The press likes to focus on shiny new things and the shiny thing of the moment is Windows 10. It's not only new, it's free (if you already have Windows 7 or 8) and it has a bunch of new features. Who could resist? Hopefully, you. Jumping on the Windows 10 bandwagon, now, would be a mistake.
The most obvious reason is that the system will ship with a ton of bugs. Not to pick on Microsoft or Windows specifically, all major releases of an operating system are buggy as heck when they are first released. If you want to test out the new features on a system devoted to testing, fine. But the Defensive Computing thing to do is to avoid any new OS for quite a while. Let others be the guinea pigs.
On top of this, I get the distinct impression that Windows 10 is being rushed out the door, before it's fully baked.
For one thing, the July 29th release date was picked before anyone could have had a feel for when the system might really be ready. Chances are the date was chosen so that Windows 10 machines could be available everywhere in time for the back to school season.
Another hint comes from the frequent beta releases this month. If the system was really ready for prime time, it would not need to be updated so often.
A couple days ago, Preston Gralla noted how much the system has changed recently, writing that "This shipping version ... is much improved over the last time I reviewed it in late May." Neil McAllister wrote "A number of nagging bugs have cropped up in the last few days that have some Windows 10 testers scratching their heads at just how an OS this raw can be considered production-ready." Elsewhere in his article he referred to Windows 10 as "hastily assembled".
It seems Microsoft is rushing so much they can't even tell us what the latest changes are. Gregg Keizer wrote that
In the last seven days, Microsoft has pushed four security updates to build 10240 ... Three of the four ... offered identical descriptions of their contents ... All three also included the phrase, "Additionally, this update includes non-security-related changes to enhance the functionality of Windows 10 through new features and improvements.
Code now, document later.
Update: Just as I published this, Peter Bright at Ars Technica published Windows 10 is the best version yet - once the bugs get fixed where he says "In its current form, the operating system doesn't feel quite finished" and "... it's also buggier than Windows 8.1, 8, 7, or Vista were on their respective launch days."
If the bugs don't get you, perhaps software incompatibility will.
Some older software may not work with Windows 10.
For example, Office 2003 is incompatible with both Windows 8 and Windows 10.
Then too, newer software may not yet be compatible. The free version of Bitdefender Antivirus, for example, is not supported on Windows 10. Likewise, Shadow Protect Desktop, a high end disk imaging program, does not yet support Windows 10.
Or, Windows 10 may break some software.
Sean Hollister upgraded a couple machines to Windows 10 and, generally, liked the new system, but nonetheless had these problems:
- Two-finger scrolling on a touchpad did not work in the Chrome browser, but worked elsewhere
- Processing some RAW images in Photoshop, slowed the computer to a crawl
- Windows 10 did not recognize a network printer that Windows 8 had been using. It also failed to add the printer to the system in the normal way. He had to completely erase all the previous printer drivers and re-download them from the manufacturer.
- When he tries to print a webpage in Chrome, the tab crashes.
- Adobe Photoshop and Premiere will not run due to missing DLL files. Re-installing the two programs did not fix the problem
- A mouse had to be unplugged and replugged before it would work
All of this is to be expected. Upgraders can either take their chances on software incompatibility, do a ton of research ahead of time, or play it smart and avoid Windows 10 for the time being.
In "9 reasons not to upgrade to Windows 10 -- yet", Preston Gralla points out another issue, old peripherals. He refers to old printers and scanners as "the Achilles heel of most new operating systems".
Also inevitable in a major new Operating System release are some poor design choices.
A great example of this was User Account Control which was introduced in Windows Vista. While the concept was sound, the design was annoying. By the time Windows 7 was released, Microsoft wrote that "In Windows 7, UAC is now less intrusive and more flexible." Then too, there was the Charms bar introduced in Windows 8 and removed in Windows 10.
Windows 10 seems destined to be remembered for a couple UAC-like blunders: the forced installation of bug fixes and sharing WiFi passwords.
It's easy to understand why Microsoft wants to force the installation of bug fixes, but, I seriously doubt they are up to it. Far too many Windows patches have, themselves, caused problems.
Just recently we learned that Samsung was so sick of fighting with Windows Update that they just disabled it altogether. Sure, Samsung was wrong, but many techies feel their pain.
Woody Leonhard is my preferred source for bugs in Windows bug fixes. As of a couple weeks ago, he had counted 40 problematic Windows patches so far this year. When the patches issued in May and June of this year caused no new problems, Leonhard considered it a cause for celebration.
And, while much has been written about the mandatory installation of bug fixes, no one has addressed my concern: when a bug fix causes the system to fail in such a way that it can't even start, what then? Microsoft needs a bootable rescue program that can back out patches and keep them out for a while. They just don't know it yet.
Windows 10 users would be well advised to get up to speed on the subject of disk image backups. Especially, if it's true that System Restore is disabled by default.
