Windows 10 Review

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I've happily lived with Microsoft products for nearly twenty years.  Since learning to write MS-DOS batch files and boot disks, and digging around Windows until it broke and I had to fix it, the tools have always done the job, and my brand loyalty has grown.  In recent years, I've adopted Azure, and my business has strived forward thanks to Microsoft's forward-thinking.  I love the work they are doing, but if there's a problem, I've got to be honest.  Rather than jump online and be the first to write a review after ten minutes of use, I've had it for over a month, and have got my hands (real) dirty.

The opinions below are strictly my own - your findings may be completely different!  In this sense, this review is broken down into The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, and finally, The Conclusion.  I hope that some of my findings may help you to decide whether to adopt it.

Windows 10 - The Good

Clean, intuitive interface

Although I don't particularly like the isometric desktop icons, overall the interface is clean and very useable.  The new Quick Access feature provides easy access to your different popular folders (although there's no way to it off if you don't want it there).  Everything else seems very much in-line with Windows 8 in terms of functionality.  Some might argue that there's possibly a bit too much going on in the file browser windows now.  As a power-user, I think it's just right.  The colours are pleasing, and there's options all over to tweak stuff.

 

Rapid boot times

From a cold start, Windows is the fastest I've ever seen it to boot up.  My i7 machine with SSD HD boots to Desktop within about 15 seconds, which is fantastic.

Files on the cloud

There's great integration between local files and the cloud, meaning that you can have access to your files online, and offline copies for when your connection is not available.  This is great for collaboration, security and disaster prevention, and is in tandem with Microsoft's wonderful forward cloud-thinking.

On the downside, while this is great for the traveller with a few hundred files, as a multimedia person with about 160GB of data (videos, music, tens of thousands of documents, web applications, you name it), internet connectivity in the UK would struggle with that lot.

Your old drivers work

All my Windows 8 drivers have worked seamlessly with Windows 10.  Perhaps some might say this means Windows 10 is actually Windows 8 with a new shade of lipstick.  I'm not sure, but I'm not complaining.

Have your say

A great addition in Windows 10 is the customer feedback option.  Not only being able to submit ideas for improvement, but notify them of problems is a fantastic idea.  The power of the people is right there, and it makes a difference - a big difference.

 

The Start Menu is back (well, kind of)

The Start menu in Windows 8 wasn't too great.  It was brave of Microsoft to backtrack, and the new version is far better.  I like how apps and programs are integrated.  It works well, although in many case live tiles (see the News one) don't actually load anything.

Windows 10 - The Bad

Windows 10 repair disc didn't work

I had updated Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 using the Windows Update routine, but decided a fresh install would be better.  Before doing anything, I took a full system image backup, and creating the necessary bootable restore media discs (on DVD).  Unfortunately due to an external issue, it was needed, but not one of my three machines would recognise the Windows 10 repair disc as bootable media.  Only my laptop tools in the UEFI boot menu, and the Windows Media Creation Device (separate download) were able to save my machine from another reformat.  Total failure on behalf of the Windows restore routine.  Even when testing afterwards using the boot menu, the bootable media seems to work totally intermittently.

I'd like my Start Menu folders back!

In Windows 7 and earlier, the Start Menu was organised into a lovely hierarchy with folders containing files or programs, however you like.  I don't like how the new Start Menu simply gives a long list of programs for you to search through.  In my job I have a LOT of software, and this method of finding it is painful.  In my opinion, I shouldn't need to use my keyboard, or search for programs.

 

Do people actually use the Documents folder?

I have a very orderly file system.  All my work stuff is on a separate drive, categorised by folder, and backed up automatically three times.  Whatever I want, I can find it quickly and easily, and its separate from the operating system and programs.  So I have to ask if we still need the infernal Documents folder in the This PC window?  Ditto for Libraries, Music, Pictures and Videos.  They add a lot of noise to an otherwise clean interface.

 

This all screams "complete wipeout" to me when things go wrong.  Let's have the option to get rid of those, or at least point them at somewhere appropriate to our different needs.

Cortana might not work for English UK users

When Joe Belfiore demonstrated Cortana on-stage using his mobile device, I was impressed.  I have no problem with Microsoft keeping personal data about me if it is used well. If it makes life easier or better, let's go with it!  The voice recognition is also very accurate (a real compliment coming from a Yorkshireman!).

On a desktop machine however, Cortana, well... just doesn't enrich your life in any way that will make you ditch the keyboard and mouse.

