Meet Windows 10, a Throwback With Upgrades in Software and Security

29 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

How to get the Windows 10 update.

Windows 10 launches on Wednesday, and you’re probably going to want to update. Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system should start hitting U.S. computers on Wednesday, marking one of the biggest launches in the company’s history.

A few years after what could charitably be called a disastrous launch for Windows 8, Microsoft needs the new system to move forward while also making amends. But in this new model, the steering wheel is in the back seat. “That’s the future!” says the salesman, rattling off a list of reasons it’s better to steer from the rear. Windows 10 fixes many of those mistakes but still manages to incorporate enough new touches to plot a clear course to the more mobile, touchscreen-based future. That makes the best of Microsoft’s uniquely tricky position: It needs to design a system that appeases modern consumers who want changes and upgrades quickly, while still pleasing its business users who tend to be a bit more conservative when it comes to new systems. In a desperate plea for relevance in a smartphone and tablet world, Windows 8 presented radical ideas about operating computers with fingers and pens instead of mice and keyboards.

If you already own a computer running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, then Windows 10 is going to be completely free — and updating should be really easy. Microsoft took the bold — and ultimately wrong — step of wiping this familiar feature out of existence in Windows 8 in favor of a full-screen grid of apps designed to be touchscreen friendly.

If your version is Windows is as up to date as it can be, you should see that a Windows icon has appeared in your task bar. (If you don’t see it by Wednesday, Microsoft has some unfortunately complex instructions on how to make it show up.) Clicking on the icon will open up Microsoft’s Get Windows 10 app, which allows you to sign up to download the new OS and determine if your computer is compatible. But users are able to look at all of their programs, access the settings menu and pin things to the Start Menu or task bar — just as they were able to in older versions of Windows.

Microsoft is rolling the OS out slowly to make sure that it has time to clean up any bugs that it discovers, so you may end up waiting weeks or more before you’re given the go ahead to install it. I can say this: In the week or so I spent with the system on a Surface Pro 3 provided by Microsoft for review, I wasn’t tempted to download other browsers.

It’s the type of feature that you may not have known you wanted, but could get very useful over time if you want to quickly draw someone’s attention to a particular portion of a Web page. These days we’re spending more of our time on smartphones and Web browsers, and it’s Microsoft’s burden to keep evolving Windows to stay relevant to that reality. Microsoft has put its voice assistant, Cortana, into the core of Windows 10, offering a glimpse of what its more service-based release of Windows could look like in the future. You can drag any window to a screen edge to snap it to half of your screen, and then the OS helpfully displays all of your other windows in an array for the other half. Windows 10 has the same system requirements as Windows 7 and 8, but those requirements are still substantially higher than those for earlier versions of the OS.

Cortana — if you use her — is constantly updating you on your schedule and serving up news and other information based on your own preferences and other Microsoft services you use. The software can also let you know if there’s traffic on the way to your next meeting or set reminders based on the time, your location or even specific people.

Cortana has the potential to become very useful: Microsoft even talked to real-life personal assistants as it designed Cortana to figure out the best way to pull up relevant information. Microsoft claims the vast majority of its users have never used Alt+Tab to switch apps (one of those “weird but true” things about computers), so the idea is to help those users get better at multitasking.

That includes how Windows handles location privacy, ad tracking, browser settings, and whether or not your computer automatically connects to open hotspots. There are enough new features to tempt you even if you aren’t that into the fancy voice-controlled stuff, such as better search features and an overall better browser. Microsoft has said that this is essentially the “last Windows,” in the sense that from Windows 10 on, the tech giant will be releasing smaller upgrades more often — something Apple already does — to keep its system fresher for longer.

I tap on Cortana’s icon in the task bar occasionally to see this overview, and all the data is displayed in sections that resemble Google’s Now cards. It’s familiar enough so that most people will probably feel comfortable upgrading, with a sprinkling of new user-centric features that shows Microsoft’s eyes are on the future.

It’s also cloud powered, meaning you can download Cortana for Android (or iOS in the future) and get the same features there, all synced up with your laptop. Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella has been clear that it’s not enough for the company to get people using its products, it also wants them to enjoy using them. So if you ask Cortana to remind you to buy some milk from a local grocery store, that reminder will sync to your phone and activate as soon as you’re near the grocery store. Having a single interface for virtual assistant searches, web searches, and traditional computer searches is a super convenient and powerful thing, and Microsoft has done a really great job of integrating it here.

Microsoft says Windows 10 should run on most computers, programs and peripherals that were compatible with Windows 7, but it doesn’t promise everything will work. For the first time, every Windows PC will have Microsoft’s own antivirus called Windows Defender turned on. (On Windows 8, some manufacturers deactivated Defender.) And the new Edge browser screens for phishing sites that would steal your personal information. It still feels like there’s some work to be done on occasions, and I’ve run into situations where pages just don’t render well at all or sites ask me to use Internet Explorer.

The most impressive new protection, called Windows Hello, is straight out of “Mission: Impossible.” It replaces passwords with your face, your eyeball or your fingerprint. Changing the default search experience is stressful, with a requirement to visit Google itself and then access a feature buried so deep in the settings menus that it feels like Microsoft really doesn’t want you moving away from Bing. And Cortana is not helpful enough to get me to ditch Google for Bing. (There are Android and iPhone Cortana apps coming.) Strangely, Windows 10 doesn’t even have a special relationship with Microsoft’s own Office suite, a core product for millions. You’ll also need to add your Google accounts here to get the Cortana integration across Windows 10 to work, it won’t just fetch information over the web. I’m sure they’ll be enough for most people who don’t require the full power of Office desktop apps, and the best feature is that they’re free for devices with a 10.1-inch screen or smaller.

The goal, eventually, is that developers will write a single app and it will run on your Windows PC, tablet, phone, Xbox One, and the upcoming HoloLens headset. While Microsoft is focused on mouse and keyboard computing with Windows 10, it hasn’t forgot about all the good touch work that went into Windows 8.

I don’t own every PC configuration out there, but as I look at others expressing frustration over these odd issues on Twitter, it’s clear I’m not alone. Everything about Windows 10 feels like a new approach for Microsoft, and I’m confident these early bugs and issues will be addressed fairly quickly.

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