“Should I switch to Windows 10?” is a question a get a lot. Here’s how to find out.

“Should I switch to Windows 10?” For a lot of people who ask this question, they are really asking whether or not they should upgrade their current computer running Windows 7, take the time to learn a new user interface (that frankly is often half-baked) and take a chance that the programs they currently are now using will either no longer work at all or will need an upgrade.

Usually, the answer is, “No,” which Microsoft themselves are making more and more difficult to resist, even sneaking Windows 10 advertisements into “security patches”! However, the answer to whether or not to switch to Windows 10 is not always that easy.

Well, there’s now a way where you don’t have to just take my word for it or not. Old Goat Guide recently posted a short write-up on Microsoft’s “Windows 10 Online Demo“, although calling it a “demo” might be a bit much. What it does do is highlight some of the more enticing aspects of Windows 10. If you “need” one of those features, say Cortana, then perhaps Windows 10 is for you.

Of course, there are caveats. There always are caveats. This time, though, I want to look beyond Microsoft’s seemingly cavalier attitude towards our privacy. And, granted, some of the items do require something on the backend to process, else your computer might run more like an old 286 that someone found in a closet. My beef with a lot of it is that it is: 1. Hidden from most users, and 2. set by default even if you’ll never use that feature.

So then, barring privacy concerns, should you upgrade/switch to Windows 10?

That, of course, depends.  You really should be asking yourself a series of questions, and only you can truly answer them:

Are you happy with Windows 7?

Perhaps the most obvious question is just how comfortable you are with what you have now. If what you have now works, then you should re-think how much you’ll really gain from an upgrade. In fact, you might be complicating your life rather than making it easier because you’ll need more resources and certain applications may stop working correctly (if at all).

Are you concerned about security and support?

Comfort is not the most important measure, else I’d still be advocating Windows XP. At some point, all Windows versions come to the end of their lifecycle. Windows 7 is no exception.

Mainstream support ended last January for Windows 7. However, extended support doesn’t end until January 2020. That means you cannot ring up Microsoft with your Windows 7 question without paying for support, but critical security patches will continue to roll out and update the system.

So, in essence, Windows 7 may still get patched, but it won’t be at the same priority as patching a Windows 10 system. IMO, that does not make it a security risk, however. Still, if that makes you uneasy, then perhaps an upgrade is advisable. If you switch to Windows 10 now, you won’t have to be concerned about not being supported in the near future.

Will your current computer handle it?

Most people asking about upgrades are asking because they already have a computer running Windows 7. In theory, a computer running Windows 7 well can handle Windows 10, but there are exceptions.

For one thing, many who are running Windows 7 have already upgraded from Vista, and that hardware is so old that I cannot in good conscience recommend an upgrade. Better to buy a new computer that is made to run Windows 10 than run it on some of these older machines. A good indicator might be to go to your vendor’s website and see if there even are any Windows 10 drivers for your computer. Dell is pretty good about alerting you as to whether or not a particular computer line has been tested for Windows 10.

Then, there are programs too old to run on Windows 10. In general, if they worked on Windows 8, I would think that it would likely work on Windows 10, but I did run into an exception last week where they will only support up to Windows 8.1!

I haven’t tried it recently, but that stupid Get Windows 10 icon does have a menu function for testing your current computer. Click on the hamburger icon, then look for “Check your PC” under “Getting the Upgrade”. This is perhaps the only real useful aspect of that otherwise annoying icon.

Now, one thing I cannot help but point out is that the least amount of RAM you can use for running Windows 10 is 1 GB. Seriously, if you are actually doing that on Windows 7, please don’t bother. The least amount I would recommend for either 7 or 10 is 4 GB these days, and I would even say 8 GB is the sweet spot for 64 bit platforms. Essentially, if you are running less than that and think Windows 7 is slow now, then you’ll be extremely unhappy with the switch to Windows 10.

Do you have decent Internet?

Some home users have issues that really are related to their network connection and not necessarily the computer. Windows 10 phones home a lot. Even if you turn a lot of stuff off manually, it still pings various sites for telemetry information unless you use a tool like O&O ShutUp10 (OOSU10).

What this means is a busier Internet connection. If your link is giving you issues now, then Windows 10 isn’t going to fix it.

In fact, this leads to the next question …

Do you need to fix something?

It shouldn’t have to be said, but obviously it does, that upgrading Windows 10 will not fix your broken computer (most likely, there is the rare exception).

My brother-in-law lost his sound for whatever reason. So, he saw the stupid Get Windows 10 icon, and thought, “Maybe Windows 10 will fix it.” Yeah, well, it fixed it alright. It made spaghetti of his hard drive and reverting back only made matters worse.

Even if everything is working fine, there are many horror stories about botched upgrades. So, if you are looking to “fix” something that should be working fine in Windows 7 by upgrading to Windows 10, my advice is to put that out of your head right now and figure out why it isn’t working in Windows 7.

