Microsoft announced this morning that they will release Windows 10 to PCs and tablets on July 29, 2015. For those users running Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1, you can reserve your free upgrade now. For users running one of those operating systems, you should soon see a notification in your system tray prompting you to reserve your upgrade. Once you reserve your upgrade, Windows 10 will automatically download when it is available. There is no obligation to install and you can cancel at any time if you change your mind before the upgrade. You should take advantage of this offer now, though, as Windows 10 will only be a free upgrade for the first year. You can read more about the reservation process on the Windows 10 site.
You can even ask Cortana when Microsoft will release Windows 10.
Figure 1: Cortana tells you that Windows 10 is available on July 29th.
Try Windows 10 now
Now is a great time to start trying out Windows 10 with your PC or tablet if you never have before. Microsoft has been releasing pre-release builds of Windows 10 since fall 2014 to members of its Windows Insider Program. This program is free to join and it has been giving members a taste of the progress that Microsoft has made. Over 4 million people have joined this program and provided feedback to Microsoft. Each time Microsoft releases a build we see changes based upon the feedback that the Windows Insiders have provided.
Microsoft releases Windows 10 builds in two rings that they call fast and slow. The fast ring has the latest and greatest features as they come out but comes with the chance that things may be less stable. The slow ring has been tested more but doesn’t have the latest changes. If you have never installed Windows 10 before, you will get the latest slow ring build first (10074) which came out in April. The current fast ring build is now 10130.
If you have never installed Windows 10 before, you need to join the Windows Insider Program. Joining is quick and easy. Once you join, you can download the installer to get started upgrading your Windows 8.1, Windows 8, or Windows 7 PC. You should be able to upgrade and your programs and files should be in tact after the upgrade. As always, backup your files before proceeding though. Be sure and read the Before you install post as well so you know exactly what to expect.
If you are trying Windows 10 out for the first time, I recommend installing build 10074 and then immediately upgrading to build 10130. Although build 10130 just came out last Friday (May 29, 2015), I find that the last few builds are significantly more stable than the ones from April (the slow ring build). You have to install the slow ring build first because the fast ring build is only available to users running previous versions of Windows 10. If the thought of installing two builds back-to-back scares you. You can always hold off a few days because the blog post suggests that Microsoft may release build 10130 to the slow ring and they will release ISOs for it.
What to expect
Windows 10 comes with many new features, but it won’t be a total shock to you like Windows 8 was to previous users of Windows. Things will seem different but familiar all at the same time. While using the Start menu, searching, and selecting a wireless network all have different interfaces, everything is exactly where you expect it. This will allow you to be productive right away.
After you log in the first time, you’ll notice that the Start menu is back but it has been updated to include the icons you loved from Windows 7 along with live tiles in Windows 8. Microsoft has made adjustments to the Start menu in every single build of Windows 10 based on user feedback.
Figure 2: A look at the new start menu in Windows 10 build 10130.
Tablet mode (Continuum)
Tablet mode (formerly known as “Continuum”) allows hybrid devices like the Surface Pro 3 to seamlessly adapt between desktop and tablet mode. When you disconnect your keyboard (or fold it backward), Windows 10 detects this and prompts you to enter Tablet mode. When you enter Tablet mode, your apps are automatically put into full screen mode (even desktop apps). This includes the removal of the toolbar. For those familiar with gestures from Windows 8.1, you can swipe down to bring up the context menu in this mode. You can also drag the app down off the screen to close it.
Windows 10 comes with a new browser called Edge (code name: Project Spartan) designed to be lightweight and fast. The browser is still new and you may run into a problem or two with it on sites, but I find it already runs pretty well. Internet Explorer is still available for legacy purposes too. Edge comes with some interesting new features such as being able to take notes on top of web pages. The Reading View feature is amazing and allows you to read articles while stripping out all of the navigation and advertising on a page. It’s truly impressive. See my article on Edge to read more about these new features. Note: Edge is still referred to as Project Spartan in all available builds at this time.
Figure 3: Microsoft Edge Browser in Windows 10 build 10130.
If you are one of the few people left that have a Windows Phone like me, you are already familiar with Cortana. Cortana is a personal digital assistant that can remind you of things, show you news in your area and prompt you when to leave to make it to your next appointment. Cortana is going to be available on Android and IOS soon as well so you’ll be able to take advantage of these services regardless of what device you use.
Figure 4: Cortana shows you the latest news in Windows 10.
Microsoft Office Preview, Mail, Calendar & People
Another benefit of running the preview of Windows 10 is that you can load the Universal App previews of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The next version of Microsoft Office is being released as both desktop applications—full-blown clients akin to previous versions of Office—and Universal Apps, which have been built from the ground up to provide a modern, touch-friendly experience across Windows 10, iOS and Android devices.
The preview versions of Office have also come a very long way over recent months. You can install Office Preview from the beta version of the Store (with the blue, not the green, icon). You can install them side-by-side with the desktop versions of Office.
The new versions of the Mail, Calendar, and People apps are also greatly improved. They were built by the Outlook teams at Microsoft. The Windows 8 versions were written by the Windows teams.
Issues to expect
If you are installing a preview operating system, you should expect to see some issues. The good thing is that builds are coming out almost every 10 days now so if you find an issue now, it might not be for long. If you are the type of user that can’t deal with an issue here or there, then Windows 10 Preview is not yet ready for you.
From the blog post, they mentioned three known issues:
- The Mail app may crash and not sync. In this case, we are talking about the built-in Mail app and not Outlook 2013 (or 2016). This is actually not a new issue and it has been doing this since they released the new look.
- Flyouts from the Taskbar (including Start, Cortana, Network, Battery, and Action Center) don’t work at times. I’ve already hit this one a few times. Usually if you just click enough times, it will start to work. I’ve also seen this issue in previous builds.
- Wi-Fi connectivity may fail at times. A reboot is required. I haven’t run into this one yet.
In previous builds, I have experienced most of my problems when docking and undocking my Surface Pro 3. This seems to be getting better though; but don’t be surprised if there are still issues.
I’ve also run into an issue, reported by other users of this build, that you must sign-in using a password; PIN and “picture password” sign-in options are not available.
Should you upgrade now?
If you are an IT professional and need to know what’s coming, I would highly consider it. Microsoft still recommends you don’t install this on your default “production” device that you use day-to-day. However, many of us risk takers have been doing just that since the beginning. If you do decide to proceed with the install, you can get it by joining the Windows Insider Program. Be sure to read the Before you Install link and have backed up your data or have it in the cloud somewhere. You never know when you might run into an issue.