"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax —
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings"
And whether to upgrade to Windows 10 —
while it’s still free!
— With apologies to Lewis Carroll and his Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)
Microsoft’s Windows 10 free upgrade offer is set to expire on July 29, 2016.
What happens after that date? Although some writers have suggested that Microsoft will keep the free upgrade option open, I don’t think that’s likely. If you want free, get it before the deadline. If not, you’ll have to purchase the upgrade to get it — or get Windows 10 with your next computer.
Microsoft has announced a significant update called the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, which is to be released shortly after the upgrade deadline.
The big question is "Should I upgrade to Windows 10, or should I not upgrade?"
There has been a lot of noise and conspiracy speculation about Windows 10 monitoring computer activities. Believe them or not. Simply, after installing Windows 10, tighten down the settings affecting privacy. Tip: they’re not all in the Privacy category in Settings.
My recommendations: Unless you have irreplaceable software or hardware that will not work under Windows 10, you should upgrade to Windows 10. Pure and simple. Upgrade. The reported security improvements are too significant over Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1.
Then, go through the Settings options one-by-one and tighten the various settings that affect privacy. I also right-click on the task bar and set Cortana to Hidden. That doesn’t affect searches that you do, but it will make it less likely that you select Cortana for your searches out of habit. Personally, I don’t like the Bing search results, so I use Google for my searches.
So, what am I doing? Upgrading some, keeping Win7 on three because Microsoft removed Windows Media Center.
Early on, I upgraded my Acer TimelineX Core i3 13.3-inch notebook from Windows 7 Home to Windows 10 Home. My first step was to make a full image backup with Acronis True Image, just in case I needed to do a full recovery. This would reinstall Windows, all my programs, my customizations, and my data.
I downloaded the Windows 10 installer to a flash drive, and used it as my upgrade source. I used this computer to learn a little about Windows 10. I found it somewhat frustrating — the November update fixed a number of frustrations. (The notebook was an issue, too, as the screen is smaller than I like and the keyboard felt cramped.)
When I searched for a file or help by typing in the searrch box, but it gave me Bing search results — not what I wanted — not the file or Windows Help. Eventually I read some tips — and learned that many of the "missing" controls (like Control Panel) were available by right-clicking on the Start button.
In January, I decided to upgrade my Acer v5 Core i5 15.6-inch touchscreen notebook from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. After the upgrade, I planned to install an SSD to replace the hard drive (Preview: WOW! Big Impact!). My first step was to make a full image backup with Acronis True Image and upgrade the existing system to an SSD.
As before, this was a backup in case of a problem. The upgrade went smoothly. However, after a couple days I tried unsuccessfully to install a PDF "printer" program several times. I even tried several versions, all of which had been reported to work.
Ultimately, it turned out that the Microsoft One-Note driver was the reason the program could not install correctly — when I uninstalled One-Note, all worked perfectly.
The Win10 confusion showed up as Windows 10 announced something like "An error has occurred and I’m rebooting to fix it." This became a multiple-reboot process, as Win10 was not able to fix it. Now I got the option to use System Restore (I couldn’t — see the Tech Tip below) or let Windows 10 delete all programs other than ones installed as part of Windows 10 (it kept the data files, though).
That’s when I realized that I forgot to make another Acronis True Image backup right after the upgrade to Win10. If I had, it would have taken me about 15 minutes to restore my computer to full operation with everything intact.
So, I installed most of my programs into the "cleaned" Win10 computer. I used it that way a few days to confirm that all was well. I didn’t try the problem program again.
Windows 10 installation turns off System Restore, at least sometimes. Be sure to check your System Restore settings. Left-click on the Start Button and start typing
Create a restore point
and pick the corresponding selection when it appears. Then, pick the boot drive, click Configure, turn on System Restore, and set the maximum value you want to use.
My Wife’s PC:
I upgraded a couple months ago to Windows 10, in anticipation of her office upgrading to Windows 10 on its computers. This way, she was ready… She had much less difficulty adjusting to Windows 10 from Win7, than she did when she went to Win7 from WinXP. All her hardware worked, including her scanner — previously, we have had to upgrade the scanner software with each OS upgrade, so this was a welcome surprise.
My Secondary Desktop PC:
Since I don’t often use this PC, I delayed its upgrade from Windows 7 Professional to Windows 10 Professional almost until the deadline. I’ve now upgraded it to Win10. As before, I used Acronis True Image to make a complete backup of my C: boot drive.
As a precaution, I disabled WinPatrol and WinAntiRansom. Both restart with Windows when it reboots and have the capability to interrupt a program that attempts to run. So does Webroot Internet Security Complete, but Webroot is more known, so I expected Microsoft (or Webroot) to have allowed for that. The upgrade went smoothly. After the upgrade, I reinstalled both WinPatrol and WinAntiRansom, and both are working fine.
I had one issue that I had forgotten about on the earlier upgrades — I use UltraVNC for remote control and maintenance of my other computers. However, the Win7 settings that allowed UltraVNC to receive connections from my other computers did not translate into Windows 10. Apparently I needed to specifically tell Windows 10 Firewall to allow winvnc.exe to connect through the firewall. It was an easy fix.
Left-click on the Start button, select Settings.
Then, in the search box, start typing Firewall — the options will show up quickly.
At this point, you navigate through the folders to select the program file to be allowed access.
Once I had done this, my upgrade process was almost complete on this computer. I checked that System Restore (via Restore Points) configuration, and turned it back on.
I have a Home Theater PC that uses Windows Media Center on Windows 7 Professional. That’s a critical application for me, as I have found no substitute software that will record or play copy-protected (DRM) content from my cable TV company. They often set the Copy-Once flag on the transmission, which allows playback of a copy only on the same machine on which the copy was recorded. That PC has to remain on Windows 7, the last operating system that came with Windows Media Center.
I also have a smaller PC running Windows 7 Home that I use as an extension of the HTPC. Similarly, it has to remain Win7.
I built my main desktop in anticipation of Windows 10. At the time, I intended to upgrade it from Windows 7 Ultimate to Windows 10 Professional. However, I often use Windows Media Center on it as a convenient way to watch recorded programs, as well as occasionally record using it. As above, it’s going to remain a Windows 7 computer because Windows Media Center is not available for Windows 10.
The Bottom Line:
Stay with Windows 7 if you have critical software (or hardware) that won’t run on Windows 10. Otherwise, make an image backup of your Windows 7 (or 8/8.1) boot drive, then upgrade to Windows 10. Once you’ve completed the upgrade, lock down the various privacy-related options to minimize the personal information sharing with Microsoft.