10 reasons you shouldn't upgrade to Windows 10

You may still be better off sticking with Win7 or Win8.1, given the wide range of ongoing Win10 trade-offs and shortcomings

10 reasons you shouldn’t upgrade to Windows 10

Why it might be wise to stick with Win7 or Win8.1

Many of you have thus far held off on upgrading to Windows 10, perhaps in part based on my advice from a year ago, when I originally listed 10 reasons you shouldn’t upgrade your Win 7/8.1 PC to Win10. Now, with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update in full swing, you might think that the conclusion has changed. It hasn’t.

Yes, some users on some machines will benefit from upgrading to Windows 10. For most of us who are primarily keyboard-and-mouse bound, though, the benefits are meager, and the annoyances substantial. Even with the Anniversary Update, Win 7 and 8.1 customers will lose key features if they upgrade. The fanciest new features won’t be of much use to anyone unless you buy a Microsoft Surface Pro 4 or later, or a Surface Book -- and if you buy one of those, you’re getting Windows 10 anyway.

As noted in my full review of Windows 10 Anniversary Update, many of the improvements in the latest version of Windows 10 simply don’t apply to typical Windows 7 or 8.1 users.

In this slideshow, I step you through the main reasons why you may, legitimately and without a tinfoil hat, want to stick with Windows 7 or Windows 8. There are powerful arguments in the direction of staying put.

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10. Many new features won’t work on your machine

10. Many new features won’t work on your machine

Do new features in Anniversary Update have you pumped to see your machine kick serious Win10 butt? Hold your horses. They aren’t as rosy as they seem.

Windows Ink, for example, works with any computer, but it’s not much more than a tinker toy unless you have a sophisticated stylus and sensitive screen. Surface Pro 4 and Surface Books work great with Ink, but most other computers don’t. Unless you’ve put substantial money into a stylus-savvy setup, you’re bound to end up in Etch-a-Sketch mode.

Windows Hello? Hellllllll – low. Again, Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book machines can scan your mug and log you on, but the list of other Hello-savvy computers is not impressive, and the list of Hello-capable third-party cameras is nearly nonexistent (other than expensive developer kits from Intel). Hello also works with fingerprint scanners, but only specific makes and models. Hello’s iris scan? You probably need a custom eyeball.

If you want to take advantage of the fancy new features, you need a fancy new computer -- and it’ll come with Windows 10 anyway, whether you want it or not.

9. Cortana’s losing the race with Google Now, Siri, and Alexa

9. Cortana’s losing the race with Google Now, Siri, and Alexa

Cortana’s getting a little more adept with the Anniversary Update, but that ability to add photos to reminders isn’t exactly earth-shattering. The ability to scan handwritten sticky notes and add them to Calendar is OK -- if you handwrite sticky notes on your computer.

On the other hand, Cortana doesn’t even come close to Google Now -- or Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa -- in the things I want to do with a voice-enabled computer. To a first approximation, I want to use voice input to streamline Google (er, Bing) searches. To a second approximation, I’d like a voice-activated “assistant” to transcribe my voice input into SMSes, messages, notes, and typed pages. Google’s very good at the former and so-so at the latter. Cortana can tell me the weather or a joke, but everything else is convoluted. All it takes is a few minutes to compare Cortana with an Android phone (or the voice input in Google Chrome) and you’ll see what I mean.

New with the Anniversary Update, Cortana is turned on by default, and there’s no longer a single off switch. You have to stifle her bit by bit, by cutting off specific features.

8. Privacy concerns are getting worse, not better

8. Privacy concerns are getting worse, not better

Privacy was, and continues to be, a major concern for Windows 10 customers -- particularly for those who aren’t connected to a corporate network. Microsoft has published a metric ton of web pages about its privacy policies and procedures. What they haven’t published is a simple list of the data they collect as part of their ongoing “telemetry” efforts.

To be fair, Google doesn’t publish such a list -- nor does Apple, or any other major operating system manufacturer. We have no idea what data Microsoft’s collecting because it’s all encrypted before it’s sent -- which is exactly what you should expect. While Apple is making noises about protecting privacy using a technique called Differential Privacy -- the jury’s still out on how that will work in practice -- and Google and Facebook unabashedly scarf up all the data they can, many feel that Windows should be held to a higher standard.

