I’ve spent the last 2 blogs getting you pumped up to upgrade to Windows 10, but you should know that despite being an overall improvement from Windows 7 and 8 in many ways, there are several aspects of the “new” operating system that are markedly different from Windows 7, and a few that are, in my opinion, a step backwards from the stability of Windows 7. Regardless of these blemishes, none of us are being given an option to live in the past except at increasing risk, so get ready to love Windows 10, warts and all.
The Bad and the Ugly (Sorry, no “Good” today!)
If you’ve not spent any time doing work on a Windows 10 computer, these may be eye openers for you and as near as I can tell, they are unavoidable for the moment:
- Windows updates are forced. You can defer them for awhile, but at a certain point, you will get updated if you are connected to the internet. There are ways to work around this to a limited degree, but it’s not recommended unless you know specifically that a Windows 10 update will break an application on your computer. And even in these special circumstances it is in your best interest to get that app updated so that it will be in-step with Microsoft’s update cadence. The longer you go, the more onerous the update will be when it happens. See the next wart to understand why you don’t want this
- Windows updates will sometimes temporarily slow down your computer A LOT. Depending on the size of the update, this may be for a few minutes, or, for slower, older computers, the slow down will be several hours and it…will…be…punishing. You can’t stop it (without dire consequences) and there really isn’t any way to make it go faster other than to stop using your computer altogether while it’s updating.
- Windows updates will break your printers (sometimes). I know it’s Microsoft trying to be helpful by providing “updated” printer drivers for your installed printers, but 9 times out of 10, their driver isn’t as fully featured as the manufacturer’s driver, and on older printers, often doesn’t work at all. Be prepared to reinstall your printer drivers after a major Windows update.
- Windows updates will break your PDF reader setting. Again, Microsoft is trying to be helpful by providing you with a PDF reader by changing your computer’s default PDF app to it’s new browser Edge, and to be fair, it does an OK job as a PDF reader. But for those of you who spent an arm and leg to pay for Acrobat, I’m sure that Microsoft’s cheekiness rubs you at least $200 in the wrong direction.
- The fancy new Start Menu will occasionally be populated by games and apps that you did not install. I won’t provide an excuse for this behavior. I find it galling but put up with it because I’m too lazy to remove them, and frankly, I don’t even use the Start Menu, so I don’t see the blatant marketing. Again, there are fixes that require a certain amount of Macguyver’ing that most folks just won’t do, so get ready to ignore yet more advertising on your computer.
- Cortana is useless. It’s not Siri, Alexa nor is it OK Google. I’ve not met anyone who finds it useful or even accurate on a consistent basis. Don’t even bother. You can turn it off but you can’t remove it (yet).
- Windows 10 wants to control your other application defaults. This particular aspect isn’t as consistently annoying as the PDF one mentioned above, but Windows 10 will occasionally challenge you by changing your default printer, internet browser, photo viewer and email reader to the Microsoft designated app.
I’d like to say that none of these are showstoppers, but for many of clients the top 2-3 are frequent work-stoppers, often enough that they’ve come to dread Windows updates almost as much as we do here at C2. I’ve talked a little about this in a previous blog, but despite quite a bit of rabble-rousing from our industry, Microsoft continues to use us as captive beta-testers. Unfortunately, most average Windows users don’t make good testers, so it’s become something of a vicious circle. Over the years of using Windows 10, the one thing I’ve noticed is that the longer you put off applying the updates, the worse it gets in terms of impacting you at exactly the wrong time. My best advice for everyone using Windows 10 – apply those updates on your own terms – don’t wait for Microsoft take that decision (and time) out of your hands.
Hopefully you read last week’s blog about the upcoming demise of Windows 7 and have made the decision to purchase a new Windows 10 machine. Even if you’ve decided to take the decidedly rougher path of Windows 7 to 10 upgrade on the same machine, you should still keep reading so that you can truly weigh both options and know what’s ahead on either path. For most of us, getting a new computer is not something that happens very frequently. Even yours truly has been using the same laptop for over 6 years now! Unfortunately, transitioning to a new computer is never easy, especially if you are moving to a new operating system, but with some preparation and planning, the process doesn’t have to be a showstopper.
