, so you can get down to the business of deciding whether or not you are buying one!
What this means for you:
The 5c is Apple’s rumored budget phone. Priced (with 2 year contract) at $99 for a 16GB model, and $199 for the 32GB, this model replaces the metal with plastic, and comes in five bright colors. Aside from that and the fact that it ships with iOS 7, it’s functionally the same hardware as the iPhone 5 released last year. If you’ve been on the fence until now about buying an iPhone because of the price, this may hit your sweet spot, assuming you don’t mind the 2-year commitment.
The 5s features a faster processor; early tests show a 30% speed increase but Apple claims up to 2X faster performance. It also comes with a fingerprint scanner to unlock the device, and a new, low-power chip that is designed specifically to work with fitness apps (hinting at the imminent arrival of an “iWatch”), and an improved camera. This one is priced at the expected $199/$299 price point (with 2-year contract, of course!) and is available in Gold, Silver and “Space Gray”. This will be a tougher sale for a lot of people, especially since rumors are flying that the iPhone 6 may be released in early Spring 2014 as opposed to the usual timeframe of late Summer, early Fall. The 5s isn’t a huge leap forward from the 5 in terms of hardware specs, so don’t buy one expecting a big performance increase.
If you are holding on to an older model iPhone 3 or 4, the 5s would be a nice step up. If you are budget conscious, or considering a new phone for your pre-teen or teenager, the 5c may be a great choice to hook up your kids without breaking the bank.
If you’ve been salivating at the prospect of upgrading to Microsoft Office’s latest iteration – 2013 – then your wait is officially over. Multiple SKU’s of Microsoft’s productivity platform will become officially available on Jan 29. Most importantly, Microsoft is now making the Office suite available to be “rented” via the Office365 Home Premium package. This subscription-based service will allow the main Office apps (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Access, and Publisher) to be installed on up to 5 computers on your local network (Windows or Mac) for $99/year.
What this means for you:
Up until the arrival of Office365, most organizations couldn’t afford (or didn’t want to afford) an enterprise license for Microsoft products with the Sofware Assurance premium which basically guaranteed upgrades for their entire license base over a certain number of years. Instead they purchased what is known as a “perpetual use” license: it allowed the licensee to use the version of Microsoft software they purchased for as long as the software remains viable. This has manifested as many, many organizations running much older versions of Office dating back 10 or more years, and still quite happily getting work done without paying a single additional dime to Microsoft.
Microsoft, in an effort to keep the coffers full and users happy in all categories, has commoditized Office with this subscription service for everyone, allowing companies and families with tight budgets to remain competitive without breaking the bank. Office has been the predominant productivity package for business, and now with affordable pricing for entire households, Microsoft hopes to further extend and cement its grasp throughout the consumer market as well. Depending on where you stand in the industry, this is not always necessarily a bad thing. Broad standardization will lighten support burdens everywhere. On the flipside, crushing the competition might lead to stagnation in innovation, and as we all know, it’s been a long, long time since anyone every looked at a new version of Office with anything other than trepidation.
Microsoft has announced that it will be raising the price of Windows 8 upgrades at the end of January to the full retail cost of $119 to $199 for the Pro version. The downloadable upgrade from Windows 7 to 8 is currently available for $39.99, and there is a boxed, retail version available for $69.99, but those prices will no longer be available on February 1.
What this means for you:
If you were at all considering upgrading to Windows 8, but aren’t necessarily ready to make the change right now, you may want to go ahead and make the purchase now and save yourself some money. Savvy technology users will have only minor issues transitioning, and Microsoft isn’t going to change their minds and rollback Windows 8, so eventually, savvy or not, you’ll probably be using Windows 8 at some point.
Keep in mind that the $39.99 price is for an upgrade version of Windows 8, so you will need a machine with a licensed copy of Windows XP, Vista or 7 to use it properly. The upgrade version cannot be easily installed on a blank computer unless you have the install media (and activation key) for your older OS handy.