It took me a while to get the release Windows 10 installed on hardware which does it justice. I’d been trying the ‘insider’ builds on an old machine which only gave me a chance truly test one aspect of Microsoft’s latest operating system: how well it runs on minimal spec hardware.
I thought it was impressive Windows 10 installed on a 4 year old Netbook—Atom processor, 2GB ram, 1024x600 screen—at all, let alone run acceptably! It was useful to evaluate the desktop focused user interface improvements in 10, if not their performance.
Fixing Windows 8(.1) for the desktop?
Although it seems few ‘desktop’ users liked Windows 8 UI, on a touch machine the radical changes from 7 mostly made sense. Perhaps the biggest fault was a reliance on ‘discovery’ of the fly-out controls/menus and, even in 8.1, dismal explanation of the changes for new/migrating users.
I’m one of the minority who preferred 8, even more so 8.1, on a desktop too. With frequently used apps pinned to the taskbar I rarely used the Start menu in 7. In 8 I found the ability to configure and name tile groups for lesser used apps on the Start Screen far more convenient than 7 Starts limited pinned icons, apps list or (even worse) a desktop full of application icons.
Yes, 8 jarred when the full screen menu appeared but the ‘Use desktop background” Start option introduced in 8.1 helped with that. The option to launch direct to the desktop meant you could almost avoid the Start screen altogether if the desktop was your focus.
Irrespective of that, and given the market reaction, Microsoft had to ‘fix’ 8 and their focus on the desktop in 10 is entirely understandable.
The thing I most worried about through the 10 preview was touch as it didn’t seem to get much attention until late in the process. Now I have the release 10 on my ATIV hybrid tablet I’m happy to find ‘fixing’ the desktop, ‘restoring’ the Start menu, hasn’t broken the touch interface.
I haven’t seriously used CAD/BIM on 10 yet and Autodesk do not yet officially support it (click for current details) for the design applications I own but they seem to launch and run OK.
But first, mixed experiences upgrading to 10
I have now completed four upgrades, but six installs as reset one machine to see how a ‘clean’ install compared to a migration and another to clean up some strange post upgrade behaviour.
Netbook: Upgrading 7 to 10 Insider Preview, then clean installing 10 again
I upgraded my Netbook from Windows 7 Starter and it got the Windows 10 Home insider preview. This was painless and the 10 install activated on the initial start-up. All the existing applications worked fine, all my user data was migrated correctly. The only glitch, and I wonder if this was a preview build matter, was the upgrade left the old 7 version of Windows Defender in place. On every restart Windows 10 warned about this and disabled it but add/remove>uninstall could not remove it!
After a trying the upgraded machine I wanted to see what difference a ‘clean’ install would make. I reset the machine and chose the ‘delete everything’ option for the new install. I didn’t notice any difference in performance, just more space on the hard drive free of 4 years clutter and no more legacy Defender conflicts. I was impressed the fresh install activated immediately and it is now on the ‘Insider’ preview for post release builds.
ATIV Tablet: Windows 8.1 upgrade to Market Release 10 forced
I had reserved 10 on my tablet but did not wait for the notification. I decided to force it using the using the Microsoft Media Creation Tool as described by Paul Thurrott in this post a few days after the release build was available. The only hassle was I had to remove some apps and data to make space on my (smallish and full) SSD Drive. It appears Windows 10 needed about 5GB of space and the post install ‘Windows.old” folder (backup old OS and user data for rollback) was another 12GB.
The upgrade went fine and once initiated you really can “Sit back and relax” as it suggests. Once the download was complete it took less than an hour before I was back in business.
The most noticeable casualty was my Windows 8.1 Start screen groups (below left) were gone. All the tiles and applications were there, but only 2 groups with Microsoft’s “Life at a Glance” default and all the other tiles in a huge unnamed group (below right).
I also had to find the install disk the first time I ran CorelDraw 12 after the update. The software was still installed but went through the user set-up when it first ran and asked for the install CD to complete that process. Since then it has been fine. After several weeks of use I have found the upgrade to be stable, reliable and as seamless as a clean install.