Get your transition ducks in a row
The below recommendations apply to both new machine upgrades as well as Windows 7 upgrades, so get ready to do some homework! Even if you are planning to engage a professional to handle the migration for you, you can save yourself some time and money by doing a little preparation.
- First and foremost, backup your data, then make sure that backup is good. I just had a client run a backup to an external USB drive, only to find that device had failed after a few weeks resulting in 100% data loss, so make sure you consider a cloud backup for real peace of mind. Note that no professional worthy of the title will perform an in-place Windows 10 upgrade without verifying your data is backed up.
- Clean up your files. Make sure you know where all your data is, what the folders are called, and for deity’s sake, delete old files you don’t need. Just like moving house, don’t pack up stuff and pay to have it moved just so you can throw it away at the new place. You backed up your data, right?
- Take an inventory of your applications. Make sure they will work on Windows 10, and if not, purchase new or upgrade your existing licenses to versions that are supported on Windows 10. This is also a good time to gather your installation discs (if you still have them), activation codes, account logins and passwords. Most modern applications like MS Office, Adobe Acrobat, Quickbooks, etc can be downloaded from the internet but just about all of the expensive ones will require a login, activation code, or some other proof of purchase when reinstalling them on a new machine. They may also require that you remove the software on the old machine before you can install on the new, so plan accordingly.
- Decide if you want to transfer all of your existing app settings and customizations, or if you’d like to start new. For some things like browser bookmarks and saved passwords, this can be accomplished by using persistent cloud accounts associated with the browser of your choice – Google, Firefox and Microsoft all offer this option as part of their respective browsers, but you need to set up the account and turn on account syncing for this to work. Other things, like Outlook interface customization are harder to sync across computers, and in some cases impossible if you are moving to a new version of the app. If you are in doubt, take pictures of your custom settings and changes. The pictures will be invaluable when trying to set up your new computer and you’ve already uninstalled the app on the old computer.
- Run a malware scan on your computer. Make sure the OS is clean and your files are clean as well. You don’t want to transfer any trojans onto your new computer, especially as it may be slightly more vulnerable during the transition.
- Plan for the downtime. Depending on the path you are taking, upgrading existing or transitioning to new hardware, the process can take multiple hours, even when performed by an experienced professional. If you need to be working during this time, have another machine you can use, or figure out how to stay productive with your mobile devices and web-version of your apps.
Next week: how the Windows 10 upgrade sausage is actually made.
The day that many people are dreading is fast approaching: Microsoft is ending extended support for Windows 7 as January 2020, which means that it will no longer be providing updates and fixes to the extremely popular and widely used operating system. What you may not have realized was that Microsoft actually ended mainstream support for 7 back in 2015, which was when it stopped developing new features for the OS, and stopped taking support calls from users about Windows 7. It’s a testament to the stability and relative security that it’s still in wide use essentially on the eve of it’s retirement, but like all good things, it has to come to an end.
Don’t panic. You have options, but inaction is not one of them.
The primary question I am asked when briefing clients about retiring Windows 7 in their organizations is whether they should upgrade their existing machines, or buy new ones. The simple answer to this, though definitely not the one they necessarily like to hear, is that buying new computers built for Windows 10 are, dollar for dollar, a better investment than upgrading older PCs. Of course there are exceptions, but keep in mind that most PCs that still have a factory-installed Windows 7 OS are likely 3-4 years old at this point, as computers started shipping with Windows 10 mid-2015.
If you’d like to evaluate whether or not your computer is worthy of upgrading versus replacing, consider these factors:
- If your computer is still covered by a warranty, it’s worth considering an upgrade over replacing it.
- Is your computer older than 4 years? Definitely consider replacing, as many of the hardware parts are actually approaching physical end of life and are more likely to fail, regardless of OS.
- Is your CPU an Intel processor 4th generation or higher? Older CPUs will not fair well with Windows 10.
- Do you have at least 4GB of RAM? No? Don’t bother. Four GB is the bare minimum, and 8GB is recommended.
- Running a lot of older applications that you can’t update or upgrade? Upgrading to Windows 10 will likely break those apps. If your business depends on apps that are unsupported on Windows 10, you and I need to have a different discussion.
