By Brian Gregory
For The Courier 

Windows 10: To Update or Not to Update?

 


On July 29, Microsoft will be releasing Windows 10 (wait, didn’t Windows 8 just come out and now they’re already releasing another one? Yes . . .yes, they are). For users of Windows 7 and Windows 8, this upgrade will be free for the first year and then will cost $119 (for the Home version) afterwards. Many of us have already received a notification on our computers telling us to “Reserve your copy of Windows 10.” But should we update?

I guess the better question is, “Do we NEED to update?” At the moment, not really. Windows 7 and 8 will be supported by Microsoft until 2020 and 2023 respectively. And with the average lifespan of a desktop computer being five years (three years for the average laptop), a high number of computers in use today won’t be running by then. The only way someone would “need” Windows 10 would be if there were some software that ONLY ran on Windows 10, but I don’t think we’ll be seeing such a thing for quite some time.

I have been playing around with the Windows 10 technical preview for the past month. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. It doesn’t fill me with the same unquenchable rage as Windows 8, which makes me want to chuck the computer into the nearest active volcano. There are a couple interesting features added, which I will elaborate on later, but nothing that has made me think, “This is what everybody needs!”


But, back to the original question, SHOULD we upgrade to Windows 10? My best answer to that question would be yes -- but not right away, and it depends on which version of Windows you’re running. If you are on Windows 8, I advise the upgrade, as Windows 10 is more like Windows 7 than 8. But if you are running 7, the decision to upgrade is a coin-toss.

I advise waiting for a few reasons. As someone who has been dealing with Microsoft products since the Windows 3.1 days (dear Lord, that makes me feel old), I have learned from several painful instances that one does not update to the latest version of any of their software right away. (like when Windows released Service Pack 3 for Windows XP, but, because they had provided the wrong version of the patch on the internet, computers around the world crashed) Let Microsoft work out the bugs first.

On July 29, literally millions of people will be trying to download Windows 10. This means that download times are going to be mind-numbingly slow, servers will crash, teeth will be gnashing, and somewhere, off in the distance, one will most assuredly hear the sound of Bill Gates laughing maniacally while rolling around on a huge pile of money and stock-options.


Not all software/hardware will work right away. Software manufacturers are still working to make their programs compatible with Windows 10, but there is a lot of software out there. There are some cases where the company/person who wrote the software is no longer in business, and so there is nobody out there getting those programs ready for the upgrade. (I see this a lot with non-Quickbooks accounting software.) And with software and hardware, many companies don’t see the need to make your old printer/accounting program compatible with newer software because they’re not making any money from it. They make more from compelling you to buy a whole new product.

On the positive side, some of the more interesting features in Windows 10 include: the return of the “Start Menu” (thank God!), Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s “Siri” (though at the moment she is more of a ‘voice controlled Bing search’ than an actual digital assistant), and Virtual Desktops (which is like having multiple monitors, for those of us who like to keep our 10,000 different thoughts compartmentalized).

If your computer has Windows 7 or 8, then it should have no problem running Windows 10. A slight memory upgrade may be necessary, but such an upgrade isn’t nearly as cost-prohibitive as it used to be.

If/when you decide to upgrade to Windows 10, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of backing up your data, and doing so on a machine other than the one that is being updated. USB Thumb drives can be purchased at local retailers, cloud-storage options have come down in price significantly in the past year or so, and external hard drives are getting cheaper all the time. Please, PLEASE do not count on things going perfectly, because often times they don’t. In my line of work, the saddest thing isn’t telling someone that their computer died, it is telling them that their data is unrecoverable, data which often includes baby pictures, family gatherings, important documents, business dealings, e-mails, irreplaceable memories...gone because backups were not performed. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, find someone who can help you.


All in all, I’m looking forward to Windows 10 being here with cautious, patient optimism. I know that there will be stumbling blocks for many of us along the way, but we’ll learn. Within no time, though, I am sure we’ll be watching cat videos and posting pictures of our dinner as efficiently with Windows 10 as we were with previous versions of the operating system. However, in a month’s time, if you see me walking down the street, hair disheveled, shoes mismatched, my eyes staring off into the infinite void, muttering to myself incoherently and suddenly bursting into fits of bitter tears, you’ll know that the Windows 10 rollout isn’t going nearly as well as I had hoped. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine, just give me a cup of coffee...and maybe a hug.

Brian Gregory has been assisting people (including the Courier!) in Northeast Montana with computer problems since 2008, as well as educating them on how to get the most out of their technology.

 

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