First off, Cortana refused outright to work on my English UK machine, saying it wasn't available in my area.  After some searching and hacking, I got it running, only for it to randomly forget who I was, and then where I was, and then that it should be working fine.  It still randomly calls me <user_name>, and 90% of the things I tell it lead directly to a Bing internet search.

My problem is that at present, I just don't know what to use Cortana for to make life easier.  Whatever I need, I can get from a search engine quite easily.  Perhaps I'll fall in love with her when I scrap my Android mobile in favour of a Windows one?

Heavy reliance on the mail app

A lot of the functionality (in particular, Cortana to begin with) just wouldn't work without an app being installed.  Edge won't allow you to share stuff unless via an app.  Also, the mail and calendar functionality seems to be driven via the app.  For some reason, Outlook gets pushed to one side in favour of the app (it would be nice if there was an equivalent piece of Office integration).  Currently I get reminded about stuff via Outlook, then the Calendar, then my mobile!

Patchy OneDrive sync

Despite having an always-on connection, quite often the OneDrive synchronisation tool would report that it couldn't connect and/or synchronise my files.  This meant I ended up with a local version that was different to the online version.  When connection resumed, I was prompted to keep one, but there was no way to know which version to keep.  A comparison view of both files is needed here (in the same manner that Visual Studio lets you view/manage conflicts).

Windows 10 - The Ugly

Office 2013 crashes constantly on upgraded Windows 10, taking files with it

I don't know whether this is an Office 2013 Pro issue, or Windows, but on an upgraded Windows 10 machine (from Windows 8), PowerPoint, Word and Excel 2013 frequently crash.  The absolutely inexcusable part of this is that it permanently deletes the file being edited (PowerPoint says its restoring the file on reboot, but then presents an empty file).  I shouldn't have to say it, but please always keep a second copy of your files somewhere!

Thankfully, Office 2013 Pro on a freshly installed Windows 10 seems to work fine.

Driver Hell

My Acer laptop was the testing ground for Windows 10 Enterprise.  On first install, all the hardware seemed to be detected automagically.  Everything just worked - well (even the HDMI lack of audio issue requiring the Intel graphics driver).  In fact things went so well I decided to download and install the manufacturer drivers to get those extra tweaks.  Big mistake!  Pretty much every new Windows 10 driver I tried caused a problem.  I went from a fully working unit to a box that wouldn't even boot.  The lesson here is perhaps to trust that Windows knows best, which isn't the usual thought pattern for a power user!

Apps that just aren't needed

I don't mind apps, but they have their place.  I dislike them immensely when they're used a substitute for perfectly good functionality.  Take the Settings app; it's a totally unnecessary alternative to the Control Panel.  This dislike started in Windows 8, when Settings offered far less functionality that most people required.

 

All these settings in both windows should be unified into one.  Then, if needed, Control Panel (the clear better option) should reshape itself into "app-mode" for smaller devices.   That way users get power access, in a friendly format respective to their device.

Edge as the new Internet Explorer

As a web developer, I usually have three different browsers open for testing.  In recent years I've warmed to IE, since it finally became standards compliant, and Microsoft gave it the big HTML5 push it needed.  But just as it gets some love, away it goes.  Microsoft Edge however, is where my true dislike of Windows 10 resides.  Yet another app for app's sake. 

Everything about Edge is lacking, including its hiding URL bar, slow tooltips (to explain the unintuitive icons), inability to start private browsing from the task bar, and pinnable settings with minimal options in there.  There are just 14 options under "Advanced" Settings, as opposed to the gazillion in IE11.  I hope to goodness that Edge does not replace IE11.  Thankfully IE11 is included with Windows 10, which further complicates matters for the unexperienced user.

Patchy network connections

This is a problem I had with Windows 7 & 8.  Randomly, machines connected to a network (via wireless) would just disappear.  One minute you could browse another machine's files, the next minute its vanished and/or is not accessible.  The diagnostic tool fails to find anything.  Two minutes later and its back working again.

Disappearing jumplist files

Another bug first encountered with Windows 7, and is still persisting.  Randomly, all your previously accessed files will vanish from the jumplist (when you right-click the icon in the taskbar).  The problem seems to occur mainly for pinned folders (recently accessed directories).

Conclusion

Despite the rollercoaster ride I've had with it, I quite like Windows 10.  However, and this is a big however, it still feels like an upgrade to Windows 7, and not a very dramatic one.  Worse still, with the many problems experienced, it feels like the different product teams within Microsoft really aren't working closely together any more. 

If you can upgrade for free, get it (but only if you're not using Office 2013), otherwise perhaps wait for the first Service Pack, or for a new computer supplied with it.

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