Even though it’s technically possible to upgrade just about any computer running at least an Intel Core processor (i3, i5 and i7) and 4GB of RAM, there is still a certain amount of work involved in going through this process (which I will detail in next week’s blog). Even if upgrading to Windows 10 results in a functional computer, you are only delaying the inevitable replacement of the device. Still, this is an acceptable path if your short-term budget cannot cover an immediate replacement and you have a longer-term plan to replace the device. On later model PCs, installing Windows 10 can result in some performance gains as well as definite security improvements, but PC’s 4 years and older rarely improve in performance, and the short-term gains are typically overwhelmed the longer that PC is used in any business-critical environment.
When Windows 10 was first announced Microsoft touted the new architecture and forced, scheduled updating as a means to keep the world’s largest computing platform secure, relevant and consistent across the myriad hardware configurations on which it is used. Many of us who had been around the block more than few times with Microsoft viewed this change with a mixture of skepticism and cautious hope that it would stem the tide of security breaches and vulnerabilities plaguing the OS. Unfortunately, that tender spark of optimism was stamped out by buggy (sometimes disastrous), unstoppable updates forced upon everyone at what seemed like the most inconvenient moment possible. To be fair, Windows 10 is definitely an overall improvement over Windows 7 and 8, especially in terms of performance, stability and security, but its relatively frantic pace in pushing patches and features before thoroughly testing them has led to plenty of high-profile disappointments.
So what’s this “one good reason” to update?
Even though I’m writing this article with tongue firmly planted in cheek, the news that prompted this particular topic is actually something everyone will find useful: Windows 10 will no longer complain about you pulling your USB drive out without going through the whole “remove USB drive safely” process. As of version 1809 (which has had it’s own share of problems since its release late last year), Windows 10 will load USB drives in “Quick Removal” mode, versus the previous default, “Better Performance” mode, which, as it sounds, means you can get to the business of pulling USB drives a lot quicker than before. Opting for the unplug-and-run lifestyle does come at a performance cost, and for larger, spinning media drives, this may be quite noticeable. It’s progress, one baby-step at a time, but hey, we have to start somewhere, right?
A small percentage of Windows users have opted into the “Insiders” program which grants them early access to new features, bug fixes and content updates for Windows 10, which as I’m sure all of you are painfully familiar with now, updates very frequently. The object of the Insiders program is to “beta test” new updates to the operating system before they are pushed out to the rest of the world, presumably to catch bugs before they can affect the more than 700 million devices that use Windows 10. Well, they caught a bug, but not before it erased data on an undisclosed number of Insider machines.
What this means for you – Get backed up!
If you aren’t an Insider – you have to opt into the program – you only have to worry about fully tested updates destroying your data. I’m only being somewhat sarcastic here, as many of you have experienced some form of loss (data, time, monetary) recovering from the forced death march that is Windows 10’s update cycle, and at least one of my clients experienced a complete wipe of all of his installed applications, necessitating hours of reinstallation work. It’s important to understand that Microsoft, just like any company powered by humans, can and will make mistakes, and those mistakes will cause problems for you. Fortunately, you can counteract this uncertainty with a simple practice: back up your data. There are many options to choose from in this area – some of my clients only work on and store important data on a central server that is backed up, or, if that option isn’t available to them, they use some form of cloud backup, either self-managed or provided to them by C2. Just the other day I had a client suffer a complete data wipe (rare, but it does happen) due to a crashed Windows profile (possibly caused by a Windows update) but they were backed up right until the crash and were able to recover their data, albeit slowly. The backup paid for itself in spades that day, and saved my client from catastrophic loss.
Last week, the majority of US Windows 10 users received a big update from Microsoft nicknamed the “Anniversary Update”, primarily because it was initially released on Aug 2, approximately one year after the official launch of Microsoft’s latest operating system. Amongst a host of improvements to core features like Edge and Cortana and presumably numerous bug fixes, the update also managed to render millions of webcams inoperable. Depending on what you use your computer (and webcam) for, and even what generation you hail from, the impact of this could have been non-existant to a complete showstopper. In the ongoing videochat fight, Apple and Google just scored a TKO without even stepping into the ring.
What this means for you:
Obviously if you don’t use Windows 10 and a webcam, feel free to point and laugh or shake your head in sympathy. What might make this very aggravating for the average Windows 10 user is that they may not even know their computer was updated last week. All they know is their Skype or favorite videochat app is now locking up after a minute with no visible explanation. Even more exasperating is Microsoft’s new rollback policy for Windows 10. Previous versions of Windows allowed the user to uninstall any MS update applied to their system at any time. Now, with Windows 10, you have ten days to rollback your OS to a previous version, otherwise you are just out of luck. In the grand scheme of things, ten days is a very short time to figure out the root cause of an obscure problem like this, so you can imagine that many folks are discovering the root cause of this problem too late to easily solve it.
