Windows 10 – Six months on, are we still enthusiastic about the new OS?
The end of January will mark six months on the market for Microsoft’s latest operating system. While many sites have reviewed the OS since it came out, a few weeks with an OS isn’t really long enough to gauge how good it is. With this in mind, we thought now might be a good time to review the first six months of living with Windows 10. Rather than review the OS on one machine, we’ll be looking at a handful of PCs of all different types and briefly reviewing how each machine got on. As you will see, our positive initial first impressions have, in some cases at least, been soured by unexpected bugs, poor technical support from Microsoft and, in the case of our tablet PC, some generally poor design decisions. Read on to find out how several PCs we were responsible for maintaining have faired since upgrading to Windows 10.
Asus Zenbook U500V Laptop – The first machine in the round up is a powerful laptop purchased around three years ago. The machine is used for productivity, gaming and general computing tasks. It has a Core I7 processor and Nvidia graphics. Prior to the upgrade it was running Windows 8.1.
In order to install Windows 10, it was necessary to decrypt the computers hard drive (the computer was secured with the popular encryption tool Truecrypt). Windows 8 was then smoothly upgraded to Windows 10 with no issues.
Since upgrading the machine has performed well, with no noticeable performance difference between Windows 10 and Windows 8. Software and hardware compatibility has been excellent, It was even possible to re-encrypt the hard drive with Truecrypt once Windows 10 was installed. Just one program turned out to be incompatible, the popular “Where’s my Water?” computer game from the Windows store. Overall, the Windows 10 experience on this machine has been very positive. Windows store apps now work in a much more desktop friendly fashion and the improved search features are a boon.
Acer VA70 laptop – This laptop is around four years old and equipped with a solid state drive, and an Intel i5 processor. Prior to the upgrade the machine was running Windows 8.1. The machine is used for office and productivity tasks, research and casual gaming.
Installing the Windows 10 upgrade did not go smoothly on this machine. It was necessary to reinstall the existing OS (Windows 8) from scratch and then perform the Windows 10 upgrade before the process could be successfully completed. This of course meant that all programs and data had to be reinstalled or restored from backup.
After the upgrade was finally installed, the machine performed well. The owner of this particular machine typically uses about a dozen apps, all of which he has created desktop shortcuts for. After restoring these shortcuts (a process that Windows 10 makes slightly more complicated, it must be noted), the machine behaved and ran smoothly. The user was quite happy with performance, but noted he didn’t really see any difference between Windows 10 and Windows 8 for day to day computing tasks. The only complaint was when a recent update removed some bundled software (A Dolby home theatre control panel) without asking. Overall though, a positive experience and thumbs up for Windows 10.
Asus Z97-A desktop – This is a modern, power users PC that is used for work, gaming, emulation, video editing and other demanding tasks. The system has a 4Ghz Intel I7 processor, solid state hard drive, 16GB of RAM, Nvidia graphics and an Auzentech sound card.
Installing Windows 10 went smoothly on this machine, though it was done as a clean installation rather than an upgrade.
After the upgrade, there were issues finding drivers for the machines sound card and the document scanner (a Kodak i40). We were able to obtain updated sound card drivers from Creative (who now offer limited support for sound cards from the defunct Auzentech), but there were no updated drivers for the scanner rendering it unusable on the new machine.
Windows 10 performance has been great on this machine, the OS runs smoothly with no unexpected glitches. The improved search facilities have proven very useful for this machine, particularly as it has a large collection of media files. One annoying bug that made it difficult to enable or disable multiple monitors was fixed in a recent update. The only minor complaint is that applying the recent November update proved difficult, again due to the sound card drivers, but was resolved thanks to another driver update.
Gigabyte GA-Z77-D3H desktop – This is another power-house desktop PC used for graphics editing, gaming and office and productivity tasks. It has a Core i5 processor and 8GB RAM, as well as a Nvidia graphics card. Prior to upgrading it was running Windows 7.
Installing Windows 10 did not go smoothly on this PC at all, with all attempts to upgrade the existing OS resulting in failure. Eventually, after reinstalling Windows 7 from scratch, the upgrade process finally completed successfully. This of course meant that all programs and data had to be reinstalled or restored from backup.