Botched upgrades, of course, are nothing new and can happen even in the best of circumstances, so …

Do you have recent backups?

Not only do you have recent backups, but do you have recent tested backups? After all, backups are no good if you cannot restore them.

In my brother-in-law’s case, I had recently reformatted and reinstalled Windows 7, so we at least had a reasonably recent backup. Otherwise, it could have been quite painful.

Are you averse to new things?

This really is an important consideration. Sure, Windows 10 might be the wave of the future (or not, we will see), but do you need to learn it right now? Your switch to Windows 10 means you also have to switch the way you do things.

I find myself in an odd situation, because I am normally the one who advocates moving ahead and dealing with the smaller issues in order to get them out of the way. However, Windows 10 is so different, and, IMO, so not quite finished that I am quite a lot more reserving in recommending it.

It’s not just me. Jupiter Broadcasting, which is undeniably biased towards Linux, panned Windows 10 for its inconsistent interface. While they are Linux enthusiasts, they have been unafraid to point out inconsistencies in various Linux distributions as well, and have even drawn a bit of fire for it.

I have given some people new computers with Windows 10 on them, usually because the hardware has no Windows 7 drivers, and it quickly becomes obvious just how much they are unfamiliar with the interface. For most of them, they are used to being on the cutting edge, though. For the rest, though, they just want to get stuff done. If you are in the latter group, then please hold off on that upgrade.

I keep hoping the interface will solidify over time, but I see no real indication of that. It is true that “ugly is in”, and that is not just true of Microsoft, but it’s getting a bit ridiculous. I am beginning to think that UI designers are very much overpaid.

Setting aside ugliness, some reasonable consistency needs to be achieved. It is normal for Windows to have two or three ways to do the same thing, but at least you usually wind up at the same place. In Windows 10, you’ll have two incomplete ways to do the same thing and one that actually does what you want.

I am hoping that by the time many of the users I support have dead computers that the interface will make more sense and not make the switch to Windows 10 as frustrating. I am not holding my breath.

Reasons To Upgrade

Having said that, what are some good reasons to upgrade?

I think that the #1 reason to upgrade is when purchasing new hardware. In particular, if you are purchasing new hardware with a touchscreen, go with Windows 10 because Windows 7 is rather finicky about that sort of thing, and Windows 8 is dead so don’t bother with it.

Another argument for not downgrading your newly purchased Windows 10 box or gadget is that you might not find solid drivers for it. One laptop I attempted to put Windows 7 on threw a fit during the install, and then when it looked like everything was finally working started BSOD’ing all the time. In particular, devices with USB 3.0 ports will give you issues until you get on the correct driver, which can cause a catch-22 where you cannot put on the driver because you need the driver to put the driver on. Hint: Use Linux to copy it to the hard drive. 🙂

If your current rig passes the requirements test, then you might want to upgrade if you just have that driving need to be on the cutting edge. If you are one of those in the “why wait?” crowd, then you might want to go ahead and dive in. After all, Windows 10 is supposed to be “the last version of Windows”, so it supposedly is the future.

If you have programs that only run on 7, then you could consider dual booting if your hard drive is sufficiently large. It isn’t all that convenient, but performance is better than running something in a virtual machine.

Caveats

There are always pitfalls, of course. Your transition might be that of the majority that goes quite smoothly. However, it also might not be.

That is why I cannot stress enough that you backup your existing machine first. I know I am repeating myself, yet once again, but I really do mean it. There have been far too many botched upgrades to take this lightly. You need software that can do a system image so that you can be back up and running quickly. Clonezilla is my favorite tool for this. That way, if your switch to Windows 10 does get botched, you’ll be able to revert back with a minimum of fuss.

Also, make sure any security software is turned off. Symantec seems to be especially egregious at interfering with the upgrades, but even AVG and some others have caused problems. Best is to totally uninstall them and then reinstall them once the upgrade is successful.

If you can, choose to download updates. Of course, some wifi components might require using a USB stick to install the device driver, so you won’t be able to use this option, but if you can, do. Maybe plugging it into the network will work for laptops with common components.

If you need the features, use a Microsoft account to login. If you do not, then don’t. It can be changed later, although it isn’t necessarily intuitive.

Do understand what the security options are and turn off the ones you do not need. There are all sorts of articles online that can help. I especially despise the whole idea of “Wi-Fi Sense”, so I make sure that it is off even if everything else is on. One article on network security settings is Windows Central‘s article on “How to manage wireless network connections in Windows 10“.

All in all, Windows 10 can be quite usable, but it still isn’t for everyone. It can be bewildering and confusing, but it also does have one or two neat features that might compel you to move. Just make sure you switch to Windows 10 in an informed manner.