Windows 10: Don't Panic

(this post is dated My 2016 and is mostly no longer relevant. It's here for historical purposes only)

Windows 10: shouldn't I or shouldn't I?

The short answer is: yes, but only because Microsoft wants you to.

The right answer is: it depends (skip to the end for more info on this).

"But it's free!". It still depends.

"But time is running out!". It still depends.

Microsoft don't want you using an older operating system, even if the old one works better than the new one.

Your operating system (OS) underpins everything your computer does. Without it, your computer is useless. Also, if your OS doesn't work properly, your computer won't work properly. Upgrading an application, such as Photoshop, to the latest version often makes sense because it introduces new features and often can improve performance and increase stability. Equally, upgrades can introduce new problems or worsen performance, especially if your computer is older than 5 years. In this situation, rolling back to the old version is usually trivial. Rolling back an OS is usually complicated.

So before upgrading your OS, you should always make sure it's the right one for your computer. Microsoft don't really care, so who's going to tell you whether it is or not? You won't get the answer from friends and family because some will say it's great, some will say it's a nightmare and some might think you're talking about double glazing. The only real way to get the answer is to find someone else with the same model computer as you who has upgraded and ask them how it went. Either that or suck it and see.

The box pictured above is the one people are currently seeing. All seems good, right? Microsoft have been roundly mocked by the Internet community for having to reassure people that their files will be right where they left them. The most important tick, however, is the one about this PC being 'compatible'. This is not a full check so, if there are compatibility problems with your computer and Windows 10, you won't find out about it until it's too late.

Around this time last year, people on Windows 7 and 8 started getting invitations to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. In the last month or so, these have become more insistent because the window for a free upgrade is closing soon. Microsoft are hoping this will pressure the last few adopters into a decision. I took the plunge last year, but not on my main computer. I installed it on the computer the kids use because, if it didn't work for a few days or a week, no big deal. Most people can't do without their main computer for that long, especially if they're running a business from it. After being generally impressed with the upgrade on that computer and seeing many improvements over Windows 8, I decided to upgrade my main laptop.

The problems began almost immediately. I couldn't create extra accounts for other users to log in, some of my software didn't work but, most annoyingly, WiFi didn't work. I had to plug in a separate USB dongle to get it working. I struggled on with these problems for a while because I don't mind doing that and because I think I will eventually fix them. Recently, further problems made me change my mind and admit that some of these problems can't be fixed. So I went back to Windows 8.1. And that took days to do.

The bottom line is, never take an operating system upgrade lightly. It used to be a significant effort to do such a thing - you would need to install from a DVD or CD and the whole process required some degree of conviction to actually get started. Now, it only takes one click, so it feels trivial.

It's not.

Also, while it may be free at the moment, if it goes wrong or if your computer isn't actually compatible, it will probably cost you money to fix. The old adage is true: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. 

So for a longer answer to your question (and if you are currently using Windows 7 or 8):

- If your computer is working fine, don't upgrade. You current Windows version will continue to receive minor updates for a few years yet.

- If your computer isn't working fine, an upgrade won't necessarily fix the problem and could make it worse. Try to fix the existing problem - if upgrading is a solution to that problem, go ahead.

- If you need to use a new piece of technology or software not supported by your current computer (such as games using DirectX 11), you will have to upgrade Windows to use it. You will probably have to upgrade your whole computer anyway in most cases.

- If you want to give it a go and don't really care about having a partially working computer, go ahead. There are lots of guides on the Web to help you upgrade (and fix it if it goes wrong). Just backup your data first.

If you have any specific questions about this topic, please feel free to leave a comment below and I'll do my best to give a helpful answer.