After installation, the machine suffered from frequent ‘blue screen of death’ crashes, which cause the PC to stop working completely and reboot. After performing some troubleshooting we tracked the problem down to the systems network adapter. Unfortunately, no updated drivers were available for this adapter, meaning the only solution was to buy and install another one.
After installing the new network adapter, more problems were just around the corner. Due to the change in hardware, Windows 10 decided that its license was no longer valid. The tale of woe that then unfolded was told in last months newsletter, when we asked “Is Windows 10 Activation – A ticking time bomb?”
After resolving that problem, a few weeks later we found that the systems Start menu would no longer open, the Windows store would crash and the notification area was inaccessible. The cause of this problem was never determined but was eventually solved by creating a whole new user account and migrating the users documents and settings over.
It’s fair to say Windows 10 has been a bit of a disaster on this hardware and the owner of this particular PC wishes she’d stayed on Windows 7.
Asus P5K-R Desktop – This is a much older desktop PC, originally built around 2008, that’s now used for casual gaming and light computing tasks. It has a solid state hard drive and an old but still capable Core 2 Quad processor running at 2.33Ghz, along with a old Nvidia graphics card. Prior to upgrading, the machine was running Windows 7.
The Windows 10 upgrade installed smoothly on this machine with no particular issues. After installation the system performed perfectly. Startup times were improved over Windows 7, though for general use it was not noticeably faster (though it was certainly no slower either). There were no software or hardware incompatibilities and the owner of this particular PC was also happy to find a couple of new games she enjoyed in the Windows 10 store.
Overall, a positive Windows 10 experience and a worthwhile upgrade on this older machine.
Dell Venue 11 Pro 7140 Tablet PC – This is a high end tablet PC device that originally shipped with Windows 8. Sporting a 1080p screen and a modern Intel processor, the tablet provided a great Windows 8 experience, its a shame more hardware like this wasn’t around to really make Windows 8 shine.
The Windows 10 upgrade installed smoothly on this machine with no issues. After the upgrade, all programs and data were in-tact, allowing us to get started with Windows 10 right away.
Sadly, the experience with Windows 10 on this hardware has not been terribly positive. While using the machine there have been a number of glitches, such as Windows occasionally failing to log on/sign in correctly, necessitating a hard reset of the device. Windows Store apps also occasionally crash directly back to the start screen. Again, at least one Windows 8 game (Where’s My Water?) proved completely incompatible.
The worst problem however has been the introduction of the taskbar in tablet PC mode. For some reason, Microsoft now display the PCs taskbar even when a machine is in touch screen mode. Apart from wasting valuable screen space on tablet devices (where space is often at a premium), this causes significant issues with software designed for Windows 8. Since Windows 8 has no taskbar at the bottom of the screen, apps often put buttons or other elements near the bottom of the screen. When you try to tap these elements in Windows 10, you often end up tapping the Taskbar instead, making using certain apps and games an exercise in frustration. To help with this problem, you can try the “hide the taskbar” option, but pop your finger near the bottom of the screen and Windows will reveal it again, usually when you don’t want it. Moving the taskbar to the sides of the screen can help, but even then, Windows will often decide that you need to see the taskbar and leave it on your screen for no apparent reason.
In spite of this, Windows 10 on touch isn’t completely awful and does have some advantages over Windows 8. Many desktop apps now work perfectly well on touch devices thanks to a few clever tweaks and desktop and Windows store apps work much better together than they ever did in Windows 8. Overall though the experience on touch is a significant step-back from Windows 8 and we have to wonder if Microsoft will ever be able to find a way to make Windows work just as well on a tablet as it does on a traditional PC.
Out of our six machines then, we’ve had a generally positive Windows 10 experience on four of them, a relatively disappointing experience on our tablet PC and one absolutely torrid time on one desktop. That’s a little disappointing considering all of our machines worked well with either Windows 7 or Windows 8. Perhaps Windows 10 should have stayed in development a little longer? Growing dissatisfaction with glitches and bugs in Windows 10 comes after Microsoft decided to lay off a huge number of testers and QA staff, in a move that was described as streamlining their software development process. Our upgrade advice for Windows 10 remains roughly the same; be sure to upgrade before the end of the free offer, but make sure you take a backup before you take the plunge. If Microsoft want to convince more of us to upgrade, they should certainly make ironing out the bugs and kinks in the new OS a high priority.