Oddly enough much of the buzz has been generated by the nature of the upgrade as much as the OS itself. And that information has led to as much confusion as the product itself.
First of all, a disclaimer. We’re a Microsoft Silver Partner. I have enough Microsoft Credential initials after my name to choke a horse. We first started using Windows 10 back in October ’14 when it was first available as a Beta (whoops, “Preview”) edition.
And it’s pretty good. Gone (unless you want it) was the touch-biased menu structure, with a great compromise menu that combines both touch and mouse strengths and sensibilities.
Add Cortana, better integration with Office 365 and speed improvements, it looks even better. The new “Edge” browser? So far…meh. Some sites are great, others not so much (so I keep using IE on some sites, Chrome on others, and Edge on yet others). Some of the security improvements (like ones that will enable cute kids to log on for the rest of their lives) are forthcoming.
But there are a lot of sites that will talk about that. I want to talk about…upgrading.
Yup, the free upgrade. That you should absolutely take advantage of.
Unless you shouldn’t.
If you can.
Microsoft announced that a free upgrade for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8. The offer is free until July 29th, 2016.
Is it free for everybody? Ahhhh….no:
- If you have Windows 7, you need to be updated to Service Pack 1. If you patch your computer, you should be ok.
- If you have Windows 8, you need to be updated to Windows 8.1. If you patch your computer, you should be ok.
- Your version of Windows needs to be a registered copy. Got a pirated copy of Windows? Microsoft isn’t going to upgrade you for free.
- Windows 7 and 8 Enterprise are NOT eligible for the free upgrade. This one is interesting. When companies purchase a license agreement with Microsoft, they have the ability to include free upgrading (aka “Software Assurance,” or “SA”) as part of the agreement. If they did include SA and it’s still active, then the company can upgrade to Windows 10 without cost. If they didn’t purchase SA or the SA has expired, then they’re out of luck.
- Windows RT is not eligible for the free upgrade. Windows RT is for all purposes “Windows Lite,” and not really Windows. It’s kinda like the “Star Wars Holiday Special”. Yeah, Chewbacca was in it. But it’s not really Star Wars.
Bottom line, the free upgrade is aimed at consumers who got Windows 7 or 8 when they bought their computer. For companies that purchased their desktops and laptops that way (also called Original Equipment Manufacturer, or OEM), you’ll be ok if you control upgrades through your network (through services such as WSUS).
So…should you upgrade? Want to see a video presentation on the topic? Click here.
Honestly, the answer (as always) is…it depends. By and large I’ve heard mostly good stories about people doing the upgrade (we’ll get to how in a minute). Absolutely there are exceptions. For the most part it’s about the drivers (isn’t it always?). Drivers are small programs that help Windows use the components (such as the monitor or network card). Usually (not always) they are fairly easy to fix.
My rule of thumb for upgrading a computer is “the older it is, the closer it is to the grave.” That’s especially true for applications on the computer. If you’ve got an application that was originally created for Windows 2000, the odds are pretty good that it won’t work on Windows 10.
Some folks think that’s horrible, and make claims of built-in obsolescence, lazy coding, or just plain meanness on the part of Microsoft.
But it actually makes sense. Back in 2000, computers were big boxes with (compared to today) tiny brains, not much ram, and very slow disk drives. And security? That meant that you only told your best friends about the password on the post-it note under the keyboard.
So I have this perfectly landing wheel that came from a Sopwith Camel flown back in 1917 or so. For some reason it won’t fit onto my (relatively) new F-15 Eagle fighter jet.
So do you have old applications? Printing to an old printer? Have an old brain (like me) that doesn’t really want to learn anything new?
Then maybe Windows 10 isn’t for you.
Actually, by most measures Windows 10 should be faster than its predecessors. Well, kinda. It’s faster on a lot of things if you don’t have the minimum hardware requirements.
Also, keep in mind that Microsoft is changing the way that they’re going to patch systems.
Gone are the days when users could ignore patches. Microsoft is pretty much going to apply patches to your system automatically. You can choose to get them immediately or draw it out for a time, but ultimately you’re going to get them.
Why is this? The first is to help you. Patches are actually there for a reason. They either fix something that was broken, close a security hole, or add a new feature.
(Unless, of course, the patch actually breaks something or creates a security hole that a hacker might see as a “new feature.” But what are the odds of that<g>?)
Actually patches on desktops that actually break things seriously are fairly rare. There were a couple that Microsoft released within the past year that did conditionally cause problems with certain installations of Office and One Drive. But otherwise it’s actually been fairly stable.
Here’s the other issue. Think about Microsoft (poor old Microsoft). Think about the people who develop programs that run on Microsoft (poor old people who…you get the idea). And finally, think of us, the people who support the people who use the computer (people like you!) that lived in the house that Jack built.
Not only could we be dealing with a computer that was manufactured with a zillion different components from a zillion different manufacturers, but we have (for now) 3 different supported operating systems (7, 8.1, 10). Each of them have a full history of patches, and computers today can have some, all or none of the patches installed.
And yet we’re all expected to support all of these workstations and keep them running.
What if for each operating system we knew that they were relatively up to date in terms of patching? Supporting and maintaining the system would become much easier. And security would be much tighter.
A nice concept.
To hear more from Bob, attend his workshop at the Small Business Convention, "Business Software Trends - What Tools will Help my Business Grow?" on October 22 at 10:30 a.m.