On July 29th, Microsoft will release the most significant overhaul of its operating system in years when it launches the long-awaited Windows 10.
You probably have some questions. So we’ve prepared some answers.
What’s new and cool about Windows 10?
Windows 10 comes with lots of nifty new features: The Cortana digital assistant takes the best parts of Apple’s Siri and Google Now and adds a little more attitude; the new Windows Store promises apps that work exactly the same on your Windows 10 PC as on your Windows 10 tablet. Plus, the new Microsoft Edge Web browser has cool new features (like being able to scribble notes directly on a webpage), and it’s performing better than Google Chrome in some early benchmark tests.
Should I bother with the upgrade to Windows 10? Windows 8.1 was pretty bad.
So far, Windows 10 seems pretty solid.
Microsoft has made a free preview edition available to those brave enough to test early versions of the software, with a program called Windows Insider.
And even in that early form, there’s been a lot to love. At first blush, Windows 10 takes the best parts of Windows 7 (stability, user friendliness) and Windows 8.1 (touchscreen-friendliness) and combines it into something that’s easy to use, both on computers and tablets. It’s familiar, but fresh.
Microsoft is billing this as “The Last Version of Windows,” and promises that it will get new features and upgrades on a rolling basis rather than ever releasing a Windows 11 (or 12, or 13).
How much will it cost me to upgrade my Windows 7 or 8 PC?
Nothing. For the next year, any Windows 7 or 8/8.1 computer, tablet, and smartphone gets a free Windows 10 upgrade. Microsoft has big plans for Windows 10, but first it needs to have everybody on the same operating system, so it’s willing to take the financial hit.
Which version of Windows 10 will I get for free?
Check out this handy chart:
Can my PC or tablet handle an upgrade to Windows 10?
Microsoft says the basic system requirements to run its new OS are: 1 GHz or faster processor or SoC; 1 GB RAM (for 32-bit version), 2GB RAM (for 64 bit-version); 16 GB hard drive (for 32-bit version), 20 GB hard drive (for 64-bit version); a Directx 9 or later graphics card with WDDM 1.0 driver; 800×600 display.
Most PCs will probably meet these requirements — and the Get Windows 10 app that you probably already have on your computer will tell you for sure.
Cool. So I can get Windows 10 on July 29th?
On July 29th, the first batch of computers with Windows 10 preinstalled will be available for sale. There won’t initially be many of those computers available though, as a lot of PC manufacturers are holding back their new models until the back-to-school shopping or holiday seasons.
What if I don’t want to buy a new computer?
Microsoft is making Windows 10 available for download, starting on July 29th.
So I can download Windows 10 on July 29th?
Sort of. Again.
First, it will go out to the members of the Windows Insider program, to thank them for their service in testing the operating system. Then, it will go out to one group of users at a time over the next few weeks, starting on July 29th — Microsoft doesn’t want to risk a tidal wave of Windows 10 downloads taking its servers down.
You might have already signed up to get in line for the download. Microsoft has been bugging Windows users about the upgrade for the last month or so, via a “Get Windows 10” app in your system tray. That same app will check your computer for compatibility with Windows 10.
What if I don’t want to download Windows 10?
You have two choices: A boxed copy, or a copy that lives on a USB flash drive. Either way, it will run you $US119.99 for Windows 10 Home Edition, and $US199.99 for Windows 10 Pro Edition.
The big catch here is that neither version will be released in stores until August 30th, 2015, according to the Amazon product listing.
So if I absolutely need to make sure I have Windows 10 on July 29th, I have to buy a new computer?
If I upgrade my existing computer to Windows 10, will I lose my files?
Nope. The actual download and install process is handled through Windows Update, so Windows 10 will still have everything once the process is complete. The only catch is that you’ll lose some programs like Windows Media Center, which doesn’t have a Windows 10 version.
Is Microsoft doing anything special for the Windows 10 launch?
Well, it’s not going to be the mass-market advertising and media blitz of the Windows 95 launch 20 years ago, but Microsoft Stores are having special events all around the country. So if, say, you live in New York and don’t have plans on July 29th, you can meet World Cup soccer champion Abby Wambach at the Garden City Microsoft Store.
Just don’t expect any iPhone-style overnight lines.
What if I have a problem with Windows 10 and need some tech support?
“As with any significant release, we evaluate customer resources and have invested in upgrade support from a variety of resources including Microsoft Answer Desk, Windows.com and support.microsoft.com,” says a Microsoft spokesperson.
Plus, those same Microsoft Stores are getting “Answer Desks,” where you can bring in your Windows 10 computer and have them answer questions for you. They will even help you install it.
Great. So what’s the catch?
Windows 10 is still very new, so let the buyer beware. Those early testers have already caught lots of flaws and bugs, but there’s going to be some weirdness early on as Microsoft works to patch up the platform. The new Microsoft Edge browser that comes with Windows 10 won’t support browser extensions right away, for example.
If you’re really concerned, maybe take some time before the upgrade.