Should you upgrade to Windows 10? How Microsoft's OS could be good for you
Is Windows 10 for you? Well, there's a better chance that it brings something to your life than not, whether you use a computer for 10 hours or 10 minutes a day.
The thing is, time is running out to upgrade from Windows 7 or 8.1 to Windows 10 for free. Specifically, you have until the end of today. It's not a decision that you should simply gloss over, as the current price is around $120 (£100 or AUS$160). That's enough for 10,000 penny sweets, and we're particularly fond of the chewy fried egg ones.
I don't know about you, but when I think about the burning core of my being, it's in terms of being a bunch of easily-categorisable stereotypes. Which is handy, as it means I can make a purchasing decision entirely on the basis of said arbitrary categorisation. Am I a frequent flier, a parent, a gamer, or a paranoid survivalist hermit living in wildest Orkney? There's a reason to own Windows 10 for all of you.
(Well, apart from the hermit, but then I'm frankly amazed he's reading TechRadar rather than a 19th century almanac, or scrawling on his bathroom wall with turnip juice.) To see how Windows 10 will probably fit into your life, click (or tap) on ahead.
This article is part of TechRadar's Windows 10 week. Microsoft's latest operating system turns from a free to a paid upgrade on July 29, and we're looking to answer the question of whether it's good for you.
Actually, Windows 10 is pretty good for gamers. It's been pretty darn stable since day one, which is unusual for Windows. Microsoft say it's had the fastest ever adoption rate. (Which was only slightly down to the botherware they installed on Windows 7 telling you to upgrade, like someone asking you out on a date four thousand times.) As a gamer, I will aver that it is definitely a better experience than my malware riddled Windows 7 installation.
On top of that Microsoft is committed to gamers, in its own slightly-creepy 'we want to own your world' way. It's made DirectX 12 (the next big graphical back end) Windows 10 only. They've got the Xbox app, which lets you record your gameplay. It's also integrated voice chat with your friends.
Indeed, the company has also Windows 10 integrated the Xbox One so thoroughly that you can crossbuy games and play them on either system at no extra cost, and retaining your saves - or even stream them from one machine to the other. They're really, really desperate to get the Xbox One to be at the Heart of Your Gaming.
Andrew wrote a metric ton more reasons why Windows 10 is good for gamers the other day.
Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your backwards compatibility! And if you've got a camera, microphone, and/or touchscreen, Window has better support for all those items. This is a mobile OS, after all.
For microphone owners, Cortana is a voice-controlled AI interface with your computer and the web. For RealSense camera owners, Windows Hello uses facial recognition or other biometrics to log you on securely. And touchscreen users will benefit from Windows Ink's total integration of pen and touch control.
It's also a better running OS than 7. It has better security with malware-killer Windows Defender and phishing filter Smartscreen. It uses memory and disk space more carefully. It has built-in virtual desktops. It supports new hardware - like USB 3.0, solid-state drives and hi-def screens - better. And there's integration with Microsoft's OneDrive cloud service, meaning back-ups are much easier.
The upcoming Windows Anniversary Update is adding a load of productivity-related features, to make Windows. You can read more about those over here.
The security-conscious person
You're not paranoid if everyone's really out to get you, they say, but they would say that. Because they're out to get you. And even if they're not, they are.
Anyway, if you're the sort of person who worries about the Chinese and Russians ignoring all those juicy Pentagon and DARPA targets and hacking into your computer… you're right to. President Putin is after YOUR emails about not knowing how to work the fax machine. (And we're not just talking to you, Hillary.) And Windows 10 has ramped up security specifically for you.
Windows Hello is your first stop. This biometric alternative to passwords can use your fingerprint, facial recognition, iris and other secured biometric devices to log you onto your computer and/or compatible websites.
Next is Windows Edge. I know, Internet Explorer was famously insecure, but Edge is much more secure - using what Microsoft call 'advanced sandboxing technology' to isolate your online experience from your personal data and from Windows.
Next is the double whammy of SmartScreen and Windows Defender. Smartscreen protects Edge from phishing sites attempting to nab your personal data, blocking any problematic or malicious sites, as well as blocking malicious-seeming software. Defender helps if SmartScreen fails. It's an anti-malware package that sits quietly in the taskbar - and is going to be heavily upgraded for the Anniversary update.
People with accessibility requirements
Windows 7 was fine for people with accessibility issues, but it wasn't always easy to access them. So Windows 10 has been designed with accessibility in mind from the ground up - there's even an official accessibility blog covering it.
One big thing worth noting; the free upgrade period for Windows 10 doesn't end for anyone using assistive technologies. This is because some of these pieces of tech aren't yet compatible with Windows 10. There will be a page up from July 29th detailing how to access the free upgrade.
Other than that, Windows 10 offers many techs that help with the disabled. Voice control through Cortana, hands-free security with Windows Hello, multi-language Narrator for the blind, Magnifier for the partially sighted, Scan mode for the physically disabled, and lots of specialised app support. You can read more about what's coming with Windows Anniversary here.
The Microsoft team are also developing superb-sounding tech for the disabled - like their Seeing AI tech, which describes surroundings to disabled people using computer vision, image recognition, natural language processing and machine learning.
The frequent traveller
If you're a frequent traveller, then you need a good laptop to keep you grounded from the rich fantasy world you occasionally lapse into when you're stuck in a sad café between countries.
Thankfully, Windows 10's OS is designed to scale nicely to any screen size and be perfectly pleasant on desktops, smaller form factor PCs and right down to mobile phones. Many of the better modern ones come with touchscreens as well, which are perfect for Windows Ink (though I'm not entirely sure what the laptop-touchscreen killer app is…)
If you're looking for a laptop, then you could consider something thin-and-light like the HP Spectre 13, or the LG Gram (in the US).
Good reasons not to install Windows 10
Let's face it - Windows 7 is going away. By 2020, Microsoft will have stopped supporting it, so if you want patches and modern drives, you'll want Windows 10. But you might still prefer older OSes for perfectly legitimate reasons.
I mean, you might simply not have the minimum hardware to run Windows 10. It needs 20GB of free hard drive space. It also needs more space for automatically-downloaded updates which are a hassle to turn off.
Or you might have obscure hardware that Windows 10 doesn't have drivers for. This is especially a problem for enterprise-level businesses, who might have bespoke hardware created for particular purposes - for example, I know someone who manages his restaurant's security cameras from a Windows application that was designed for a particular old version of Windows and Windows Phone. There's no way he's upgrading that computer.
You might also have privacy concerns. As we said earlier, Windows 10's built-in security is better than Windows 7's - but then it also gathers more of your personal data and sends feedback to Microsoft.
Or you could be a raggedy hermit, living in a bothy in distant Orkney, and Windows 10 isn't compatible with your MacBook Air. Well, not without exceptionally-boring partition work that will distract you from your important hermitting duties.