Windows 10 review

New look, new apps, new browser – meet Microsoft's pivotal OS

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Our Verdict

Feature-wise, Windows 10 is the new Windows 7. It's robust, pleasant to use and free.

For

  • Start menu is functionally excellent
  • Action Center features are handy
  • Settings app is finally a Control Panel replacement
  • Universal apps are much higher in quality

Against

  • Will developers embrace Universal apps?
  • Windows 8.1 users will miss some features
  • Expensive if you can't upgrade for free

Windows 10 is an entirely new version of Microsoft's veteran Windows operating system – a version that is make-or-break for Redmond commpany.

It was released on July 29, 2015 in seven versions, which I'll tell you a lot more about below, as well as give you techradar's complete verdict on all aspects of the new operating system (OS). Note that there is a separate Windows 10 Mobile review

Even though Windows 8.1 did improve things, there's no escaping that, with Windows 8, Microsoft was hugely complacent, buoyed by the success of Windows 7. It drastically misunderstood its users with a fundamentally changed user interface which didn't make any logical sense and was hard to learn. It failed us. It failed itself.

Thankfully, 2015 Microsoft is pretty different from 2012 Microsoft. The key management of the corporation has changed. It has woken up to the fact that people can choose other operating systems. It's keen on making stuff for OS X, Linux, iOS and Android. As you'll hear, it's allowing apps from other platforms to be easily ported to Windows, too.

Latest news

More than six months after release, Microsoft hasn't stopped improving the OS, nor has news surrounding the software stopped churning.

Following the first major update for Windows 10 released in November (see all of the "Fall Update" details here), Microsoft recently touted getting the system installed on over 200 million systems, as of early January 2016.

After some bug-related issues with the Fall Update launch, Microsoft is still working through its spotty relationship with privacy in the new year.

Short after Microsoft announced its 200 million user milestone, Windows and Devices Group Corporate VP Yusuf Mehdi made a celebratory statement that seemed to reveal Microsoft is collecting more data about its Windows 10 users than it's letting on about.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's attempts to accelerate its growth in market share have grown downright dire: the firm has made it so Windows 10 will be the only Microsoft OS supported by the latest generation of processors and beyond. The company points to avoiding the rewriting of old OS code to support new hardware, but getting your OS on every new machine from here on out must be nice (and absolutely unintentional).

Unsurprisingly, the firm's attempts seem to be working, as third party analysis puts Windows 10 ahead of Windows XP in terms of market share as of February 2 – by a few hundredths of a percent, mind.

Despite the hurdles, Microsoft's Surface Pro 4, new flagship Lumia phones, the Microsoft Band 2, the Surface Book and now that Windows 10 is on Xbox One, Microsoft's new OS is all over the map. That – and some other bold maneuvers – should make the road to 1 billion Windows 10 devices easier.

Now, on with the review...

Windows is more than just an OS

Microsoft believes the future of Windows is as a platform for all. Like Android, the strength of Windows is in the thousands of companies that develop for it (see the section about Universal apps for more on the relationship with developers) and use it in their products.

That's why Windows 10 is no longer just an operating system for 32 and 64-bit PCs. It will also run on the ARM platform for smaller tablets and smartphones. Windows 10 is going to run on phones – it's the new version of Windows Phone, but it's not that clear whether Microsoft will brand new Windows Phones as 'Windows 10' or not. If you know what Windows RT was, then don't worry, because it's nothing like that.

Universal apps will run not only on PCs, but on Windows 10 phones, Windows 10 for IoT devices and Xbox as well.

Like Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8 before it, Windows 10 is part of the Windows NT family.

Windows 10 review

From the Windows 10 Preview to RTM

We are part of the Windows Insider program, which gives people early access to Windows 10 updates through various phases of its development, even after release. The majority of this critique is based on build 10240, made available on July 15. It is the RTM – or Release to Manufacturing – version. RTM will also be on Windows 10 PCs you buy in-store or online.

RTM doesn't have the usual 'Windows 10 Insider Preview' text on the desktop, and it has also been released to everybody in the Windows Insider program – even those who didn't want the latest updates (the "slow" ring as opposed to the "fast" ring).

Windows 10 review

Even now Windows 10 is released, the Windows Insider program will continue, and Microsoft will release Windows 10 updates to members of the program first.

While it's natural that Windows 10 is considered as "finished" by reviewers (us) and consumers, Microsoft doesn't subscribe to this point of view, and says it will carry on developing the OS with additional tweaks.

Joe Osborne contributed to this review