As Microsoft has described it, Windows 10 isn’t just the next version of the Windows operating system—it’s an entirely new generation of Windows software. Moving to a model much more similar to Apple’s OS X, Windows 10 will feel much more like a continually updated service than an iteration of a product that comes out every few years. But is it any good?
The short answer is yes. In many ways it’s a chance for Microsoft to take the few things that actually worked with Windows 8, while going back to a classic design of more intuitive Windows versions that everyone knows and loves.
Here is a list of the top 10 things about Windows 10 that make it the best version of Windows in the past few years:
Anyone with a qualified device running Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1 can upgrade to Windows 10 for free. This offer is valid only for a year, ending July 29, 2016, but if you upgrade before that date you will have Windows 10 for free on that device.
On Microsoft’s website, they are really hammering home the fact that this upgrade is free and is not a trial version. For those running older versions of Windows, like Windows XP or Windows Vista, you will have to purchase Windows 10 from the Windows Store or another retailer. The Windows team is allowing people to reserve their free upgrades and they have been releasing the update in a roll-out format, presumably to cut down on any major bugs or crashes.
With Windows 8.1, Microsoft got rid of a staple of their brand: the start button. Windows 10 is bringing back the start button and making it more customizable than ever. If you liked the tile design of Windows 8, the start menu can be customized to keep bringing you those live-feed updates.
If you didn’t like the tile design and preferred the older start menus, you can actually resize the start menu and disable the tile function completely.
Microsoft seemed to want to blend the functionality of Google’s voice-activated “OK Google” and Siri’s personality and humor. They have managed to do both with Cortana, the Artificially Intelligent digital assistant. For any Halo fans, yes, Cortana is named after Master Chief’s own personal assistant. Microsoft was even close to naming the digital assistant Jarvis, after Tony Stark’s own AI program, J.A.R.V.I.S. (Just Another Rather Very Intelligent System).
Cortana will work to figure out your likes and dislikes to fit your personal interests and demands. It will develop an understanding of news stories you might be interested in and restaurants you might like to try based on your previous searches. Microsoft worked really hard on Cortana to be efficient and liked by Windows 10 users. The developers even interviewed actual human personal assistants to figure out what made them good at their jobs.
The Action Center will keep you up to date with any notifications and quick changes to settings. To access a tablet mode, turn on Bluetooth, see new tweets, or delve even deeper into your settings, you can click on the speech bubble at the bottom right-hand part of the screen. The speech bubble will turn white if you have any new notifications.
The tablet mode allows users to access all of the Windows 10 features in a design that is more reminiscent of Windows 8’s tile format.
Microsoft originally envisioned their users enjoying television, movies, Netflix, and other subscription-based media with the Media Center. It turns out, however, that people already did those things pretty easily without using Microsoft’s Media Center.
According to Microsoft, pretty much the only thing people used the Media Center for was to watch DVDs, so Windows 10 killed the Media Center and replaced it with a Windows DVD Player app. Some users who were given the opportunity to download Windows 10 earlier had to download the software separately, but now the Windows 10 download comes with Windows DVD Player.
Microsoft realized that users were running from Internet Explorer in droves. Far better browser alternatives, such as Chrome or Safari, were making Internet Explorer’s complicated and less functional design obsolete. For those of you who liked Internet Explorer, it can still be accessed through a simple search on Windows 10.
Windows Edge is a stripped down browser that attempts to mirror the simplicity of the competition while still being familiar enough for Explorer fans. Edge has some pretty interesting features, though, like being able to click-and-drag a box over a web page and send whatever is in that box to your friends.
Maybe your favorite band just released their tour date and you want to show your friends the exact date when they are coming to your town. You can just click and drag a box around the band’s website and send that information to your friends. Cortana can also be accessed through Windows Edge for local searches, weather updates, and scheduling events.
Microsoft has seen the evolution of computer technology since the rise of personal computers. It used to be a rarity for someone to own their own computer. Now, most people own several devices, like tablets and phones, that do what computers do. To keep up with this trend, Microsoft unveiled the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) as a way for app developers and programmers to create applications that would work on any device that runs Windows 10. This will include PCs, tablets, Windows phones, and even XBOX.
Now, XBOX One players that use Windows 10 can connect and play their games, such as HALO or Minecraft, can play with their friends and family cross-platform on other Windows 10 devices. Microsoft was searching for a way to make apps transfer seamlessly across all their devices. This is great news for app developers and indie game makers because they can make one app that can be accessed on the Windows App Store by all Windows 10 devices. XBOX owners can even plug in their controllers to their laptops and stream their games through XBOX Live.
Windows 10 has a new feature that allows for easy multitasking and hopping between programs effortlessly called the Task View. Anyone familiar with Mac’s Mission Control will see the similarities pretty quickly, including how easy it is to use. Now you can see all of your open windows and transition between them very quickly.
Another new feature you can use by accessing the Task View feature is creating and adding additional desktops. This can be extremely useful if you are working with multiple screens or have a larger monitor connected to a laptop with a smaller screen.
Microsoft Office apps, such as Word or Excel, started off as basic programs that were easy to use and free for users. Since then, the popularity of Windows Office Apps have grown and evolved. The programs became more powerful, and in turn, became more complicated for some users that were only familiar with older versions.
With Windows 10, Microsoft decided to go back to its roots by establishing simple, reliable, and easy to use Office programs that don’t require several clicks to operate one task. The menus are stripped down for simplicity and the overall design is made to look clean while being efficient.
Remember that really weird and NSFW video of John McAfee, founder of McAfee Security Solutions, explaining he didn’t have any idea how to uninstall the McAfee Security program? Well, instead of using external software for security, Microsoft’s security solutions are now all done in-house.
One new security feature is Windows Hello. Instead of having to remember your go-to passwords or resetting your password because you can’t remember who your favorite band was when you set up a certain account, Microsoft developed Windows Hello. Now passwords can become extinct with fingerprint or face scanners and this new development will make hacking accounts more difficult.
Microsoft also created Device Guard for Windows 10 users’ protection by not allowing any apps to be opened or downloaded that come from unauthorized software vendors. Device Guard will determine whether or not an app is safe to use and alert the user if it is deemed untrustworthy.
Here’s the bad news about Windows 10 security, though. They will monitor and dissect nearly everything you do on your devices. You know the stuff you were pretty sure belonged to you, like your personal emails, documents, and photos? Here’s an excerpt from Microsoft’s privacy statement:
“Finally, we will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to…”
Microsoft cites necessary reasons like when someone is breaking the law, spamming, trying to hurt Microsoft, etc. but they also allow users the opportunity to opt out of “data preserving” and those steps, while somewhat complicated, can be found with a simple internet search.