It’s become fashionable among industry observers to dismiss privacy concerns in Windows 10 as a nonissue. In fact, it’s a big issue -- and it’s only going to get more attention as Win10 proliferates. The French are formally looking at Win10’s wayward ways. That’s merely the beginning.

Removing the Off switch for Cortana and activating Cortana by default in the Anniversary Update don’t instill confidence. Surreptitiously sticking snooping code in the Visual Studio 2015 libraries inflames the situation. And the latest move to force advertising on Win10 Pro users puts things over the top.

7. OneDrive still doesn’t work right

7. OneDrive still doesn’t work right

The new Universal Windows version of OneDrive (shown) still has a lot of quirks -- for example, drag and drop won’t work unless you sign in, and the app doesn’t prompt you to sign in when you drop files. Those are teething pains. The major problem was and remains the visibility of folders in File Explorer.

Windows 10 makes you choose which OneDrive folders you want to be able to see in File Explorer. Once you’ve chosen, the other folders aren’t accessible in File Explorer or nearly anywhere else in Win10 (including, say, the Word File Open dialog). The only way to see what files you have in OneDrive is by venturing to the OneDrive site on the web.

That can lead to difficult situations where you’ve unwittingly created a folder in File Explorer that duplicates one in OneDrive, and it all turns into a can of worms. It can also lead to situations where you can’t find a file you really want. It’s a huge mess. Microsoft promises it’ll fix the problem one of these days.

If you’re accustomed to Windows 8.1’s file placeholders, you’re still out of luck.

6. Universal Windows apps continue to underwhelm

6. Universal Windows apps continue to underwhelm

Several times every month we hear about companies pulling their apps from the Windows Store; Amazon, Tumblr, and PayPal are the most recent big defectors. Companies with Win10 “Universal Windows Program” apps don’t want to distribute schlock, but they don’t want to pour resources into spiffy new apps when their money’s better spent with Google or Apple. Besides, those who want the real experience can usually run to the website in their favorite browser.

As a result, the Windows Store -- which is starting to look useful -- suffers from a dearth of high-impact apps. The fact that the Store mixes apps with songs and movies and games doesn’t help.

Microsoft Edge, that poster child of UWP apps, still has all sorts of problems. The small handful of extensions are buggy and severely limited. It’s inherited many of the security holes prevalent in Internet Explorer. Microsoft claims it’s easier on the battery than Firefox or Chrome, which may be a convincing reason to switch, if battery drain in the browser concerns you.

The built-in apps -- Mail and Calendar, Groove Music, and Movies & TV, even the News and Weather and Money and Photos apps -- have much better alternatives, either through a web browser or by using a phone or tablet.

If you’re thinking about upgrading to Windows 10 so that you can snag those fancy Universal apps, it’s time to stop and smell the coffee. With the possible exception of Edge, Universal apps aren’t happening and aren’t likely to amount to much for the foreseeable future.

5. Ads abound

5. Ads abound

The only ad Windows 7 and 8.1 customers have had to fend off is the one for Windows 10. Imagine a world in which you could be poked by ads all day, every day. Right now, we’re getting ads on the lock screen and from the Suggested item in the Start menu, along with the odd toaster notification and a slew of default live tiles with ads out the wazoo.

It’s easy to disable ads on the lock screen: Start > Settings > Personalization > Lock screen > turn off “Get fun facts, tips and more from Windows and Cortana on your lock screen.” It’s easy to disable ads on the Start menu: Start > Settings > Personalization > Start > turn off “Occasionally show suggestions in Start.” You can right-click on an advertising tile and bury it. But I’m convinced we’re only seeing the tip of the ad iceberg.

A year ago I wrote about a Microsoft advertising piece that extolled the virtues of advertising in Windows 10. In the blog post, which has been pulled down, then-Bing ads GM David Pann explains how Windows 10 is great for advertisers. We’re only beginning to see the ads. Windows 10 Pro can no longer block ads through Group Policy. Who knows what else Microsoft will force-install next.

4. Start menu is getting worse, not better

4. Start menu is getting worse, not better

Windows 8.1 fans have no reason to gripe, but if you’re on Windows 7, and you’ve learned how to use (and customize!) the Win 7 Start menu, Win10 is a big step down. The Anniversary Update doesn’t make it any better.

