Microsoft Windows 10 review
Minimum CPU: 1GHz or faster, Minimum GPU: DirecX 9 or later with WDDM 1.0 driver, Minimum RAM: 1GB (32-bit), 2GB (64-bit), Hard disk space: 16GB (32-bit), 20GB (64-bit)
The launch of Windows 10 is the most important single event in home computing in years. The new operating system is free to those using Windows 7 and Windows 8 (If you’re wondering why it’s not called Windows 9 then our friends at Alphr can try and explain) and that alone is a huge change in strategy for Microsoft and a huge boon for PC users.
The first big advantage is of course you’re not paying for it. That means anyone using a relatively modern PC can update to the new operating system today. As far as typical home PC users are concerned, Windows 7 and 8 could be practically eradicated overnight, getting most of the PC population onto the most modern and up-to-date OS.
That means for the first time since the heyday of Windows XP, some ten years ago, there’s no excuse not to be using Microsoft’s current operating system. This is a huge boon for everyone and it means more people using the latest versions of apps, better security support and a consistent experience across multiple devices.
Speaking of multiple devices, you can install Windows 10 on your PC, laptop or tablet today (or any hybrid laptop-tablet type thing for that matter). It’s coming to Windows Phone 8 handsets shortly and even the Xbox One is getting in on the act too (see, how to setup Xbox One game streaming on Windows 10). That’s because developers will now be able to more easily roll out apps across all these platforms at once, so a new version of Netflix will appear on all of them at once, be based on the same code, yet appear different depending on the screen size and input device. Clever stuff.
Installing is simple and we’ve found the results to be largely stress free, with the latest build proving stable in our testing across multiple devices. Yes of course there are a few niggles, but nothing major and nothing we'd let put us off upgrading.
What is Windows 10?
It’s not really a big surprise that Windows 10 runs well, as underneath the new interface there’s a lot of Windows 8 still there. The outgoing operating system may not have been popular for many reasons but it’s been technically sound for some time. It also means that compatibility shouldn't be a problem; we found no problems running older programmes or connecting hardware, although it’s worth checking if there are new drivers for key bits of hardware, such as a printer.
Windows is still ostensibly a desktop operating system, as opposed to the more cloud-based approach Chrome OS on Chromebooks. However, such distinctions are never clear cut and Windows 10 is heavily integrated with Microsoft’s cloud services, including OneDrive. This comes preinstalled, so you can easily sync and backup files to the cloud. Then there’s Office 365, which provides both browser-based and (optionally) desktop Office apps for a monthly fee
Windows 10 will be largely familiar to anyone who’s used the operating system before. Yes, there’s a Start menu for launching your applications, along with the usual Taskbar for keeping track of what you’ve got open. The Start menu now incorporates a section of live tiles for various apps (more on those later), but if you don’t like them you can remove them entirely: just right-click each one and choose unpin.
There are lots of fancy new ways to navigate the desktop, but we’ll get into those later, and they’re entirely optional. In short, if you were annoyed that Windows ever changed from its XP incarnation, you’ll be just fine here after a bit of tinkering.
Windows for all shapes and sizes
What’s really clever is that the regular desktop experience we’ve just described is only one part of Windows 10. if you’re using a typical laptop or PC then everything is as familiar as a comfy armchair. However, if you have a fancy new device, such as a touchscreen laptop or a hybrid laptop-tablet, then it works for your device too.
By simply detaching the keyboard or folding your hybrid back on itself Windows 10 switches into tablet mode. The OS will ask if it should change mode the first time and you can choose to make the switch automatic or require confirmation in a dialog box. We’ve found this works with all the hardware we have in the office, although all of these have a sensor to detect the change; some hybrids with clip-on Bluetooth keyboards don’t have this capability, so you'll have to change the mode manually.
In tablet mode you get a full-screen Start menu with large tiled app icons that you can easily tap to launch. Thanks to live tiles you get updates from your apps without even opening them, photos from social media, weather, news headlines and so on. That and the dense tiled layout make it all far more modern and slick than either Apple or Google’s mobile operating systems. You also get mobile-OS touches such as a back button. In fact with Windows 10 we could really see ourselves moving to single device computing, with a laptop-tablet hybrid covering everything we need from both form factors. Although there are still some sticking points.