You can upgrade your Windows 7 or 8 desktop to a tech preview of Win 10. We tried -- and it's safe!
By Anand Parthasarathy
On January 21, Microsoft unveiled a new edition of its operating system -- Windows 10 -- tailor-made for an era of more personal and increasingly mobile, computing, where users expect to seamlessly switch work across multiple devices -- desktop, laptop, tablet or phone.
It won't be available till the end of the year -- but if you're itching to try it out, you can sign up for the Windows Insider programme at https://insider.windows.com/ which allows you to upgrade your current desktop version of Windows ( 7 or 8.1) to a Technical Preview edition of Windows 10.
Beta versions like these are works in progress and could include a few glitches. So, I decided to try out Windows 10 on my second PC, a "stepney" to my main machine. After one's week's use, it has been quite stable, smoothly migrating all my programmes and settings without a hitch. The upgrade comes in a jumbo file of 2.26 GB and it took almost 3 hours to download and install using my home Internet connection that is not more than 10 MBPS. Here is a report on my 'test drive':
Is it worth the effort? A resounding yes! Windows 10 is a generation ahead of earlier avatars and I was reassured to find that Microsoft has heard our collective gripe about the rather disruptive 'tiled' appearance of Windows 8 and 8.1 which challenged many users of earlier versions.
Surprise, Surprise! Windows 10 opened with a home screen that reverted to the classic pre-Windows-8 look : all my old desktop icons were present. Newer users who have become used to the Windows 8 tiled look have not been forgotten: Clicking the new Windows icon at the bottom left of the screen pops up the tiled menu which you can stretch across the full screen if you choose.
So what's new and good in Windows 10? For me the coolest new thing was the search tool which now trawls seamlessly across the Web, your own machine and your One Drive cloud storage. The tile menu groups apps into Mail, Photos, Music, Video etc and clicking on any one, brings up all your assets to a single menu. Once you identify your email accounts, Windows 10, displays all of them, neatly tagged -- a big help. And as bonus, Microsoft has thrown in the Xbox games into the menu
There has been a lot of hype about a very clever, speaking assistant called Cortana -- similar to the iPhone's Siri. But sadly this feature is not yet available in India.
With many tablets coming with attached keyboards, Windows 10 offers a feature called Continuum: If the keyboard is attached, the screen goes into the classic PC look. When you disconnect the keyboard, it switches to the touch-enabled tiled menu.
In summary the new operating system brings back some of the familiar elements of Windows 7, while retaining the good bits from Windows 8... the best of both worlds! You can download the tech preview till April 15.
The good news is, current users of Windows 7 and 8.1 can upgrade to Windows 10 when it becomes available for free -- provided they do it within a year of its launch. A tech preview version of Windows 10 for phone will also be available later this month. And Microsoft's office suite -- Word, Excel and Powerpoint -- is already a free download for tablets at the Android and Apple stores.