Desktop PC: Reserved, upgraded 8.1 to 10 when Microsoft advised
I had reserved 10 on my desktop pc before the 29th ‘launch’ but only recently got the notification to upgrade. I wondered if it because it runs the ZoneAlarm Firewall/AV and their 10 update was still in beta. I OK’ed the install and watched the, by now familiar, install process proceed normally until the point where it reboots to set-up users. It then rolled back to the previous 8.1 install!
I looked at the failure notice (in Windows update history) and it seemed to be related to antivirus systems interfering with the update. I had wondered if that would happen but the Microsoft installer didn’t warn about removing it beforehand. Once I had removed ZoneAlarm, and rebooted so Defender was protecting the PC, the second upgrade went perfectly.
The only odd thing was an unidentified non-functioning USB device in Device Manager. A bit of trial and error unplugging USBs revealed it was my ancient, but still awesome, Sidewinder 2 Force Feedback joystick. I tried the Right Click>Repair option in Device Manager but that didn’t work so deleted the device and unplugged the joystick. Restarting and plugging it in again resulted in the correct driver being loaded and it is working fine. Impressive that a device released in 1998 still works fine in Windows 10 2015!
Aunt’s Laptop: Acer mid-range i5 8.1 to 10 update
This machine started out life with Windows 7 and had been upgraded to 8/8.1. It was running McAfee Anti-virus so was interested to see how the upgrade went with it in place. The actual update was fine but I found some odd behaviour on a secondary user account. It was all there OK but had muddled security options on user/documents. The machine admin account had permissions but the user account did not so couldn’t create, delete or edit files in their own My Documents folders!
Adding them back manually was ok until you rebooted, then they were gone again. I just copied the user files to a safe place as back-up, removed McAfee and used Windows 10 reset to get a clean machine. Apart from having to reinstall Office 2010 the machine was good to go as the user gets Email from Outlook.com and all document/photo files from One Drive. That good thing about Windows 8.1 Microsoft Account restoring settings and cloud based data just streaming back onto the machine makes a reset—a horror in Windows 7—almost painless in 8/10.
General upgrade recommendations
I found the updates and resets simple to do. The machines did take some time (several hours for the slow old netbook, about an hour for the others). There are a few recommendations from my experience;
So, better or worse?
Logon | Same, because of my hardware
None of my hardware supports the new Windows Hello (auto recognition from biometric scan/camera) so logon is the same. I do like the way Windows 10 promotes the PIN logon option during user set-up. It was there in 8/8.1 but not many seemed to know about it.
Start Menu back | So what
On 8, more so 8.1, I really didn’t miss the 7 style Start Menu (right) so having it back didn’t thrill me. The 10 version is ok but I soon toggled Settings > Personalisation > Start “Use start full screen” to get it back closer to Windows 8 look and feel. I’d like to see a non-tablet mode option to display the Start Screen on logon.
Start Screen | Same’ish
The Start Screen is much the same as 8.1 but seems harder to customise. I can’t find a way to control click multiple tiles and move them (unless moving an entire group by dragging the title bar). I also find it rather too easy to miss a tile and click into the group headings when don’t want to edit them.
Start > All Applications | Much Worse
The All Applications list is worse than 8.1 irrespective of the Start layout you choose or tablet mode being enabled. 8.1 All Apps was full screen with sort options for date (installed), alpha or category.
Task switch | Improved
I really like the new task switch (better than the sidebar in 8) UI and that they’ve made it more discoverable thanks to the taskbar icon. Have found people who don’t use Alt+Tab will use the icon.
Windows+Tab combines task switch and access to the new multiple desktops in 10. It also allows you to drag and drop applications between the multiple desktops.
Screen Snap Tiling | Improved
I do like the ‘suggestions’ introduced when you snap tile windows on the desktop and the new quarter screen split options.
