Windows 10’s free upgrade period is about to end, but should you take Microsoft up on its offer? Jonathan Parkyn weighs up the pros and cons
With privacy scandals, aggressive nagware campaigns and enforced updates throughout its first year of life, Windows 10 has provided its detractors with plenty of reasons to abstain from upgrading. But despite all the criticisms leveled at it over the last twelve months, Microsoft’s latest operating system (OS) has always had one thing going for it: its cost – or, rather, its lack of cost.
All that’s about to change, though.
In a matter of days, Windows 10 will stop being a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8 users. From 29 July, anyone who wants the OS will need to pay £100.
If you’ve already upgraded, then Microsoft’s deadline won’t worry you -you’ll be able to continue using Windows 10 for free after it becomes a paid-for product. But what if you’ve got a Windows 7 or 8 PC and haven’t upgraded yet? You’ll need to make a decision soon, or risk missing out on your free copy of Windows 10. Microsoft’s manufactured this deadline to prompt a rush of last minute upgraders. The question is: should you join the stampede? Or are you better off sticking with your current OS? in this feature, we’ll weigh up the benefits and pitfalls so you can you make the decision that’s right for you.
The argument FOR upgrading
Don’t get left behind
Technology evolves all the time -sometimes at an annoyingly fast rate – and Windows 10 is currently at the cutting edge. You might feel comfortable with your current OS, but keeping up with the times means running a modem operating system on your PC. By sticking with Windows 7 (or even Windows 8), you are in danger of being left behind. As users of Windows Live Mail found recently, Microsoft isn’t afraid to abandon programs and operating systems it deems surplus to requirements (see our Workshop on page 35).
A longer support period
Remember when Microsoft unceremoniously dumped Windows XP a couple of years ago? Well, at some point the same thing will happen to the version of Windows
you’re currently using. Official support for Windows 7 is pencilled in to end on 14 January 2020, while Windows 8 support will be withdrawn on 10 January 2023. After these dates, your PC will effectively be unsafe to use, as Microsoft will stop supplying security updates and essential fixes.
By switching to Windows 10, you will Increase the length of time your device is supported for. The new OS is currently supported until 14 October 2025, but could yet be further extended. Microsoft has said it will support Windows 10 “for the life of your device” and has talked about Windows 10 being a ‘platform’, not just another version of the OS. We’ve yet to see how this approach pans out in practice, but there’s a possibility that switching to Windows 10 could mean you’re set up with a free version of Windows for life.
Windows 10 is a superior OS
Here at Compuleractive, we’re very fond of Windows 7 (Windows 8, less so). But there’s no denying that the venerable 7 is starting to creak a little compared to Windows 10. The translucent Aero interface not only looks dated, but saps more power than Windows 10’s flatter, modem-looking user interface.
What’s more, many of Window’s 7’s settings remain buried in the dense Control Panel, whereas Windows 10’s Settings app makes it simple to access and change the main functions of your PC. There are also loads of small tweaks in Windows 10 that make a big difference, from quickly switching between open program windows (using Task View) to the improved Snap function that lets quickly position four open windows in each comer of your screen.
Windows 10 is improving all the time, while Windows 7 is basically stuck in 2009. Microsoft has pledged to continue updating Windows 10 with new and improved features. Indeed, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (due 2 August) will be crammed full of enhancements, including a new tool for banishing bloatware, improved security and even more improvements to the Start menu.
The argument AGAINST upgrading
Your PC might not be up to it
While Windows 10 runs well on most recent computers. PCs that fail to reach Microsoft’s requirements (see www. snipca.com/21023) won’t be able to upgrade at all, and those that skate close to the minimum specification may struggle to run the OS smoothly.
In many cases, it may be possible to upgrade your PC with more memory or hard-drive space, but the chances are it’s probably not worth it. The cost (and hassle) of upgrading internal components is likely to cancel out the benefit of the free OS. You may be better off sticking with your current operating system and upgrading to a brand new PC at a later date. We’ve seen cheap Windows 10 PCs, including reconditioned models, on sale for as little as £100 – the same price as Windows 10 itself. See www.snipca.com/21025 for some examples.
Even if your hardware meets Windows 10’s requirements, there’s no guarantee that the upgrade will go according to plan. Millions of people have already upgraded, but few have done so without encountering a single hitch along the way (see screenshot below).
Many upgrade problems – such as default programs that are randomly changed to Microsoft apps – are easy to fix. But we’re still hearing horror stories from readers experiencing serious problems following a Windows 10 upgrade attempt, including PCs that run slowly, or not at all. Often these can be resolved too. But if you’d rather avoid the possibility of getting stuck in upgrade hell, or if you’ve already experienced problems and rolled back to Windows 7 or 8 as a result, then you may be better off sticking with what you have.
Windows 10 is actually pretty good when it comes to backwards compatibility – in many cases it’s possible to install and run older programs and hardware drivers using the OS’s compatibility mode. Right-click the program, then select Properties, Compatibility, then tick ‘Run this program in Compatibility mode for’ (see screenshot above). However, this won’t work every time and if you use a lot of programs and peripherals from the Windows XP-era, then it may not be worth rocking the boat by upgrading to Windows 10. Again, the cost of upgrading your scanner or accounting software, for example, will negate the benefit of getting the free upgrade.
You’re happy with current OS
This one’s a bit of a no-brainer. The bottom line is that if you don’t really have any complaints about your current version of Windows; if you have your PC set up how you like it; or if you just don’t relish the idea of having to learn how to use a whole new operating system, then upgrading probably isn’t for you. The fact the upgrade is free right now becomes a moot point.
? The decision is yours…
Hopefully, our arguments for and against have helped you reach a reasoned conclusion about whether or not you should take up your free copy of Windows 10 before 29 July. But if you do decide to go for the upgrade, then we strongly advise making a full-system backup of your computer as an insurance policy, before you let Windows 10 anywhere near your PC.
Don’t trust Microsoft’s built-in rollback feature either, as this only gives you a month to revert to your previous OS. instead, use a third-party system-image backup tool, such as EaseUS Todo Backup, which will let you turn back time any time you like.
STICK OR TWIST?
WE’D RECOMMEND UPGRADING TO WINDOWS 10 IF:
• You’re using Windows 8
Windows 10 has similarities to 8 but improves on it in almost every way.
• Your PC is relatively new
You’re less likely to run into Windows 10 performance and upgrade problems on newer PCs.
• You want to maximise the lifespan of your current device
Windows 10 PCs and devices will be supported until 2025, possibly even longer if Windows becomes a ‘service’.
WE’D RECOMMEND STICKING WITH YOUR CURRENT OS IF:
• You love Windows 7
It’s still a great OS and Microsoft will support it for at least another three and a half years.
• Your PC dates from the earty days of Windows 7
Older computers might struggle to run Windows 10; and chances are you’ll have to upgrade your entire PC at some point soon anyway.
• You value privacy and control Windows 7 still lets you choose whether to install updates and doesn’t default to gathering your private data – though you can switch off most of Windows 10’s data-gathering options.