Windows 10 is out! Here’s a list of things you should know before upgrading

Microsoft’s newest, boldest (and apparently last) version of their long-running Windows OS, Windows 10, launched today and many people have already begun upgrading. With so many fresh installs going on and so many grappling yet again with a new OS, we thought we’d try to explain a few of the basics and make the transition a little easier.

Is Windows 10 out right now? Technically yes. The big Windows 10 roll-out began in earnest this morning so if you happened to click that “reserve” button early on, chances are you’ll be downloading the upgrade very soon (if you haven’t already). Once that happens, the little Windows logo in your task bar will let you know the upgrade is ready to rock and roll whenever you’re ready. You can find more information on this process over at the official Windows 10 page.

It’s free, right? Almost definitely. If you’re running a desktop computer or laptop with an actual, legitimate, non-pirated copy of Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 then you can upgrade to Windows 10 at any time within the next twelve months for free (those still running XP or Vista will need to buy the OS and install it the old fashioned way, sorry). There’s nothing to pay later on, either. When Microsoft say free they actually mean it on this one.  You’ll never have to pay for updates and there are no hidden costs involved.

Cool, so what do I have to do to get it? As long as your desktop/laptop computer is running an updated, activated and legitimate copy of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or Windows 8.1 then you’ll notice a little Windows icon in the bottom right corner of your screen. That icon is your invitation to reserve a free upgrade to Windows 10 so go ahead and click on it. It will show you how to reserve your upgrade. When the upgrade is ready (could be hours, could be a day or two) it will let you know.

Wait. Windows 10? What the hell happened to Windows 9? Microsoft decided that Windows 10 was such a quantum leap forward from the universally reviled user experience of Windows 8 that they skipped an entire version number and went straight to 10. Thus, there’s no such thing as Windows 9. Yeah, we think its a bit silly too. Spare a thought for retail staff who’ll have to explain the naming discrepancy over and over.

I’m a luddite/don’t have fast internet and would prefer/am forced to buy a disc version. Can I do that? Absolutely. There are – get this – seven different versions of Windows 10 out there but (thankfully) as an everyday user, you’ll only need to pay attention to two of them. You’ve got Windows 10 Home which is your standard edition and comes with all the most useful features (Cortana, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Edge browser, Windows Store access and so forth), and Windows 10 Pro which aimed at businesses, experienced users and the like (it can run Remote Desktop, supports up to a whopping 512GB RAM, has Windows Update for Business and on it goes).

What if I don’t want to mess around. Can I just go out and buy a computer with Windows 10 on it? You can do that right now if you want. Head down to your nearest JB Hifi or Dick Smith or any other retailer that sells computers and they will have demo models running Windows 10 on the shelves for you to check out. That’s the fast track for people who don’t want to mess around with upgrades – just go in, buy the computer and you’re done. Windows 10 is already on board. They’ll be clearing out the Windows 8.1 machines so you might be able to snag a significant discount on one of those AND you’ll still be able to claim your free upgrade to Windows 10. Cheap computer AND you never have to use Windows 8.1? That’s a good deal if ever I heard one.

I’m an Australian user. Can Cortana come out and play? Not yet. As often happens with these things, we in Australia aren’t one of the areas that the Windows 10 version of Cortana will be launching in. We’ll have to wait a little longer before we can use the Halo-inspired digital assistant. Once we do get that upgrade, Cortana will be able to take notes for you, set reminders and search the internet for you all via voice command. For now, only users in the US, UK, China, France, Italy, Germany and Spain will be able to use Cortana. If you’re part of the Windows 10 Insider program (like a beta tester, for the uninitiated) then according to Microsoft, Cortana will be added to upcoming builds within the next month or so so keep an eye out for that.

What if I hate it? Can I go back to the version of Windows I had before? Thankfully, yes you can. Windows 8 wouldn’t let you do this very easily and it seems Microsoft learned their lesson this time around. There are a couple of ways you can roll your system back to an older version of Windows if your experience with Windows 10 doesn’t take your fancy. The easiest way is to make a complete backup of your system before you install the Windows 10 upgrade. Use a reliable backup program like Acronis True Image or Genie Backup Manager 9.0. This will allow you to try out the new OS without worrying you’re going to get stuck with it if you don’t like it. Otherwise, Windows 10 comes with a feature that will let you roll the install back to your old version of Windows – be it 7 or 8.1 – for a month once you’ve run the Windows 10 upgrade.


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David Smith

David Smith is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. He has previously written for PC World Australia. You can find him on Twitter at @RhunWords.

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