Get Win­dows 10 while it’s still free

The Daily Herald - - HERALD BUSINESS JOURNAL - By Anick Jesdanun

What are you wait­ing for? There are few rea­sons left to re­sist Mi­crosoft’s Win­dows 10 up­date, es­pe­cially while it’s still free.

Wait an­other month, and it will cost you $120.

Since Win­dows 10 came out nearly a year ago, some users have com­plained that they got the up­grade with­out mean­ing to.

But why hold out? Win­dows 10 is bet­ter than ei­ther of its pre­de­ces­sors, Win­dows 7 and 8. Even if you dis­agree af­ter up­grad­ing, you have a month to go back . Think of it as a free trial.

Win­dows 10 mod­ern­izes com­put­ing

Win­dows 7 made sense when per­sonal com­put­ers were largely boxes with mon­i­tors, key­boards and mice (or touch­pads on lap­tops). But many com­put­ers now have touch screens, and web pages, games and soft­ware are in­creas­ingly de­signed with touch in mind.

Mi­crosoft re­sponded with Win­dows 8, but over­com­pen­sated. Its touch-cen­tric ap­proach elim­i­nated many as­pects of Win­dows 7 that worked well on tra­di­tional com­put­ers. In such cases, it left you feel­ing as though you were us­ing two dif­fer­ent machines — one for touch and one for mice — nei­ther of which worked per­fectly.

Win­dows 10 com­bines the best of both, with­out that awk­ward tug of war. Choose desk­top mode when you have a key­board and mouse, and choose tablet mode when they are de­tached. You can make this au­to­matic or have Win­dows prompt you each time. Your choice. You also get more con­trol than Win­dows 8 over when the on­screen key­board pops up.

Even if you don’t have a touch screen, you’ll still get some in­no­va­tions from the touch world, in­clud­ing one-click ac­cess to com­mon set­tings such as Wi-Fi and screen bright­ness.

Bet­ter fea­tures

Win­dows 10 brings bio­met­ric sign-ins to com­put­ers with such ca­pa­bil­i­ties. In­stead of a pass­word, you can use a fin­ger­print or have the de­vice’s cam­era ver­ify your iden­tity. Even if your com­puter lacks bio­met­rics, sign­ing in is sim­pli­fied with a four-digit PIN. If it’s good enough for your bank’s ATM card, it’s good enough for your com­puter.

Mi­crosoft has also ditched the much-ma­ligned In­ter­net Ex­plorer browser for a new one called Edge. It’s not only cleaner and faster than IE, it of­fers a few new wrin­kles. For in­stance, Edge lets you sketch on a web page with your fin­ger or a sty­lus and then share it with friends or col­leagues. Of course, you don’t have to use Edge if you pre­fer other pop­u­lar browsers like Chrome or Fire­fox.

Win­dows 10 also brings Mi­crosoft’s voice as­sis­tant, Cor­tana, to PCs. It might feel awk­ward talk­ing to a ma­chine at your desk, but many soft­ware com­pa­nies, at least, be­lieve voice is the fu­ture. Even Ap­ple’s bring­ing its Siri as­sis­tant to the Mac.

A work in progress

Win­dows 10 isn’t per­fect. For in­stance, it’s dif­fi­cult to scroll through Google spread­sheets on Edge. For that, Google’s Chrome browser is bet­ter. Win­dows also won’t let you re­name or move files when they are open, as you can on Mac com­put­ers.

The good news: Mi­crosoft no longer treats Win­dows as some­thing that gets over­hauled ev­ery few years. Win­dows 10 has been get­ting smaller up­dates roughly once a month. A big­ger one com­ing on Aug. 2 will of­fer more uses for Cor­tana and a new fea­ture called Win­dows Ink, which lets you use a dig­i­tal sty­lus to draw or write notes on doc­u­ments, maps and other apps.

Chief com­plaints

These reg­u­lar up­dates are de­signed to be au­to­matic and seam­less, and users of the low­erend Home edi­tion don’t even have a choice. But for the most part, smart­phone apps al­ready up­date au­to­mat­i­cally, as does Google’s sys­tem for Chrome­book com­put­ers.

As for get­ting Win­dows 10 it­self, one worry was its po­ten­tial in­com­pat­i­bil­ity with older apps and ac­ces­sories. But mak­ers of those apps and ac­ces­sories have had nearly a year to of­fer fixes. By this point, only re­ally old and ob­scure hard­ware should give you trou­ble.

Older machines with slower pro­ces­sors, less mem­ory and less stor­age space also might run into per­for­mance is­sues. But if your com­puter’s that slow, it might be time for a new ma­chine any­way.

Mi­crosoft be­gan phas­ing out Win­dows 7 last year, and new apps are de­signed for Win­dows 10. You might find your­self shut out by cling­ing on to the past.

Up­grade de­tails

Mi­crosoft’s Get Win­dows 10 app will ver­ify that you meet min­i­mum sys­tem re­quire­ments, though min­i­mum doesn’t mean speedy.

You should first back up your files to an ex­ter­nal drive or cloud stor­age in case some­thing goes wrong. But even with­out one, you should be able to re­turn to Win­dows 7 or 8 within 31 days of up­grad­ing. In the set­tings, go to “Up­date & se­cu­rity” and then “Re­cov­ery.” Your files should be OK, but you’ll lose any apps in­stalled af­ter up­grad­ing to Win­dows 10.

July 29 is the last day you can up­grade for free. Af­ter that, you’ll have to pay up or buy a new com­puter.

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