The waiting is almost over.
On Wednesday, Microsoft starts rolling out Windows 10 upgrades to Insider members, followed by users who've made a reservation, and then the general public. If you've got a Windows 7 or 8.1 PC, you're eligible for a free upgrade, and there's a lot to love about Windows 10, from new features to under-the-hood tweaks to a much-needed interface revamp.
Before you upgrade, however, there some things you can do to make your migration to the next chapter in Windows history as seamless as possible.
Back it up!
Yes, it's boring and predictable, but backing up your data also happens to be the most important step you can take before upgrading to Windows 10. Even if you have all your data in OneDrive or another cloud storage service, having a complete local backup is much easier to deal with should the worst happen.
Further reading: If we show you how to back up your data for free, will you finally do it?
This is also a good time to think about your backup strategy. The basic rule of thumb is to have three copies of your data: the one on your machine, a local backup on an external drive, and an offsite backup. The best way to achieve your offsite backup is to use a paid cloud service like Backblaze or Carbonite. Many services offer an encryption option where only you have the key, but if you don't trust the mainstream services, there's also the encryption-focused SpiderOak.
Know your new stuff
Windows 10 isn't just a return to something that more closely resembles Windows 7. Yes, there's a Start menu, and the Start screen is more or less banished, but there's so much more than that. You've got the smart, sassy Cortana personal assistant, Task View (a.k.a. virtual desktops), the new Edge browser, windowed modern UI apps, modern Office, and--if you've got the right hardware--Windows Hello.
Now is a great time to remind or acquaint yourself with some of the new details of Windows 10 before it shows up. For that, hit the links above, as well as our earlier look at the 10 coolest Windows 10 features you should check out.
Get acquainted with the shortcuts
A continuing theme of the Hassle-Free PC column is how keyboard shortcuts can make Windows livin' a lot easier.
For the most part, Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts aren't terribly different from Windows 8's keyboard shortcuts. Windows still snap to the left or right the same way, cycling through open windows hasn't changed (but it has been folded into Task View), and you still hit the Windows key + E to get to File Explorer.
But there are some new additions, such as a quick way to create and close new virtual desktops, snapping with Windows 10's Quadrants, and working with Task View. Check out our primer on the new Windows 10 keyboard shortcuts for more details.
In addition to keyboard shortcuts, Windows 10 also brings some new trackpad gestures to the table that are similar to what you'd find on a Mac. For example, you can use a three-finger downward swipe to show the desktop, or move three fingers upward to view all your open windows again. Microsoft has a quick rundown of all the new gestures on its site.
Before you know it, Windows 10 will be here. It pays to start getting ready now to ease the transition--especially if you're a Windows 7 user.
And don't forget, now is not the time to run out and buy a new PC. Upgrade-eligible PCs should handle Windows 10 just fine whether you're running Windows 7 or 8.1 (for the most part). Plus, we've got nine compelling reasons to stick with your older hardware and a primer on how to speed up that aging PC to keep it running longer.