Windows 10 Upgrade – was it worth it?

Windows 10
Was it worth it?

When I was asked that question I was in the middle of solving consequential problems, and my thoughts were probably tainted by having to address a bunch of issues that shouldn’t happen, but always do. I wasn’t convinced it was worth it.

Now that I’m mostly recovered from upgrade trauma I thought it would be good to summarise my experience of the upgrade process so that perhaps others might benefit, and in later years I might re-read it to obliterate any thoughts I might have in the future that some similar process might just work.

The starting point

This upgrade was on my personal laptop – at work we’re going for a wait and see policy. At home I had both a laptop and a desktop machine running Windows 7, and each had the Windows 10 icon waiting tantalisingly in the task bar. I had decided to use the desktop machine as the guinea-pig. That plan was immediately blown out of the water, because it turned out that its graphics card uses a GPU chip that is not supported by Windows 10. The laptop however was eligible.

The process

In essence the process is click the button, go away for a while and come back to a Windows 10 machine – and indeed, to a first order that’s exactly how it worked (unlike the experience of a friend, whose machine hung at around the 60% point and had to be restarted). I didn’t measure it, but the elapsed time would have been measured in hours. But that reboot into the new Windows was just the start.

Now what

On entering this new world there’s a bit of configuration to be done, as might be expected. The new Windows 10 user is encouraged to open a Microsoft account, so that the system can be more helpful (and Microsoft can gather a whole bunch of data). This would be more useful if the Microsoft ecosystem were spread across all my platforms, and I’ve already sold my soul to Google, but I signed up anyway and, once the graphics automagically adjusted for my wide screen display, all was looking good, until I tried to interact with my network printer. The HP drivers have always been fragile, and they’d gone missing. A search of the HP web site was not notably helpful – I was beginning to wonder whether my printer was not supported, and all this was a ploy to sell new kit. But then I stumbled over a not very well signposted page http://support.hp.com/us-en/document/c04658195. This had links to the right drivers, and clicking them gave me my first experience of the new Edge browser, which was now set up as the default. It all sort of worked, and all I had to do was tread the well-trod path of the HP printer driver installation. A couple of hours later, all was well on that front.

What else

Windows 10 seems to install IIS as default. I sometimes run software which requires a local web-server using HTTP port 80. IIS was now sitting on that port, so we had a problem. After some investigation of whether this would be solved by shutting down IIS or in some other way, I concluded that I could make my local web server listen on port 8080. Problem solved, and indeed better than ever, since that also avoided contention with Skype which had happened in the past.

Using the laptop on my lap with touch pad rather than mouse, I realised that the side scrolling feature of the Synaptics touch pad had gone away. Looking at the web, I soon realised that I was not the only person to notice this, and that the solution is at best messy, involving the forced installation of older drivers, which will probably get overwritten again. I will learn to live with this downgrade.

Drive mapping seems to be different. With Windows 7, I used a virtual drive hosted over the network on my desktop machine as a backup destination. Windows 10 won’t let me map that destination as a virtual drive. Not a big problem – just send the backup to a rather more complicated destination path.

On a similar theme, sharing across the network is not quite right. In theory I should be able to set up a Homegroup on both machines and then set up sharing on this. It doesn’t work. It didn’t work properly before, but it now fails to work in a slightly different and more annoying way. This was solved by being more liberal with sharing than I would like.

Cortana was the new big thing – Microsoft’s version of “Siri” or “OK Google”. If you’re British it doesn’t work. Microsoft says it does, but they are American, and fail to realise that Britain and indeed the rest of the world is not part of America. It doesn’t work, and my computer tells me so. Rumour has it that if you pretend that you’re American, get Cortana set up, and then revert to being British, it might work. Frankly, if they can’t sort this simple thing, I can’t be bothered to try it.

Print to PDF in Edge doesn’t work. Ironic solution is to open the page in Internet Explorer – it does work there.

Was it worth it?

So now I have the joy of three different Windows operating systems on my home PCs – XP, 7 and 10! Windows 10 seems to mostly work. The upgrade stole an entire day of my life, and the computer now has slightly fewer features than it had before. In essence it looks like a tarted-up version of Windows 7, and offers me nothing new. But as someone working in technology who likes to keep up with the latest stuff, it was an experience worth having, with not too bad an outcome…

…and I have absolute faith that the current shortcomings will be addressed in due course.

Update 2017 – how’s it been to live with?

I still have the same laptop, I still have Windows 10 installed, and it works just fine. Of the comments above, the only significant issue has been the loss of scroll functionality for the touch pad. I did download an older driver that worked correctly for a while, but as expected, in subsequent upgrades the touch pad was downgraded. Cortana now works even for the English – with a proper English accent, but I don’t really care, because I find it a bit weird talking to a computer. And I very rarely use Edge, so I have no idea whether I can now print to PDF.

This article first appeared in http://www.argondesign.com/news/2015/aug/5/windows-10-upgrade/