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William George (Product Development)

Windows 10 - What to Consider Before Upgrading

Written on July 21, 2015 by William George

Windows 10 LogoAs I write this, the release of Windows 10 is right around the corner - and there is a good chance that by the time you are reading this it has been officially released. The date set for that is July 29th, 2015. Starting that day, any computer running a legitimate copy of Windows 7 or 8.1 can be upgraded to 10 for free. This offer from Microsoft will be available for the first year of Windows 10’s reign, so presumably until July 29th, 2016. Many people are going to want to upgrade as soon as possible, especially those running the less-than-widely-loved Windows 8.1. However, there may be some reasons to hold off from jumping on the bandwagon right away - and I will go over a few of those here.


Hardware Compatibility

The goal Microsoft is aiming for is that Windows 10 should run on any computer capable of running Windows 7 or 8.1, which is critical to their offer of a free upgrade to all such systems. However, once July 29th hits Microsoft will be rolling out the upgrades that people have signed up for slowly - starting with hardware they are most sure will run the new OS well. If you are planning on getting the upgrade, it might be wise not to force it on the first day it is available: instead, wait till the upgrade shows up in Windows Update for you. By the time that happens Microsoft should be confident that your specific computer is ready for Windows 10. There is also a compatibility checking tool built into the Get Windows 10 app, which you can use ahead of time to check for any known hardware issues with your computer.


Software Compatibility

Microsoft does a remarkably good job of maintaining backward compatibility in each new version of Windows, but sometimes a program will crop up that simply doesn’t work right in a new version. Often these issues are the fault of the software rather than the OS: for example, if a program checks to see what version of Windows it is installed on, and then refuses to run if it is not a version it recognizes. There is some conjecture that this is why Microsoft skipped Windows 9 and went straight to 10: there may be programs that look for “Windows 9…” to see if they are running on the old Windows 95 or 98 versions, and if they saw something similar would fail to work properly.

I don’t know specifically of any software that works in Windows 7 and 8.1 but not in 10, but there is a good chance that someone out there will run into this. If you have any concerns about it, and especially if you depend on the operation of your computer and key programs for work, it would be a good idea to check with the software developers to make sure that Windows 10 is a supported platform. This sort of info should be shown in system requirements online, and can also be searched for through Google or via Microsoft’s compatibility center (after Windows 10's release).


Media Center

This long-neglected feature, which provides a 10-foot interface for watching TV and movies, is finally being buried by Microsoft. It wasn’t included in any version of Windows 8.1 by default either, but was available as an add-on via the Media Pack (for Windows 8.1 Pro) or Pro Pack (for Windows 8.1). That version was unchanged from the one included with Windows 7, and Microsoft must have seen small adoption rates because there isn’t going to be such an option this time around.

This won’t affect most people, but folks who use their computer as a home theater PC may want to think long and hard before upgrading to Windows 10. One of my computers at home is a dedicated HTPC and media server, and I have not yet decided what I am going to do. I have moved away from TV recording / viewing at home, so that is one less thing that I needed Media Center for - but I still use it regularly. If / when I upgrade that system to Windows 10 I will make another blog post, describing what direction I go to replace Media Center’s functionality.


DVD Playback

Related to the Media Center removal, Windows 10 does not have native DVD playback built-in. Windows 8.1 users are used to this, as that OS does not have the DVD codecs either - unless you purchased the Media Pack or Pro Pack - but users upgrading from Windows 7 may be surprised by this. If you use your computer to watch DVD movies then the only option will be to install additional software to handle it. If you already have such software, like Cyberlink’s PowerDVD program, then you will be fine; if not, it is easy enough to find online.


Future Updates

This is the first version of Windows where automatic updates are going to be mandatory. Windows 10 Home will get updates automatically as soon as they are available, with the only options being to install and reboot automatically, or else to install automatically and then reboot manually. Windows 10 Pro will have a further option to delay installation for a period of time, to help avoid the risk that a brand-new update might cause problems (which has happened before in previous versions)... but even it will not have the option to opt-out of updates completely, as a user can in Windows 8.1, 7, and older releases.

Disable Windows Update ServiceThis issue may not sit well with some, and is one of the only things I do not like about Windows 10 - but fear not, there is a work-around. Disabling the service responsible for Windows Update will keep it from checking for updates, effectively opting out… just with a bit more effort required. Here are the basic steps for doing this in Windows 10:

- Right click on the Start icon

- Click on "Computer Management"

- Expand "Services and Applications"

- Click on “Services”

- Scroll all the way down and double-click on “Windows Update”

- Change the “Startup type” drop-down menu from Manual to Disabled



My hope is that the info above is helpful for those considering the upgrade to Windows 10. If you want more info, including further feature changes (removal of Windows 7’s desktop gadgets, changes to bundled games, etc) and new feature requirements, those are available on the Windows 10 Specifications page. If you have Windows 7 or 8.1 but have not yet been prompted about the upgrade option, check out the Windows 10 FAQ - specifically the question “Why don’t I have the Get Windows 10 app?”.

When you are ready to go ahead with the upgrade, I would also highly recommend making a backup image first. That is always a good idea before major changes like this, so that if something unexpected happens you can return to where you started.

Tags: Windows, 10, free, upgrade, compatibility, media center, automatic, updates

Will someone be able to purchase any Win7 or Win8.1 until July28th, 2016 and still receive an upgrade? I ask mostly out of curiousity as I'm already queued up for Win 10 on my rig. Thanks for the link for creating system image on Win7.

Posted on 2015-07-21 17:56:35

I would expect so, but I have not seen / read anything from Microsoft that directly addresses that situation. I can't think of a practical way for them to exclude newer installations of Windows from the upgrade process either, and there is no reason they would want to do so. Their goal, I'm pretty sure, is to get as many people on the same, newer Windows platform as possible.

Posted on 2015-07-21 18:02:09

I've been beta testing Windows 10 for about 6 or 7 weeks and the improvements I've seen over that time period have been pretty dramatic. Windows has done an exceptional job stabilizing the software. I am very happy to have the traditional (looking) start button back again verses the full screen nightmare in Windows 8, forcing me into a tablet environment from my desktop. Fortunately now they have the option to go tablet or desktop mode. These are some changes that probably should have been in Windows 8.1 but I'm glad to see them now.

Posted on 2015-07-21 20:46:38

Yup, a lot of this (interface related, especially) should have been in the original Windows 8. Oh well, at least it is here now :)

Posted on 2015-07-21 20:48:56

Hey Will,

I'm a Win Vista user and need some info. In order to get a free upgrade to Win 10, do I have to buy Win 8.1 or if I'll go with Windows 7 , I'll still be able to receive the Windows 10 upgrade for free? Do you have any better option?


Posted on 2015-07-25 19:36:15

Thanks for explaining how to opt-out on Win10 Updates, but -- When we opt-out how do we selectively allow security updates? It seems that if we ever allow Updates, then it would auto-install everything, including whatever it is that we are trying to avoid. If so, then it really is all-or-nothing. Running without updates is running unsupported like WinXP. Is this practical?

Posted on 2015-09-10 02:36:11

I see it more as a way to avoid being on the fore-front of updates and being bothered constantly by them. Only updating once a month, for example, means you are less likely to get hit by a 'bad' update. They are very rare, but we have seen a few times in the past when a Windows update breaks things. It also means only one set of updates needing to be applied and one or two reboots, instead of being bugged by the OS once or twice a week.

Posted on 2015-09-10 05:16:31