Though Microsoft has finally acknowledged the problem (WARNING: technical jargon galore!), a patch is unlikely to be released until September. Until that day arrives, the only fix is to rollback the Anniversary update (if you catch it within 10 days) or manually edit your computer’s registry. Buying another webcam won’t necessarily fix this problem unless you know for a fact it can process video through a codec known as YUY2, as Microsoft intentionally removed support for the more common MJPEG and H.264 protocols. According to them, these two older codecs have significant performance issues and support was removed to improve Windows 10. So now instead of degrading performance, your webcam will have zero impact on your computers performance. Working as intended?
Recently I wrote about why Windows 10 has been offered for free to the millions and millions of Windows 7 and 8 users: profit. Get ’em hooked on your shiny new OS, and then reel them in when it comes time to start upgrading your businesses, all who employ people who have become familiar with the new OS (whether they wanted to or not). But wait, Chris, isn’t Windows 10 free for businesses too? Maybe the small ones, but when you have more than a couple dozen computers, your Windows and Office applications are typically acquired through one of Microsoft’s myriad licensing programs. Up until now, one of the licensing options many businesses opted for was essentially a one time purchase of Windows for each computer, providing a license that did not need to be renewed (unless you wanted support directly from Microsoft), and in certain cases, was transferable from computer to computer as you upgraded. This model is changing with Windows 10 Enterprise, and presumably at some point in the future, for all flavors of Windows going forward. Starting this Fall, companies who want to upgrade their fleets of computers to 10 will pay $84/seat/year.
What this means for you:
With previous versions of Windows, Microsoft had committed to providing updates and patches essentially for the life of the product. You bought Windows once, presumably when you bought your computer, and never another dime to Microsoft after that. Though they haven’t outright said so, the subscription model for Windows implies that unless your subscription is maintained, updates and even certain functionality will cease when your subscription lapses. Any of you who have had your Office365 subscription lapse may have already experienced this: the software isn’t removed from your computer, but certain key functions are disabled, such as printing and saving, until your subscription is reactivated. This was a rude awakening for some who were used to the buy-it-once models of Office 2007 and 2010. Microsoft has gone on record stating that the Windows 10 licenses acquired through their free upgrade offer this past year will remain free for the “life of the machine” on which it is installed, but as you may have suspected, this free license is tied to that specific machine, and is not transferrable to a different computer. For the moment, the non-Enterprise versions of Windows 10 appear to be free of subscription hooks, but don’t count on it lasting much longer.
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.
As the adage goes, “All good things must come to and end.” Microsoft has announced that as of July 29, 2016, it will no longer offer the free Windows 10 upgrade to Win7 and 8 users. Now whether this offer qualified as “good” is a matter of debate for some folks, especially the ones that have been nagged to the edge of patience to upgrade, or the ones that finally relented, only to discover that despite Microsoft’s assurances that their computer was readyfor the switch, it was very much not. For those of you still dutifully ignoring Microsoft’s system tray app “Get Windows 10” (aka GWX), your ordeal will be over before the summer is done.
What this means for you:
If you’ve been holding out upgrading, but still plan to take the plunge, you’ll have to make a decision very shortly. Though it’s likely Microsoft will have some sort of upgrade offer to carry on the Windows 10 crusade, it may not be as generous as the one expiring in a few short months. My recommendation hasn’t changed in this regard: your computer needs to be a late model computer (2 years old, max!) with at least 4GB of RAM and at least 500GB of hard drive space, running a 64-bit OS before you should even consider upgrading. On top of this, your OS must be in tip-top shape, meaning no recent malware infections, major software crashes or undiagnosed performance issues – these things will wreck a Windows 10 upgrade without exception. Additionally, you need to make sure any critical software on that computer is Windows 10 compatible and supportable. The latter is key – lots of software will run on Windows 10, but the manufacturer may not provide any support, and even if you have pros like C2 in your corner, there’s only so much we can do without official support. Look before you leap, but start looking now!
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.