Eric Baker

Hints & tips
Loving Windows 10

v1.4  11 December 2015  © Eric Baker

Is it scary upgrading?

95 was good, XP great, Windows 7 superb. Vista not so good, ME awful. Unlike many I also really liked Windows 8 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 first upgraded our little 5 year old Win 7 laptop. It's always been horribly slow, with a single core Celeron and just 2Gb of memory. The upgrade didn't go perfectly either. It seemed to work, and there were no programs to re-install, but I had no internet. After a lot of digging around I found the culprit was BitDefender and everything was fine after I ripped that out and switched to Avast Free. Then I found all those live tiles were killing it's responsiveness so I removed them too. But the laptop drive failed soon after and I bought a new little Acer with a modern processor, full HD screen and 120Gb SSD as our new holiday/kitchen machine. That is blisteringly fast, especially its startup.

A month after launch I dared to upgrade my main PC from Win 8.1. It took an hour, progress info was really good and when I got going again everything worked beautifully, eg all my installed applications had been migrated accurately, even McAfee Live Safe. I had to adjust a few things over time, eg turning on network sharing and resetting file associations, but it was a pretty good experience. I said no to most of Microsoft's attempts to infringe privacy by giving them my location and everything I type. Before long I'd tailored the new, flexible Start window to my liking. It's got a very useful collection of things you need sporadically and is so much easier to use than Windows 8's more scattered equivalents. I was pleased when Allway Sync synchronised the data areas of my Win 10 PC with the Win 8.1 laptop downstairs without any fuss. Here's my new Win 10 home and start screens after a bit of tinkering:

Windows 10 logo

Windows 10 most used
Next I upgraded our Win 8.1 laptop. That went pretty well too, although BitDefender Total Security was removed by the process - we switched to Avast Free for a while and have now standardised on Kaspersky Total Security.

Anyone coming from Win 7 will find Win 10 a bit annoying at first because it's so randomly different. Things like System Restore had been needlessly renamed. Where's Hibernate? Why does it keep resetting file assignments with its bigger updates, eg making html files open with Edge and not Chrome. Naughty! But it's a pretty obvious advance, especially for its very impressive startup times. Not so impressive is the new Edge browser. It will presumably get better but it managed to import all our Chrome bookmarks backwards and it's not obvious how you could fix this.

Using Win 10 you soon learn to right click the Windows symbol (bottom left) for a useful menu, including control panel and restart. I also rather like the new tiled applets in the start window.

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

Windows 10 feeds

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 below tell you all you need to know. Mainstream support for Win 7 has already ended. Feeling lucky?

Win 10 support

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 a 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. In the screen grab below you can see the separate OS (Windows) and data partitions. SILVER-DELL is the laptop downstairs, WHITE-ACER the new mini laptop and Technicolor is our wifi router.

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.

Win 10 start

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 with Carbonite, synchronises with Allway Sync, runs my favourite image browser, Faststone Viewer and it just works. And above all (for me) it works brilliantly on a cheap but fast desktop PC with dual monitors and a terabyte drive. No stupid little laptops with pathetic 256Gb SSDs for me.

Windows 10 weather

Windows 10 performance

Windows 10 personalise

Windows 10 notifications

What if it all goes pear shaped?

There is an issue where you've upgraded to Win 10 from Win 7 or 8.1. The recovery partitions you probably have on your hard disk will take it back to a factory install of the original operating system. Getting Win 10 back as well as re-installing all your applications would be a real pain.

You could always create a clean boot medium (memory pen or DVD) 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 solutions has to be to separate your data and system drives/partitions then make an image backup of your system partition. Here's the view of my entire 1Tb hard drive in MiniTool Partition Wizard Free. I've given 360Gb to Windows and installed programs (much more than enough) and 555Gb to my data drive (backed up online with Carbonite):

Win 10 partitions

I then bought a 3 PC licence for Acronis True Image 2016 and have taken system images of our three computers, each on a different external drive (Acronis does not make it easy to distinguish which backup image is which if you put them all on one drive). I then re-imaged our little holiday laptop (as a test) and all was fine.

So now, if any of our three Windows machines gets really messed up and won't even boot I can quickly restore it from an external drive to how it was quite recently, including all the installed drivers and applications. That's so much better than going back to Win 7 or 8 with no applications. I have had to re-image a computer three times in 15 years. In two cases, using Paragon software, it worked well. The third time I'd used Win 8.1's own imaging utility which had silently failed to write the system image. So I was back to re-installing everything. Now I'm fairly confident that we can withstand pretty much anything - Cryptolocker, major fire, equipment theft or whatever.

Windows 10 drives

Windows 10 re-image