OneDrive | Worse, but I understand why
Windows 7 & 8 users will find OneDrive very familiar. Windows 8.1 users will really miss one unique feature it offered. On 7/8 you select which folders to sync with OneDrive and then treat them the same as local folders (because they are!). Any changes are synced to your on-line OneDrive and from there down to any other machines with the same folder sync selection.
In Windows 8.1 irrespective of which folders you selected to sync (or ‘Make available locally’) Explorer showed every folder/file in your OneDrive account. Files not on the device were shown using ‘placeholders’ which allowed you to access them with the file being downloaded on demand.
It was really nice but could sometimes fool legacy desktop applications. I never had a problem with File>Open (other than a delay while the file downloaded) but sometimes other file based actions like insert picture just wouldn’t work. The app inserted the ‘placeholder’ without allowing the OS time to download the actual file. This resulted in an error as, for example, the content of the placeholder file for an image is not an image.
Windows 10 drops placeholders and only shows files/folders you have chosen to sync locally in in Explorer. This is inline with OneDrive on 7/8/OSX and means Microsoft is only dealing with one sync engine when it comes to updates.
I’d have preferred the 8.1 placeholder model to ‘rule them all’ but understand that wouldn’t be possible with OneDrive on other operating systems. Given that web access is more likely to be needed on 10 it is odd there is no OneDrive Windows Application in the store, surely an omission?
No Cortana, in NZ, but no web search by default? | Odd Choice
We don’t get Cortana in New Zealand, yet, but Web search works OK. For some reason it is disabled by default, why?
Thankfully you can turn it on in Search Settings (see image) irrespective of Cortana’s setting.
Farewell Modern apps, Metro apps, whatever they were called. Hello Windows apps? | Amazing technical feat?
Windows 8 Modern/Metro apps work well although sometimes look a bit odd in the new floating window mode when the window is small.
Some have updated to the new Universal apps which run on any Windows 10 device. Apparently they are supposed to be called ‘Windows Apps’ with legacy applications now termed ‘Desktop Apps’.
Amazingly, for Microsoft, I can see the logic as Windows apps will run on any Windows phone, tablet, desktop, Xbox, Surface large format display and, soon, Hololens device while Desktop apps will only run on PC architecture.
Hopefully the universal nature of Windows apps, write once for all devices, and Microsoft efforts to make porting Android & iOS applications to Windows easier will help with the ‘app gap’. Time will tell.
Mail app | Worse but improving
The new Outlook mail app found and set up my Outlook.com account but did not set it to sync email! Once I turned that option on it was all good. Go to Accounts>Outlook (Click to access settings)>Change Mailbox Sync Settings
I have also set up Yahoo!, Gmail and old Windows Live accounts and all worked fine. It did show one regression as the account list is hidden in a fly-out. It appears the ability to link inboxes is missing, hopefully fixed before the same app appears on Windows Phone where it was a great feature.
The initial builds had limited control of image download in many messages. A “Download images” link appears in some messages but many just show the image placeholders with no way to initiate the download. The 10525 insider build on my test machine appears to fix this.
Calendar | Better
Not sure why, just prefer the 10 calendar and the event dialog layout . It remembers the last account used to create an appointment but there doesn’t seem to be any way to set one account as your default.
People Hub | Far Worse, needs work fast
I really liked the People Hub in 8.1. The only thing it lacked was the People Groups from the Windows 8 Phone People Hub. I hoped a universal app would fix that but it has gone the other way.
The desktop People Hub is horrible. All the richness and integration of the old hub has gone. It just shows a long list of contacts as dots with initials for most people and no option to see Twitter/Facebook contacts photos (with both social apps installed) seen in 8.1 and on-line at people.live.com. Bizarre given all the info is coming from the same account. There is an option to add social apps in the settings but it just seems to take you to the store to install them rather than adding any sort of integration.
Not only are People Groups missing from the desktop, current insider builds of Windows Phone 10 seem to be missing them too!
My favourite (recently discovered) shutdown shortcuts still work | Yay!
