- The Start Menu is back and it’s better than ever
- A significant upgrade over Windows 7 and Windows 8
- Fixes the broken desktop experience of Windows 8
- Cortana is powerful and useful
- Tablet experience still has problems
- Regular nagging to use Microsoft account
- Mail and Calendar apps not available without Microsoft account
Update: 05/08/15: Added extra info in FAQ covering how to downgrade back to Windows7/8 and how to enhance privacy in Windows 10.
Update, 03/08/15: New sections added to FAQ on changing default program settings and how to stream Xbox One games to your Windows 10 PC or tablet.
Update, 30/07/15: We've added more info the FAQ below on how to get Windows 10 now for people how have had problems with the Windows Update process.
What is Windows 10?
Windows 10 is the most important product Microsoft has released in years. It’s Microsoft’s attempt to persuade PC users who didn’t fancy the much maligned Windows 8 to finally upgrade from Windows 7, or even earlier versions. If Windows 10 isn’t a success then Microsoft has much bigger problems than its flagging fortunes in mobile.
Thankfully, Microsoft has learnt from past mistakes. It’s listened and responded to complaints about the Start Screen in Windows 8 by reintroducing the Start button and menu, and added features such as Virtual Desktops that power users have demanded for years. There’s something for everyone in Windows 10.
Watch – A quick guide to what's new in Windows 10
But the most important detail about Windows 10 is this – it’s free. It’s only free to Windows 7 and Windows 8 users, and it’s only free if you upgrade in the first year, but most people will be able to get Windows 10 at no cost – read our guide to the Windows 10 free upgrade for more info.
This makes the choice of whether to upgrade to Windows 10 much simpler than if it cost £100 or so for everyone – that’s the price for Vista and XP upgraders. As it is, we can say confidently that there’s little reason not to upgrade to Windows 10. We can’t admit to loving Windows 10, which is telling, but it’s more lovable than Windows 8 ever was.
Over the next few pages we’ll look at the key new features of the operating system, guide you through the experience on desktop PCs, laptops and touchscreen devices, and explain how Microsoft wants Windows 10 to bind all your devices together.
We’ve split the review into broad sections – it’s up to you whether you read from start to finish or jump to a specific section in which you’re most interested. You can use the review contents below to do just that, and we’ve also included links to other features that help explain what’s new in Windows 10.
Windows 10 Review Contents
Part 1 – Introducing the New Desktop, Start Menu and Cortana – In this section we explore the new desktop, the return of the Start Menu and the introduction of Cortana.
Part 2 – Using Windows 10 on PCs and Laptops – Not everyone wants a tablet or a hybrid, so what is Windows 10 like to use if you mainly use a traditional desktop PC or laptop?
Part 3 – Using Windows 10 on Hybrids and Tablets – Windows 10 has to work on a huge variety of devices, none more demanding than tablets and hybrids.
Part 4 – Microsoft Edge, Mail and Native Apps – You probably spend most of your life either browsing the web or sending emails. Windows 10 introduces new apps for both, but are they any good?
Part 5 – Gaming on Windows 10 – How will Windows 10 change gaming on PC and Xbox One? Quite a lot, actually.
Part 6 – Stability, Performance and Verdict – Is Windows 10 ready for you to upgrade to now?
Windows 10 FAQ
If you know nothing about Windows 10, here are a few common questions before you read the rest of our review. You can also read our Windows 10 tips, tricks and tweaks guide for more help using Windows 10.
Can I get Windows 10 for free?
Anyone with Windows 7 or Windows 8 can get Windows 10 for free if they upgrade in the first year. Windows XP and Vista users will have to pay £100 ($120) to upgrade. Read our Windows 10 Free Upgrade guide for more info on this.
How can I get Windows 10 right now?
Microsoft ran a 'Reserve' program for Windows 10, but the whole business was a little misleading. Many people who signed up are still waiting for their update, which is really annoying.
Thankfully, there's another way – you can download the ISO directly from Microsoft's website. Read our guide How to download and install Windows 10 right now to find out how.
Will all my stuff work?
Anything that works with Windows 7 or Windows 8 should work fine on Windows 10. If you're not sure, Microsoft has a 'Get Windows 10 app' that will check and make sure your device is compatible.
What's the difference between Windows 7/8 and Windows 10?
Windows 10 is a big upgrade over Windows 7 – it's faster and adds many new features, which you can read about in our full review. You can read our Windows 10 vs Windows 7 comparison for shorter summary. We have a similar guide that compares Windows 10 vs Windows 8.
Is my PC fast enough to run Windows 10?
Any Windows 7 or Windows 8 computer should run Windows 10 fine. Windows Vista users should be ok, too, but it's worth checking the Windows 10 System Requirements first before installing.
All my defaults have changed, how do I change them back?
One of the slightly annoying things Windows 10 does when you upgrade is change all your default programs back to Windows ones. So, for example, if you use Chrome or Firefox as your default browser then Windows 10 will set it to Edge when you install Windows 10.
This is the same for many programs, including your default video player and so on. Typing 'Default Programs' in the search box will get you to right place, or you can read our How to change the default browser on Windows 10 guide for a step-by-step guide – the same method should work for all kinds of programs.
I don't like Windows 10, how do I go back?
If you decide Windows 10 isn't for you yet then you do have the option of going back Windows 7 or Windows 8. To do so, go to Settings > Update & Security. Next, head to Recovery and you should see an option to Go Back to Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. This option is only available within the first month or upgrading, though. After that, you'll have to install that version of Windows anew.
Is Windows 10 spying on me and how can I stop it?
Spying is a strong word, but Windows 10 does include some features that could be deemed to be poor for privacy. To turn them off, first head to Settings > Privacy. Toggle all the settings here to off. Next, select Feedback & diagnostics from the menu on the left. Under Feedback Frequency, select 'Never'.
Next, turn off Cortana. To do so, tap on the Cortana search bar in the taskbar. Next, select the second icon down on the left and then go to Settings. From here you can toggle Cortana on and off.
I want to stream Xbox One games to my PC – how does it work?
It's a fairly simple process – you need to enable Xbox One streaming on your console, plug-in your Xbox controller into your PC or tablet and then run the Xbox app. Our How to stream Xbox One games to your Windows 10 PC guide explains it all in more detail, including how well it works with specific games.
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