There’s a strip of icons on the left that can include any of a set of predefined actions. There’s a humongous list of apps, in alphabetical order for the most part, in the middle. On the right, you see the same blinking live tile we’ve seen for years. Microsoft promises it’s going to make the tiles “Chaseable Live Tiles” -- if you click on a tile, you go to the article shown on the tile -- but that’s still beyond Windows 10’s capabilities.

If you want to take control of the Win10 Start menu, you have to install a third-party app like Start10 or Classic Shell. Or you can stick with Windows 7.

3. The march to forced updates continues

3. The march to forced updates continues

I’ve been complaining about Windows 10’s forced updates for a year and a half, and the situation’s only gotten worse. Granted, we now have the wushowhide tool to block specific patches, but it doesn’t give you control over updating your machine. If you aren’t attached to a corporate network, the process for blocking forced patches is long and convoluted.

How important is it to control updates on your machine? You need look no further than the “Get Windows 10” campaign, which pushed enormous numbers of Windows 7 and 8.1 users to Windows 10 -- whether or not they understood what they were doing.

Microsoft has demonstrated, at least to my satisfaction, that if given a chance it will reach into customer PCs and modify them -- "accidental" forced upgrades, dicey signup notices ("Upgrade Now/Upgrade Tonight"), hidden folders with 3GB to 6GB of unwanted downloaded data, and nagging Windows processes that automatically restart themselves.

I no longer trust Microsoft to update my Windows machines. Then again, I never did.

2. Ain’t broke, don’t fix

2. Ain’t broke, don’t fix

The old adage comes from painful experience -- and it’s as applicable now as it ever was.

If you’re using Windows 7, and it’s properly patched up and working for you, and you’ve stopped using Internet Explorer, you have to consider whether it’s worth the effort to upgrade to Windows 10.

Few programs will run on Windows 10, but not Windows 7. The only major ones I can think of, aside from a small handful of touch-centric programs, are Cortana and Edge, both of which come baked into Windows 10.

If you’re using Windows 8.1 with a mouse and you’re OK with the interface (there must be a dozen of you), Windows 10 may be more trouble than it’s worth.

There’s no harm in waiting. If you don’t see anything in Windows 10 that rings your chimes, wait until your current machine falls into the bit bucket -- at that point you’ll be in a better position to decide whether you want to continue with a Windows PC, or if there’s a better alternative. Microsoft will continue to provide security patches for Windows 7 SP 1 until Jan. 14, 2020, and for Windows 8.1 Update 1 until Jan. 10, 2023.

1. Questions, questions, questions

1. Questions, questions, questions

We really don’t know where Microsoft is heading with Windows 10. Nobody has come out and said Win10 will be supported by advertising or by add-ons or by sales of harvested data. All we know for sure is that, “once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device -- at no additional charge.”

That’s what Windows honcho Terry Myerson promised us on Jan. 21, 2015. Of course, the same person promised us on Oct. 29, 2015, that Win7 and 8.1 customers “can specify that you no longer want to receive notifications of the Windows 10 upgrade through the Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 settings pages." That promise didn’t come true until a few weeks before the marched upgrade stopped. On Sept. 28, 2015, he promised, “Windows 10 collects information so the product will work better for you. You are in control with the ability to determine what information is collected.” That one’s never come close.

Lacking promises from Microsoft, all sorts of rumors have appeared and will continue to circulate. Although it seems highly unlikely that Microsoft will start charging a monthly fee for the use of Windows 10, or some variant, we’ve seen nothing beyond the “supported lifetime of the device” promise, which can be interpreted in many ways. Perhaps at some point we’ll be able to pay in order to reduce the snooping or manually install updates.

We already know that admins with Win10 Pro machines on their networks won’t be able to control advertising.

No matter how you look at it, Windows is in its golden years. PC sales are down, and there’s no rational reason to expect the trend to reverse itself. Microsoft could help revive Windows a bit by reducing some of the uncertainty associated with moving to its new platform. So far, we’ve seen very little action in that direction.

Perhaps it’s a good idea to stick with your Win 7 or 8.1 PC, and wait to see what other options appear.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.