My 4-Month Test Drive of Windows 10

We are now less than a week away from the official arrival of Windows 10: the operating system that's so extraordinary, Microsoft had no choice but to skip a version. 

I've been the unofficial guinea pig at Puget Systems running Windows 10 Insider Preview builds for over four months now. In the past, I've installed beta builds of Windows in a VM or setup a dual boot system giving me an eject button in case of disaster. But that's not what I did with Windows 10. Instead, I went five blades. No VM, no dual-boot, no parachute. 

Installing a beta OS on my production Puget Systems Serenity was a genius move according to me and a total lapse in judgement according to my friends. But I decided it was worth the risk. I mean, the worst thing that could happen is that I burn my Serenity to the ground, and end up having to borrow Chris Stephen's spare Chromebook for a few weeks. 

I enjoy trying new stuff, especially new software. Having to rebuild Windows isn't a big deal, but losing all my documents is a huge deal so I backup everything of value to CrashPlan. I fully expected that I'd be rebuilding Windows 10 at least once before the final release and possibly going back to Windows 8.1 if Windows 10 was interrupting my work. 

But it never happened. 

Each Windows 10 build improved upon the previous one. I wrote about my first impressions back in April, and noted that Windows 10 was a solid upgrade from Windows 7 and Windows 8. One issue I had with an early build was the integration of Bing web links into local searches. Not long after I wrote that, Microsoft added a setting that allows one to turn off online/web results. 

Many publications that review Windows 10 will gush over its many new features. And there are some nifty features that will impress such as Cortana and Xbox streaming. But, much like how Microsoft Word satiated my need for word processor features a decade ago, I didn't need Microsoft shoehorning a bevy of new features into Windows 10. What I wanted was a stable, polished operating system that does three things really well: 

  1. Embraces desktop users
  2. Nails the basics (search, file management, backup)
  3. Gets out of my way

These three things matter more to me than every new feature combined. I don't want another operating system that feels optimized for tablets or touchscreens. I don't want to install third party software to bring back the START menu. I tired of hunting down all the freaking Metro apps and removing them as my default programs. 

In short, Windows 8.1 required far too many workarounds and called too much attention to itself. 

The good news is that Microsoft has taken a chill pill and decided we don't want to run a desktop operating system that imitates the tiles on Windows Phone. Windows 8.1 was Microsoft's New Coke moment. Microsoft realized its mistake and doubled down on the classic formula of loyal desktop customers. Sure, Windows 10 looks great on a laptop, but it really shines on the desktop. I have gone weeks without a reboot (except to install a new build) and Windows 10 stays out of my way and automatically handles routine maintenance like a modern operating system should. 

Windows 10 also feels like the quickest version of Windows yet. Running Disk Cleanup takes a fraction of the time it took to complete on Windows 7 or Windows 8. I don't know why, and I don't care. I have no hard data to prove that Windows 10 is any faster than previous versions, but it feels faster to me, and I suspect others will agree. 

Should you take the plunge with Windows 10 if you're happy with Windows 7 or one of the three users who loves Windows 8? My colleague, William George, walks you through a number of considerations in his latest post. Few people take a more conservative approach to upgrades than William while I'm the guy who installed Windows ME on the first day it hit shelves. You can't win them all, but I really believe Microsoft got almost everything right with Windows 10.