Windows 10 -Yes or NO?

For the last month or so, Microsoft (MS) have been pounding on the virtual door advertising that I could “upgrade” to Windows 10 for free. How free the upgrade is is debatable and opinions vary as to how good the new product is is certainly up for debate. There are a few caveats that need to be taken into account such as

  • Only certain versions of Windows are upgradeable for free, Windows 7 Pro, Windows 8, 8.1, Windows 7 Home and Starter are ok. A full list is here.
  • There are hardware requirements, using the minimum could result in a slow result, these requirements are here.
  • Some drivers may not work with older hardware e.g. printers, scanners et al – you need to check this out with the hardware manufacturer.
  • There are security settings that could share your data without your knowledge – make sure that you go through the settings procedure during the install and that you reveal as little as possible.
  • The new install can only be rolled back during the first month and some drivers may have to be re-installed if you do this.
  • The new OS license is valid only for the life of the “device” that it is installed on, i.e. even if you have the oringinal disc for Windows 7, you may not be able to install Windows 10 on a new machine in the future without paying.

From here on I will use W10 for Windows 10, W7 for Windows 7 etc.

Some reports have indicated that the new OS is worth trying so in my “experimental” mode, I decided to install W10 on my oldish (4yrs, Acer D257 250GB HDD, 2GB ram, Intel N570 proc, W7 starter edition) netbook which is not used very often. This followed the assurance in the MS blurb that you could roll back to Windows 7 in the first month. Note that this netbook also has Linux Mint Mate installed on it as a boot option.

Before you can perform the upgrade, you have to make sure that your existing installation of W7, W8 or W8.1 is up to date. I spent nearly 2 days catching up with the mandatory pre-installation updates that W10 requires. When I thought that I had finished the Get W10 App icon failed to appear! I went through the troubleshooting procedure suggested by MS and much to my surprise one diagnostic reported my version of Windows 7 STARTER (an eligible product) as W7 ENTERPRISE edition which is not eligible for upgrade!!

Eventually after several reboots and re-installing some obscure .NET updates that were not really needed, the icon appeared. I do not know why but I suspect that the MS diagnostic tool does not work properly.

Clicking on the “Get Windows 10” icon registers you for the upgrade and after getting my notification, it took 4 days for the upgrade to be scheduled – you get a pop-up notice in the desktop.

I followed the fairly intuitive instructions and teh upgrade started, it failed failed almost immediately. The netbook then insisted on installing yet another 13 updates before restarting the upgrade.

The upgrade starts with a download that took about an hour, not bad for 2GB in the background. The download does seem to be “resilient” in that it will restart if interrupted.

After the download the upgrade procedure started automatically. Note that the wording of some of the steps is a little misleading and leads you to believe that things are progressing when they have, in fact, only just started. the author of teh progress meter should also have paid more attention to time accuracy!!

After about 10 minutes of my installation there was a warning that the driver for the Realtek card reader was not compatible and needed to be deleted – this is a deal breaker for me as the netbook is used as a picture backup for the camera on long trips. However, I accepted this change on the basis that I was assured that I could roll back to my previous W7 within a month.

The remainder of the installation was fairly painless but did require several restarts. WARNING: if your machine is dual boot to e.g. Linux as is mine, you need to be present to “guide” the boot back to Windows which, by the way, continues to be shown as Windows 7 even after the upgrade. This is a Linux/GRUB configuration matter and not Windows, Linux cannot tell that the upgrade has taken place.

After about 1.5 hours the install was complete and W10 started with the same log in credentials as the now absent W7. No real problems so far.

At first sight it looks like W10 has picked up most of the settings for the installed applications, e.g. Windows Live mail worked as before. I also tested Filezilla, Audacity, Adobe Audition and several other apps that worked as before.

After leaving the machine for 1 night W10 decided that we needed yet another update of about 13 items but this did not take too long. I think that some new apps were “pushed” on to the machine as it seemed to have more to offer this morning such as Weather, Calendar etc.

One good thing is that the card reader does still work. It seems that W10 has its own driver for the Realtek device but one cannot obviously be sure that this will be the case for all hardware on every machine – so beware.

On balance the speed is just about acceptable and maybe about the same as the old W7 but time will tell as Windows gets more cluttered.

I am beginning to feel that MS may have got it almost right again this time around and I suggest that if you have relatively standard and modern (<5yrs?) hardware that is compliant with the published spec, W10 may be worth a try.