I never owned Windows 8. Used it? Of course – Digital Trends received countless Windows 8 and 8.1 systems over the past two years. But I never upgraded my personal desktop to the operating system because, like many, I deeply disliked the new interface.
Windows 10 fixes its predecessor’s problem, but users are notoriously stubborn. Some remain convinced that XP is the superior version, despite its many problems and security issues, and Windows 7 seems set to gather a similar, cultish following.
There will always be backwards-thinking users, of course. Change of any sort can seem threatening. But that doesn’t mean you should join an ill-informed mob. Windows 10 can win over the most dedicated devotee of 7, if given the chance – and the reasons extend far beyond the revived Start Menu.
Multi-tasking, no longer a task
Using a desktop with Windows 8 sucks. It works, in the sense that everything a user needs to accomplish can be, but nothing about it is quicker or more intuitive than Windows 7.
Windows 10, though, moves the desktop forward in a number of ways. The most important is Task View, which is a refreshing blend of new features and old functionality. It’s available through a Taskbar button, partially through Alt-Tab, or fully through the revamped Windows+Tab shortcut. Task View provides full thumbnail previews of all open apps and can be used to manage multiple virtual desktops. It is, quite simply, the most powerful default desktop management function in any modern operating system, and you’d have to be crazy to miss it.
But it gets better. Task View works with Aero Snap. When you Snap a window into place, the other portion of them monitor, if unoccupied by a Snapped window, shows Task View so you can select what the place there (you can also select nothing, and dismiss it). But wait, there’s more! Snap can now divide the windows evenly between two halves of the display or into four quarters, with a window in each corner. And Snap now works with multiple monitors, too.
If you’re a desktop enthusiast this information should be enough to make you salivate. Multi-tasking is core to the experience, and Windows 10 makes does it better than Windows 7 – or even Mac OS X, for that matter. Start Menu? Fah! Task View is the true star of Microsoft’s new OS.
Lead, don’t follow
While the interface of Windows 10 is better than 7, stubborn users may simply not care. Those most reluctant to upgrade often find solace in the familiar, even if the familiar is worse than what’s new.
That attitude, when it applied to the PC, is difficult and potentially dangerous. Its many improvements aside, Windows 10 is important because it represents a particularly strong argument against such old-fashioned thinking. It supports progress by removing the barrier to entry (primarily, the cost) while increasing the pace of new updates. Microsoft has been steering away from large, monolithic updates since Windows XP, and Windows 10 completes that slow transition.
This of course has security implications. Windows 7 will continue to be updated for some time, but it will never have all the features of Windows 10, such as Windows Hello, Trust apps and multi-factor authentication capability baked into the OS. But there’s more to it than that. Windows 10 offers DirectX 12, OneDrive integration, Xbox game streaming, and voice-activated search, among other things.
These are features that Windows 7 does not have and, in most cases, cannot replicate – certainly, not for free. Sticking with the older operating will leave you in a familiar environment, but it also will mean missing out on handy, all-new extras that improve performance, reliability and convenience. You can be on the leading edge, and among the first to experience what’s great in computing. Or you can stick with what’s old, and then complain that PCs have become dull.
Don’t be afraid of progress
I’m sure some will object that even if all this is true, an upgrade is inherently risky. What will still work? What won’t? What if I install Windows 10, and my PC doesn’t boot?
These concerns, though understandable, shouldn’t keep you stuck on an aging OS. Microsoft has improved the installation experience with every versions of Windows, and with 10 it’s nearly bullet-proof. Even if the install fails, you can roll back to a previous version of Windows, or reset your PC to squash problems while retaining your personal files.
There’s always a chance something will go wrong, but it’s incredibly unlikely. Don’t let fear of what’s new keep you from using what’s best. And remember — the free upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10 is only available for a year.