The Start+X Quick Access menu allows really rapid shutdown, sleep or restart. Just follow the underlined letters in the menu until you get used to:
At first I thought these shortcuts had disappeared but discovered if you access this menu with a mouse (right click on Start) or Touch (press & hold on Start) the underlines aren’t displayed.
New Time | Nice Improvement
Action Center| New for PC, thanks 8.1 Phone feature everywhere
Although styled differently this functions much like the notification center in 8.1 Phone. Quick access to selected settings and a toggle for the new Tablet mode which is useful for hardware which doesn’t support Continuum auto mode switch (like my ATIV).
Tablet mode | Nice
Tablet mode is nice which is a relief. I like how legacy desktop apps (like Live Writer seen below) are forced full-screen in this mode matching the behaviour of universal Windows apps.
Some Windows apps get a new full-screen display mode toggled by a new icon beside the traditional window minimise/maximise/close buttons. It hides the taskbar in tablet mode. An in-app ‘hamburger menu’ replaces the Windows 8 Share, Settings Charms (right hand fly-out menu) and in old Modern Apps the … App Commands displays the hidden app options.
Neither of these are as touch friendly as the charms menu but are more discoverable and mouse friendly. Below shows Tweetro+, a Windows 8 modern app, happily running in a floating window which wasn’t possible before Windows 10.
You can easily configure Tablet Mode to auto switch, remember last used or go to desktop on sign in. Unfortunately my ATIV doesn’t swap mode when a keyboard is connected (Continuum feature) but it is easy enough to toggle Tablet mode from the action centre. The other control of note is ability to show/hide pinned taskbar applications when tablet mode is active. Not sure which I prefer yet but it is good to have the option as it could be easy to launch pinned apps by mistake.
Edge Browser | Nice start, but still a work in progress
I’ve found Edge to be light and fast, if sparse on options. But what do I know about browsers, in spite of having Chrome installed I mostly used Internet Explorer (which is still there if needed).
I don’t even mind the MSN launch tab seen if no home page is specified. The only annoyance with it is I can’t find any way to get rid of a “Rugby Championship” panel which seems to be linked to the NZ region! Not all Kiwis care about Rugby!
Have noticed some odd omissions from Edge. When you pin a site to Start it gets the Edge icon rather than the site favicon or image. Windows 8 desktop showed the favicon, 8 Phone a thumbnail of the page pinned. The other, more annoying, omission is you can’t pin sites to the taskbar like IE11 (still there in 10) does. I thought this was the desktop friendly Windows!?
Other than that Edge looks and feels similar to Chrome. It also seems to do a better job of pretending to be Chrome and sites (like Typepad dashboard and Autodesk 360) which recommended against using IE seem to perform OK with Edge.
Edge can import IE/Chrome favourites, seems odd it doesn’t share IE11’s list given it is still there in 10. It is also odd that it doesn’t seem to sync favourites, work in progress I hope!
Thanks to 8(.1)?
Lots of what people like about Windows 10 was there all the time in Windows 8:
I really like Windows 10 but I liked Windows 8.1. Many of the things I have seen people praising in Windows 10 were already there in 8/8.1 but 10 builds on that base.
Many rejoice at the return of the Start menu but it really wasn’t a factor for me. Although 10 is fully functional you get the impression the ‘Threshold 2’ update due in October will truly complete it. Since the initial release updates have been coming regularly (for both the core and apps) and the “Insiders” have already several previews of Threshold 2.
Windows as a service seems to be a reality.
All about Windows 10 from Paul Thurrott
The best—and still growing—guide to getting, using and fine tuning Windows 10 is here:
The free Windows 10 upgrade is now successfully installed on tens of millions of PCs worldwide, but it’s still hard to find exactly the information you need. This is that guide, an organized collection of the how-to and informational articles I have written—and will continue to write—about Microsoft’s greatest-ever OS release…
Paul is building an impressive resource. At time of writing these were the topics covered:
Windows 10 review and commentary
Upgrade and Setup
Files and Storage
Store and apps
Cortana (New Zealand can skip this section for now!)
Microsoft Edge (Browser)
Action Center and notifications
Other apps and applications