The launch of Windows 10 was anything but smooth, with tech journalists and consumers alike digging through the guts of the OS to find problems in everything from the way the Settings app is laid out, to all the different little tidbits of information that your computer is communicating back to home base that violate every tenet of privacy in the book.
Microsoft’s first OS release in years was buggy, overbloated with unnecessary “fixes”, and crashed too many of the machines you tried to install it on. So, after a few months have passed and the single largest update to date has been pushed through as of last week, is Windows 10 finally worth the investment (or even the free upgrade)? Read on to find out.
What It Got Right
Look, we all know it, and a lot of us have already said it: Windows 8 was a mess. Lacking in coherent vision and muddled between the two worlds of the mouse and touch-based tablets, the operating system seemed to stand as a testament to all the reasons why Microsoft is trailing Apple in second place these days.
It was unfocused, buggy, slow, and the code behind it could have been written by a six-year old for all we know. The “Metro” stylings were abrasive on the eye, hardware compatibility was a nightmare, and just getting a simple document to open on two separate systems was a practice in patience like nothing else before it.
Thankfully, the Windows 10 team took everything that 8.1 did wrong as a hard lesson for “what not to do”, and fixed many of these issues in the release of the company’s latest OS. The horrific Start menu that plagued 8 at launch has been replaced with a completely revamped model, that works just about as well as you’d expect it to and then some.
Hardware compatibility has been tightened up to the nines, and many of the tasks that used to seem impossible in 8 are now a breeze to complete. In many ways, Windows 10 is the spiritual successor to the much-appreciated Windows 7, which in many users’ eyes was the pinnacle of Microsoft firing on all cylinders. Redmond has been working feverishly to patch out any bugs and continually improve the 10 experience, and as a user of the OS myself I can agree that much of what made 10 a problem at launch has since been fixed accordingly. It’s a solid, reliable OS that hasn’t crashed on me once, and runs every piece of software or game I could possibly think of without a hitch. It doesn’t get in the way when I don’t need it to, and is still there in a pinch for dozens of different tasks I would have never thought to ask about on my own.
But, there’s still a few outlying issues, which could be the linchpin that prevents picky consumers from taking the final plunge.
What It Still Needs
Even with all the praise I just laid at the doorstep of Windows 10, it’s not roses and rainbows across the board. While many of the most pertinent issues of the Windows 10 launch have been improved upon, there are still a few nagging concerns that the company has yet to fully address.
First and foremost: the apps.
While apps like Windows Mail and the integrated Skype client are useful, they’re not exciting enough to make you want to use them over their web-based counterparts. Sure, the Calendar app is right there on my Start menu, but it’s just so boring to look at. Not only that, but many users have reported that some apps (like Mail) can take up a 1/3 of their total system resources while live, a huge optimization issue that Microsoft will need to fix if they want us to start taking their internal apps seriously.
Next, there’s the issue of the Help Center. While previous versions of Windows came with their own “user-manuals” that would give you information on any topic you needed help with inside the OS, these days clicking anything that resembles a question mark will automatically open up your browser and type the question into the Bing search engine. Not only is this something you could easily do on your own, it just goes to show how desperate Microsoft is to get people to use its failing Google competitor that it would sacrifice the Resource Center as a result.
Last, there’s the problem of personal privacy.
For anyone who prefers to keep their usage statistics a little bit closer to the chest, Windows 10 is an absolute nightmare. Even if you want to, there are a range of telemetry settings and communication protocols that simply can’t be switched off, which means that Microsoft will constantly be gathering data on how you use the OS, which apps are having problems launching, or the effectiveness of network security. This can be a deal-breaking caveat for users who have to carefully monitor their data usage each month due to provider caps, or even users who just want to make sure nothing they do is being recorded on a server somewhere underneath Microsoft’s headquarters.
If you’re running any version of Windows 8 (8.1 or otherwise): yes, upgrade immediately. Windows 10 is such a massive improvement on the mistakes that 8 made in so many ways it would be impossible to list them all here. If you’re on Windows 7 however, it’s a grab bag.
On the one hand, Windows 7 is a solid, reliable, and light operating system that doesn’t try and show off with fancy tablet compatibility or voice-assistants like Cortana. On the other, Windows 7’s main benefit over 10 used to be that it ran cleaner on older or less-powerful machines, but now the most recent November update has been reported to give Windows 10 about a 30% increase in performance over 7, both in startup and daily tasks like disk defragmentation or web-surfing through the new Edge browser.
It’s important to note that if you already have a legitimate copy of Windows 7 or 8, upgrading to Windows 10 is 100% free, and you can even test it out first without any impact by booting up a copy in a separate virtual machine. It improves on the mistakes of 8, and matches (often beating) the system efficiency of 7 – so why wouldn’t you upgrade? Although the OS may have caught a lot of (well-deserved) flack when it first hit shelves, Microsoft has been hugely responsive with its updates, tightening up any bolts on the ship that were leaking, and actually listening to the community about the features we want to see implemented the most.
Sure, it still lacks on privacy options and its own apps are about as lackluster as they come, but with so many other improvements to the Windows experience being updated every day, there’s never been a better time to upgrade than now.