Should I Upgrade to Windows 10?


Microsoft has finally released their shiny new version of Windows, and Windows 10 is FREE! At least it’s free if you upgrade now, or in the near future (you have until July 29, 2016 to decide).

Who should upgrade their current computers to Win10? Two types of people should upgrade to Win10: tech geeks who just have to have the latest toys (or like me, need to know about them for work), and people who were stuck with Win8/8.1 and hate it.

Also, both of the people with Windows phones should upgrade. (Ha!)

Who SHOULDN’T upgrade? People who have Win7 (or 8, poor souls) and are happy with what they have. Change is hard, and can cause problems. Why mess with success? By the time you need to upgrade to the latest version of Windows to do something you can’t do on Win7, it’ll probably be time to buy a new computer anyhow.

If you use Windows Media Center to make your PC into an entertainment server, note that Microsoft has removed it from Win10. You should pass, at least until you choose an alternative.

Also, if you’re having problems with your current setup, you should fix them before upgrading. There’s no way to do what is called a “Clean install” with the free version of Win10, so any problems you have now can affect the success of the update.

Who CAN’T install the free upgrade? Anyone who’s running Windows Vista, XP, or anything older. You could buy a copy of Win10 and install it, but chances are your hardware is so old that you’d be better off either sticking with what works for you or buying a new PC.

Also, some of you may have hardware that isn’t compatible with Win10, or may be running applications that won’t work. You should run a Compatibility Report before upgrading. It doesn’t test everything, but it does cover most common issues. You can also go to Microsoft’s Compatibility Center and search for any specific apps or devices.

Given all that, suppose you decide that you DO want to upgrade. What should you do to ensure your chances of success, or at least ensure you avoid catastrophic failure?

  1. Wait. Millions of people are upgrading as you read this. (I’m upgrading one of my laptops right now!) Problems are inevitable. Let other people discover them, figure out solutions, and post them to the Internet so you can benefit from their pain.
  2. Back up all your critical data! Upgrading is a risky process. You wouldn’t want to lose the novel you’re working on or those pictures of your child’s first birthday, would you?
    Of course, you’re backing all that up already, aren’t you? (You’re not? Then DO NOT upgrade your computer – you may not be smart enough to handle the challenge.) Before you upgrade, you might consider taking backups one step farther, and make a complete image of your disk, so recovering from a problem is as simple as restoring that image.
  3. Make sure you have whatever you need to reinstall any of your critical applications. That includes the installation media and any license codes.
  4. Make sure your old version of Windows is up-to-date with all the latest critical patches. Run Windows Update (skipping the Win10 update, of course) until there’s nothing left that needs updating.
  5. Set aside a few hours. The update takes time, especially if you have an older system. Then you’ll need to allow some time to sort out any issues and get up to speed on what’s new.
  6. When you’re ready to start the upgrade, run Windows Update and start it from there. You can start it from the Win10 system tray icon, but starting it from Windows Update is more reliable (and gives you one last chance to ensure that you’re up-to-date before you begin).

Once your upgrade to Win10 is complete, there are a few things you should do right away:

  1. Run Windows Update. Microsoft has already released significant patches to address problems discovered by early adopters.
  2. Decide whether you want WiFi Sense enabled. WiFi Sense can automagically share WiFi passwords among friends, so (for instance), you don’t have to tell your buddy your wireless password to let him use your home network, or if your friend has already configured his laptop to work in a coffee shop, you don’t have to ask the surly barista for the password. I’ve turned it off – if I want you using my wireless, I’ll tell you the password.
  3. If you don’t want Microsoft tracking everything you do, change your Privacy settings. For heavy users of Facebook, Google, and other services this is already a lost cause, but shutting off some of the tattling can also speed up your system by cutting down on background network chatter.
  4. Decide whether to keep Windows Update Delivery Optimization enabled. By default, Windows 10 systems will see each other and share updates. This should reduce the load on Microsoft’s central servers and make updates easier (for them).  It’s Microsoft’s version of BitTorrent. Over time, distributing updates may prove to be a win (I look forward to seeing studies, but I’m weird that way). For now, I’ve got it turned off. I want to use my bandwidth for me, not to provide updates for the guy sitting next to me.

All set? Then cross your fingers, fire up the installer, and let us know how it went in the comments!

Ray Charbonneau runs, writes, helps people publish, and helps people with computers. It’s a good life.


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