Personally, I have always treated Windows as something that could break at any moment. For that reason, I have never stored any of my data files in the C disk partition. This lets me restore the OS without clobbering my files. The My Documents folder has never held any of my documents.
Another new feature in Windows 10, sets out to solve, what can only be called a first world problem - asking someone you know for the password to their Wi-Fi network. Apparently, at least according to Microsoft, this is a burden that needs to be relieved.
The feature is called Wi-Fi Sense and it lets a Windows 10 user share a Wi-Fi password with up to three categories of social media connections. I expect to devote a blog to the subject in the near future, but for now, let me just say that it's a bad idea, and one that confirms how little Microsoft cares about security.
There are many things wrong with the design of Wi-Fi Sense, but I'll let one illustrate my point. Once you give your Wi-Fi password to a Windows10-using friend, there is no way for you to prevent said friend from sharing it with dozens and dozens of other people. Yes, your friend could share the password with paper and pencil too, but Wi-Fi Sense automates the process. One wrong checkbox click is all it takes to spread a Wi-Fi password far and wide.
Despite all the above, if Windows 10 offered increased protection from viruses and malware, it could still be a worthwhile upgrade. Windows is, by far, the most attacked Operating System and has spawned an entire industry of antivirus software.
Some will say Windows is attacked because its popular, and they are right. Others contend that it gets infected so often because it does a poor job of defending itself, and they are right too. So, an upgrade in self-defense seems way overdue.
And, it remains overdue. There is no need to sell your stock in Symantec, Kaspersky, BitDefender, F-Secure, McAfee, Eset, Avast, Avira, AVG or Panda.
One Windows 10 feature touted as improving security is Windows Hello which lets you logon by just showing your face or touching with a finger. It's not clear how this is a security feature rather than an ease-of-use thing. Microsoft says it " ... enables you to authenticate applications, enterprise content, and even certain online experiences without a password being stored on your device or in a network server at all." We'll see.
I give more credence to Martin Brinkmann who in a recent blog abut Essential Software for Windows 10, recommended installing
- Avira Antivir for antivirus
- Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit to mitigates exploit attack vectors
- Malwarebytes Anti-Malware as a second opinion scanner
- Microsoft EMET, which also does exploit mitigation
- Sandboxie for simple lightweight sandboxing of applications
This is the problem Microsoft needs to solve.
That said, Device Guard may turn out to be a very good security feature. We'll see.
While everyone is writing about new features in Windows 10, let me point out an old feature that did not change.
Windows Explorer may now be called File Explorer and sport a new interface, but it still hides the file type by default. That is, a file called hackmeplease.jpg.exe will still appear in File Explorer as hackmeplease.jpg. This is shameful.
Many have pointed out that a computer capable of running Windows 7 or 8, should also be able to run Windows 10. This glosses over some ugly details.
For example, for a computer to be able to run Windows 10, it needs a graphics card that supports DirectX 9 or later with a WDDM 1.0 driver. Got that? Don't know if your graphics card supports DirectX 9? Don't know what a WDDM driver is? To a large degree, you are on your own.
Microsoft had an Upgrade Assistant program to help people migrate to Windows 8 and 8.1, but good luck finding an equivalent for Windows 10.
Microsoft does have a tester program for Windows 10, but it's hidden. The Windows 10 System Requirements page says that if you are " ... running Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 Update, you can check to see if it meets the requirements by using ‘Check my PC’ in the Get Windows 10 app."
Here were go again. What is the Get Windows 10 app? It doesn't say. Fortunately Ed Bott fills us in on what is now called the Windows 10 compatibility checker.
But, what if you are running Windows XP or Vista? No compatibility checker for you.
And, that's just the minimum requirements. Paul Thurrott notes that "Some games and apps might require DirectX 10 or higher for optimal performance." How do you test for DirectX version 10? Paul doesn't say.
As a rule, the smart thing for Windows 7 users to do, is nothing.
Windows XP or Vista users are probably better off buying a new computer rather than upgrading their old one.
Windows 8 users interested in Windows 10 should probably upgrade in June or July of 2016. This lets Windows 10 mature a bit while still being offered for free.
As with any OS upgrade, it's best to make a disk image backup beforehand. But not just any image backup, one that includes the hidden partitions too, as well as the first tack of the hard drive, the one with the MBR.
With all the talk about new features, let's not to lose sight of the big picture.
An operating system is the fishbowl. No one cares about the bowl, people care about the fish.
If an older version of Windows runs the applications you need or care about, then the smart thing to do is nothing (as long as the OS is still supported).
Eventually, there will be apps that people want or need that only run in Windows 10. I suspect that day is far away.
Update: July 30, 2015. Great quote from Windows expert Susan Bradley "... you should wait to install Win10 on your primary or production PCs ... Let tech writers and equally insane Windows users install Win10 first and report what they find."