Windows 10 review
By Adam Marshall
What new features does Windows 10 have, is it better than Windows 7 and 8 and – ultimately – should you download it on to your laptop? Find out in our Windows 10 review.
When Microsoft launched its latest operating system, it said that ‘Windows 10 will be our most comprehensive platform ever’. And it's certainly keen that PC owners download it to upgrade from Windows 7 and the much maligned Windows 8.
But is it actually any good? And should your laptop make the leap from your current Windows platform to the newest incarnation? Read on to discover the new features Windows 10 has to offer, its pros and cons and the Which? verdict on whether you should upgrade.
Read our expert Which? reviews of the best Windows 10 laptops.
|Pros||See what we think about Microsoft's latest design. Does the new interface improve on Windows 7 and 8? And are any of its new features actually worth having?|
|Cons||We've never used an operating system that we'd deem to be absolutely perfect. Find out what Windows 10's pitfalls are so you can avoid moving to a platform that would make your life more difficult.|
Whether you're using Windows 8 or 7, we'll tell you if it's worth you making the step up to Windows 10.
Windows 10 problems
Following the launch of Windows 10, we’ve received over 1,000 complaints from Which? members about the software. So if you do decide to install it, you may still witness some teething issues.
Among the problems reported are data deletion, non-syncing email accounts, painful slowdowns, software compatibility issues and malfunctioning peripherals.
If you're affected by these Windows woes, be sure to contact Microsoft customer services for free support – 0344-800-2400 by phone or https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb online.
What's new for Windows 10?
Since the release of Windows 8 and 8.1, Microsoft has received plenty of criticism from its customers. A common complaint was the unhappy marriage of a traditional desktop environment and a new-look ‘tile-based’ Start Screen that was aimed at touchscreen devices.
With Windows 10, the focus is back on desktop and laptop users who don’t have a touchscreen. As well as bringing back the Start button, it's introduced a number of other features.
The return of the Start menu
One of the most common complaints about Windows 8 was the fact that Microsoft had abandoned the classic desktop and Start menu that so many people were familiar with. With Windows 10, the Start menu is not only back, but it’s highly customisable.
Showing that Microsoft hasn’t entirely given up on Windows 8’s styling, the Windows 10 Start menu features Windows 8 tiles as well as a regular program and folder list. The tiles are adjustable and re-sizeable, and are intended to help if you’re selecting menu options on a touchscreen.
The menu supports live tiles that display up-to-date information – weather reports, headlines, or the number of emails in your inbox, for example.
Multiple desktops and task view
Multiple desktops are nothing new to computing, and they've been available for some time on Linux and Mac OS X. But this is the first time they've appeared in a version of Windows.
In Windows 10, you can simply add or remove new desktop environments, and open new programs or applications within them. This feature is accessible from any screen, including from within Windows Store apps, and the virtual desktops are displayed at the bottom of the screen. You can launch this multi-tasking view from a new ‘Task View’ button in the taskbar.
New app approach
In Windows 8.1, apps from the Windows Store took up the whole screen, which made multi-tasking difficult. In Windows 10, you can use apps from the Windows Store within the desktop environment alongside regular programs, and the apps no longer take up the entire screen if you don’t want them to. This is helped by the Snap Assist feature.
A new Snap Assist feature helps users decide where to put their apps on their screen by ‘snapping’ them to a corner. To snap an app, you click on the title bar and drag it to a corner of the screen. The quadrant will darken to show you've selected it, and you can release the mouse button to snap the app into that quarter of the screen. You can also snap left and right to make the app fill half of the screen as before.
One platform for all
Rather than creating a separate operating system for individual devices (PCs, laptops, tablets and phones), Microsoft has been determined to create a user experience that’s universal across all platforms. While Windows 10 may not look exactly the same as it does on a Windows smartphone in comparison to a desktop PC, it will feature much of the same functionality, applications and design language.
No matter what price, size or spec is right for you, we've got you covered with our expert laptop reviews.
How can I get Windows 10?
If your computer is using a legitimate copy of Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 (or any of their variants, such as 'Ultimate' or 'Professional') you can upgrade to Windows 10.
The update can be found in the bottom right hand corner of your desktop. A little white Windows icon should be there - just click on it and follow the instructions that will pop up guiding you through the installation.
If that icon is not there yet then don't worry - some manufacturers are taking longer to roll the update out than others, and some machines will be left later than others.
How much does Windows 10 cost?
Regardless of what derivation of Windows you currently use, upgrading to Windows 10 costs £99.99. That's for the regular Home edition, while Windows 10 Pro costs £189.99. If your PC is on its last legs, it may be more economical to buy a brand new computer – especially if you're not expecting to spend much on it. Take a look at the best laptops under £500.
Microsoft has said it intends for this to be the last 'new' Windows ever – from now on, Windows will simply continue pushing out updates, evolving Windows 10 bit by bit. Eventually, the number will be dropped from the name and it will be simply known as 'Windows'.
If you've heard that upgrading to Windows 10 is completely free, then we're afraid you've missed the boat. It was only free for the first year after release, which was 29 July 2015.
What if I still have Windows Vista?
The sun is setting on Windows Vista. Microsoft is stopping support in April 2017 and after that date users will no longer receive the essential security patches they need in order to use their computer safely. Without Microsoft security fixes (which are different to antivirus updates), you can’t safely go online with your computer.
Rather than spending £100 on Windows 10, it’s smarter just to buy a new PC. It’s unlikely an older computer will have the specifications needed to get the best out of Windows 10, or even to run it at all. Plus, the process will wipe your files and programs anyway, so you’d still need to restore these afterwards.
Look for deals in the run up to Christmas and January sales or pick one out from the best cheap laptops under £500.
What is the Windows 10 anniversary update?
On Windows 10's first birthday in July 2016, Microsoft released a slew of new features and functionality in addition to those mentioned above.
Among them were tweaks to the Start menu, improved Cortana, better battery controls and new colour themes. There were a few teething problems when the anniversary update was launched – ranging from faulty installation to software compatibility issues – and Microsoft appears to be slowly addressing these.
This kind of incremental upgrade to Windows 10 appears to be a sign of things to come. Microsoft has previously said that there won't be a Windows 11 in future, just updates and improvements to Windows 10.
What happened to Windows 9?
You may be confused as to where version 9 of Microsoft's operating system disappeared to. It didn't simply forget about it, commenting on the naming convention during its press launch: 'We know, based on the product that’s coming, and just how different our approach will be overall, it wouldn’t be right to call it Windows 9.'
We asked a Windows representative and they told us it was a combination of two things: they thought that Windows 8.1 was a big enough change from Windows 8 that it could be considered number nine in itself, and that Microsoft wanted to distance itself as far from the controversy of Windows 8 as possible.
Sold on Windows 10? Now take a look at our pick of the best Windows 10 laptops.