Microsoft released Windows 10 two weeks ago, on 29 July, encompassing an ambitious global rollout whereby users of Windows 7 and 8.1 receive an in-place upgrade via Windows Update.
It was never going to be easy, and is playing out as expected. Some users want the upgrade but cannot get it; others do not want it but get it anyway, like reader Bob Dole who reports:
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“On every single one of our machines we said 'No' to the update. We uninstalled the KB that even asks for the update. Yet ... every single one of our machines has downloaded Windows 10 in the background and demanded to install itself.”
Some upgrade attempts also fail, particularly in cases where impatient users bypass Windows Update by using the Media Creation Tool.
Unfortunately, this also bypasses some compatibility checks, making failure more likely.
Windows 10 upgrade failure seems to be fairly common
Many upgrades do succeed though, or you can choose a clean install. You can combine a free upgrade with a clean install either by performing the upgrade and then choosing “Reset this PC” from the Recovery applet, or by upgrading and activating first, which registers the PC with Microsoft’s servers, and then re-installing from scratch.
How is Windows 10 once installed? Here are some observations, based on intensive personal use as well as reports from others.
Presuming you use desktop applications, compatibility is good and you can get your work done. Performance is similar to Windows 7 and 8, though start-up is noticeably quicker.
Windows 10 is usable then; but it is the buggiest new release I can recall. This is not a surprise considering the rushed release schedule, though discovering that the Start menu does not list all your applications is nasty.
Other problems include infinitely rebooting updates, forced graphics driver updates replacing good drivers with bad, and Wi-Fi mysteriously failing to connect until you reboot.
The Edge browser can be speedy and will be a big step forward from Internet Explorer, but Microsoft should have marked it as a preview since it is not release-ready. The biggest deal is lack of extension support.
Adobe Flash is supported but not Silverlight, which catches out some of Microsoft’s own sites. Go to the InTune admin site, for example, and you get an invitation to “Get Microsoft Silverlight”.
Another common Edge complaint is that downloads always go to the default download folder; there is no “Save target as”.
There are also bugs in Edge. Import a large list of favorites and the behaviour is unpredictable; sometimes I open a folder and find it populated with random shortcuts from the top level. You cannot sort favorites other than by drag and drop.
The disappearance of the OneDrive “placeholder” feature found in Windows 8, which meant you could see all your OneDrive files without actually downloading them, is another persistent annoyance.
No feedback unless you give up privacy
These things will improve, and in theory the “Windows as a service” concept combined with a more open feedback process should deliver the best Windows yet.
That said, feedback is more open but only if you agree to “Full” usage data to be sent to Microsoft. The company says:
“Full data includes all Basic and Enhanced data, and also turns on advanced diagnostic features that collect additional data from your device, such as system files or memory snapshots, which may unintentionally include parts of a document you were working on when a problem occurred.”
No security-conscious business will allow this, so why does Microsoft not want to get feedback from these customers?
The heart of the matter
The above are just the teething problems though; how is Windows 10 once you leave such things aside?
The answer to this is in the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), also known as Metro, Modern apps, or Store apps – meaning apps that use the Windows Runtime application platform.
This has improved greatly over its Windows 8 implementation, partly no doubt because of greater internal use, including the Office team for Office Mobile (Word, Excel and PowerPoint), the Start menu and Settings apps, and apps such as Xbox, Photos and Groove Music which intended as key Windows 10 attractions.
Despite the improvements though, UWP apps tend to be slower to load and use than equivalent desktop apps, and this may account for a sense that Windows 10 is slower than Windows 8.x.
It is worth noting that the Start screen in Windows 8 was not itself a Metro app even though it behaved like one.
The greater prominence of UWP apps in Windows 10 means that it is more dependent on the Windows Runtime than its predecessor, though you can still mostly ignore it if you install an alternative Start menu.
The key question though is not the extent to which you can ignore the UWP, but rather the extent to which it is a compelling selling point for Windows 10. It is getting there; some of the new built-in apps are decent, and while the overall standard of third-party apps in the Store remains poor, there are signs of life.
The latest version of the VLC media app for Windows Store looks good, for example, though still less stable than the desktop version. In general though, the performance, quality and stability of UWP apps versus desktop apps is lacking, and that is a huge problem given that these are intended to the future of the Windows platform.
VLC on Windows 10
The chunky controls in the UWP and the cut-down API seems to push developers towards simpler applications, and that is not always welcome.
“Us power users really want options, many of these apps don’t even have a right click menu ... Windows has always been a productivity juggernaut and the built in apps should reflect that,” said one user via the Windows 10 feedback application.
Despite these concerns, Windows 10 is proving more acceptable to Windows 7 users than Windows 8, and there are features that make the upgrade worthwhile, such as multiple desktops, DirectX 12 (once games that use it start to flow) and quick access to settings via the Action Center.
None of those are essential though. Aside from numerous bug fixes, it is all about the app platform, which still needs work before Windows 10 will be truly compelling.®