By Darryl Budge
Windows 10 is a delightful free upgrade
Windows 10 is what Windows 8 should have been and has smartly mixed in some good features of Apple OS X to keep up with the competition.
If your PC is fully updated to Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1, Microsoft has made Windows 10 desirable by offering a direct upgrade for free via Windows Update "for a limited time" until mid-2016. Thereafter it will be $150 for Home or $260 for Pro.
Get instructions on how to upgrade at Microsoft.com/Windows.
Will you like it? Here is what is new:
NEW START MENU: For desktop users the Windows 10 start menu now looks like the old Windows 7 start menu, but with resizable live tiles added, which function like the Windows 8 Start Screen tiles. Turning off your PC is 1-2 clicks as per Windows 7. Right-click on Start for the 'power user menu'.
Cortana universal search with the microphone button at bottom right
'CORTANA' SEARCH: Cortana is a 'smart' assistant (like Google Now or Siri on iOS), which sits on the taskbar next to the new Start Menu. Using your voice or keyboard you can input any action, question or search query. It is still faster to find a file on your PC via Start menu search box. Cortana is also on Windows 10 Mobile for phones, and on Windows 10 tablets.
UNIVERSAL APPS: On the new Windows App store, there are desktop apps and new 'Universal Apps' that will simultaneously install on your desktop, mobile or tablet if it has Windows 10. At last Windows Store apps will float on your desktop rather than take up the whole screen.
TASK VIEW (APP SWITCHER): Hit Windows Key + Tab, or tap on the 'Task View' taskbar button, where you can switch apps and virtual desktops, or 'Add a desktop'. This is just like the OS X app switcher, plus 'Snap Assist' that can tile up to four apps. Alt+Tab switches between apps on your current (virtual) desktop.
ACTIONS CENTRE: Click on the 'speech bubble' icon in the system tray to bring up a list of Notifications (emails, appointments, system maintenance, etc.), plus Quick Actions for common tasks like Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other settings. The clunky Windows 8 Charms menu is gone.
WHAT IS MISSING? Removed features include Windows Media Centre, Windows 7 Desktop Gadgets and Microsoft Hearts (Solitaire and Minesweeper were moved to the Windows Store). Windows RT devices cannot be upgraded.
Windows 10 "Edge" browser has faster page rendering, extensions like Google Chrome, plus touch-based highlighting and annotation to share with contacts
You will need to install separate DVD and Blu-ray playback software, like the software included with your disc player, or free software like VLC Player (videolan.org), MPC-HC, or PotPlayer (for Blu-ray).
Windows 10 Home will not be able to turn off automatic important Windows Update patches. If you have Windows 7 Pro or Windows 8 Pro, you will be upgraded to Windows 10 Pro which will have this option. To upgrade from Win 10 Home to Pro is a $130 "Pro Pack" purchase via the Windows Store.
DO YOU HAVE XP OR VISTA? I would not recommend XP or Vista owners buy Windows 10 until they are forced to buy a new PC that has it pre-installed. Otherwise, try picking up an old Windows 7 or 8 license and install media, then get the free direct upgrade to Windows 10. The spec requirements are almost the same as Windows 8 or 8.1, so check your PC can run Windows 10 via the 'Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant' (do a web search). For good performance you will need a PC under five years old with a dual-core 64 bit processor and 2GB RAM.