On July 29th Microsoft will release its newest Operating System, Windows 10. The OS is being touted as “the Windows you know – only better.” The good news: it’s free for Windows 7 or Windows 8 users who upgrade within one year of this release date.
Why is It Free?
Any big news related to Microsoft always seems to result in the emergence of conspiracy theories speculating the motivation behind the software giant’s actions. While there have been rumors that Microsoft is offering Windows 10 free of charge because it plans to use the OS to spy on its users, the reality is that Windows 10 adoption is critical to Microsoft’s long term strategic plan. Microsoft has a vision of creating a computing environment that is seamless for users regardless of the type of device they are using. Windows 10 is the first step in Microsoft’s plan to standardize operating systems across PC, tablet and mobile devices. The sooner users make this transition, the more viable Microsoft’s long term plan. One way to propel user adoption is to offer the new OS free of charge for a limited amount of time.
Here’s a look at just a few of the notable updates you’ll find with Windows 10:
Return of the Start Menu
- If you are one of the many people who are using Windows 8 and have missed the start menu present in earlier releases of Windows, you’ll be happy to know that it’s back. User familiarity is one of the most touted features of Windows 10. The start menu is enhanced with live tiles that feature your most often used applications. The goal is to customize the desktop so that what’s most important to the individual user is always conveniently available.
- Improved Security
Security should be at the forefront of your mind when you think of your business technology. With this new version of Windows, Microsoft is making Windows security features designed for enterprise available to SMBs. For instance, dramatic improvements have been made to Windows Defender and its ability to more effectively detect malware. Often malware will tamper with a computer’s antivirus software rendering it useless. With Windows 10, Defender has been protected so that no third party software can tamper with its configuration. In addition, Defender will provide a safety net for users who choose to deploy third party antivirus solutions. Should the user’s subscription lapse, Windows will make several attempts over three days to help the user re-subscribe to that solution. If no action is taken, Windows Defender will be turned on automatically to keep the user protected.
- Windows Hello
Windows Hello is a new security authentication feature built into Windows 10 that aims to simplify the login experience. The feature uses biometrics hardware that bypasses the need to log in with a user name and password. Windows Hello determines you’re you with using facial recognition, iris recognition or fingerprint analysis. (To take advantage of this feature you will need a newer PC with a built in fingerprint reader, illuminated infrared sensor or other biometric sensor as an ordinary webcam will not work.)
If you are a Windows Mobile smartphone user, you are familiar with Cortana, Microsoft’s voice controlled digital assistant (similar to the iPhone’s Siri). With the release of Windows 10, Cortana will be available on your desktop in addition to your mobile phone. The application works across your day regardless of what device you are using to “learn” your needs and your likes to proactively deliver information in a timely and relevant way.
- Microsoft Edge
Microsoft Edge is the new browser created to replace Internet Explorer. Edge is a faster, more streamlined browser. Users have the ability to take notes directly on web pages. Also included is a built in reading view that simplifies the view of websites by removing distractions such as side bars, menus and ad displays. While Microsoft had planned to drop Internet Explorer from Windows 10 entirely, IE will continue to be available to Windows 10 users in the short term due to the number of legacy websites built on older technologies that are only compatible with IE.
How Do I Get It?
Microsoft started pushing out the “Get Windows 10” application as part of its Windows Updates back on June 1st. You’ve likely noticed the icon in the lower right hand side of your system tray if you are a Windows 7 or Windows 8 user and have kept your system current with Windows Update. Obtaining Windows 10 is as easy as launching that application and following the upgrade prompts.
A Note of Caution
I urge you to proceed with caution before you upgrade to Windows 10. This release of Windows is an improvement over Windows 8, however, before you upgrade you must be certain the software you use on a daily basis will work with Windows 10. Run the compatibility checker included in the “Get Windows 10 App,” contact your IT vendor or in house IT staff and/or verify directly with your software vendor that the software you use on a daily basis is supported.