Eric Baker

Hints & tips
Loving Windows 10

v1.5  27 November 2019  © Eric Baker

Is it solid?

Windows 3.1 (1992!) was crude, 95 good, XP great, Vista awful, 7 superb. Unlike many I also really liked Windows 8.1 and we had it on our two main computers for a year.

But when the free upgrade to Win 10 came along I soon realized I'd be foolish to ignore it. I bought a new little Win 10 Acer with a modern processor, full HD screen and 120Gb SSD as our new holiday/kitchen machine. That is blisteringly fast, especially its startup. My newish Dell PC was on Win 8 (Spring 2015) so I upgraded it to Win 10 within weeks and four years later it's never gone wrong. It did have a serious problem for a while, as its 8GB of memory would gradually fill up over a few hours. I guessed it must be some badly written program with memory leakage and finally pinpointed File Access Manager, a tiny utility which ran in the background and kept a log of which files had changed.

I've now given away the old Dell and run a blazingly fast Chillblast PC with twin SSDs so Windows launches in seconds. And yes, Windows 10 is really solid. I take fortnightly images of the system drive, with O&O Disc Image, but I've never had to use one nor use System Restore.

Here's my current Windows desktop after clicking on the Start button:

Windows 10 logo

Windows 10 most used
Here's my desktop, running a few apps - just like Win 7! I've included a portion of my 2nd monitor on the right - it's great being able to spread what you're doing across two HD screens side by side.

Why not stick with Win 7?

I preferred Win 8.1 to 7, mainly because of the quick startup and virtually unlimited disk partitions. Win 10 offers both of those advantages but is also much more familiar to those used to Win 7. Being a free upgrade which will be supported indefinitely it's a rather obvious choice. The official Microsoft support dates tell you all you need to know. Mainstream support for Win 7 has already ended and extended support ends in Jauary 2020. Feeling lucky? With Win 10 you are always supported as long as you keep upgrading to the latest sub-version.

Maybe the nicest surprise with Win 8 and 10 was the disk being GPT rather than MBR. I always make a separate data partition. That way you can reinstall Windows or restore from a system disk image without affecting your data. With Win 7 and MBR there was an infuriating limit of just 4 primary partitions and I found that a friend's new Win 7 HP laptop already had all 4 used up and had to keep her data on the system partition - nasty. With GPT you could have 128 partitions, ie there is no practical limit.

The other thing that's gradually dawned on me is just how reliable Win 10 is. I never any more get a failure to boot up or sudden blue screen of death.

Windows 10 programs

My Win 10 highlights

First of all I loved Win 7, and Win 10's desktop is sort of Win 7 but better (once you get used to the different way some things are achieved). The new start screen has most of what you need and has useful live tiles with calendar, news, weather etc. I rather like the 'flat' look too.

I also like the way it reconfigures itself automatically depending on what device you are using. It certainly never seems like it needs a touch screen on my PC.

Under the bonnet Win 10 is clearly the best yet from Microsoft and has yet to do anything bad. But I'll still be mirroring our system partitions just in case. That's easy because all our data is kept on a separate disk partition.

In the end Win 10 is sort of Win 7 but faster, more colourful, with better underlying technology, some interface improvements and some extra fun bits. And it works flawlessly on our network. Quite a lot of settings screens are basically unchanged since Win 7 (and some go much further back) but lots of others are nicely updated, eg I really like the new Alt tab task switcher, shown below. And in the end it works with what I know and like - it backs up to the cloud and synchronises with Dropbox Plus, runs my favourite image browser, Faststone Viewer and it just works. And above all (for me) it works brilliantly on my new fast desktop PC with dual monitors and twin 500GB SSDs. No stupid little laptops with pathetic 256Gb SSDs for me. No wonder Windows has nearly 90% of the world laptop/desktop market, with macOS and Linus in single figures.

Windows 10 personalise

Windows 10 notifications

What if it all goes pear shaped?

You could always create a clean boot medium (eg memory pen) with Windows 10 on it but there is little point. If everything has got scrambled the last thing you need is a Windows install without any of the drivers needed to make your computer run.

So the solution has to be to separate your data and system drives/partitions then make an image backup of your system partition.

I don't much bother with the little old laptop - I do have an Acronis system image of its system partition but it's not recent. If it ever did get scrambled I'd be happy to re-install Win 10 (which it came with) and applications. All its data is selectively synched from my PC via Dropbox Pro. Note that if you have a Win 10 computer that was upgraded from Win 8 or 7 you will not find it so easy.

But my main PC has far more installed so I do take fortnightly system images to an external drive with O&O Disk Image and have a recovery bootable memory stick. I have yet to need it, though, since Win 10 arrived in 2015.

Windows 10 security settings