Windows 10 review: The bad stuff

Settings / Control Panel

We like the new simplified Settings app, but we had hoped it would replace Control Panel. Confusingly, both are present in Windows 10 and it isn't always obvious which one you need to use to access or change a particular setting or feature. It would be far better if all of Control Panel's features could be migrated the Settings app.

Forced updates

It's hard not to think of the release version of Windows 10 as the final and finished version. But it isn't. It's really the first version. Microsoft will issue regular updates just as it always has. Only this time it's different. You won't find an option in Windows 10 Home, for example, to turn off updates. That's right: updates are now mandatory.

Updates contain drivers as well as security (and non-security-related) patches, which worries some people. A broken Nvidia driver has already caused problems for some users running the Insider version of Windows prior to 29 July. No doubt Microsoft will figure out the best way to deal with this, as it won't want millions upon millions of Windows users complaining when an update breaks all their machines in one fell swoop.

There are benefits to forced updates, though. Vulnerabilities and security holes will be addressed and patched on all Windows 10 machines (aside from Enterprise versions) at the same time, and people won't be running vulnerable 6-year-old versions of Internet Explorer.

Privacy

Update 12 May 2016: Wi-Fi sense was a cool little feature which allowed you to share your Wi-Fi passwords with your contacts. The feature wasn't fully adopted by Windows 10 users and also caused some people to worry about their computer's security. Microsoft and thus cut-off the feature completely, as it wasn't used by many and cost quite a lot to maintain.

Much has been made of the 'spyware' and privacy issues in Windows 10, and rightly so. Windows 10 is the most connected, cloud-focused OS Microsoft has released and - for the most part - this is a good thing. Using a Microsoft account instead of a local account, for example, means your settings, wallpaper, start menu configuration and other things can be synced across all your devices - even to your Windows phone.

Cortana, one of the best new features, needs to access personal data - emails, location etc - if you want to use its full capabilities. Plus, OneDrive integration means your files are accessible from any computer, tablet or phone.

But negating these advantages is the issue of privacy. In Microsoft's 12,000-word EULA is the following:

"Finally, we will access, disclose and preserve personal data, including your content (such as the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders), when we have a good faith belief that doing so is necessary to: 1.comply with applicable law or respond to valid legal process, including from law enforcement or other government agencies; 2.protect our customers, for example to prevent spam or attempts to defraud users of the services, or to help prevent the loss of life or serious injury of anyone; 3.operate and maintain the security of our services, including to prevent or stop an attack on our computer systems or networks; or 4.protect the rights or property of Microsoft, including enforcing the terms governing the use of the services – however, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property of Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves, but we may refer the matter to law enforcement."

That may sound worrying, but the good news is that you can opt out of most features and keep your privacy in Windows 10. To do this, fire up the Settings app and go to Privacy and trawl through all the settings, turning off anything you don't like. Disabling Cortana is a bit more extreme but is a quick way to boost privacy and you don't have to use OneDrive - decline the prompts to set it up when you see them.

You can choose to use a local account instead of a Microsoft account, and if you use Microsoft Edge, you can set privacy options online to disable personalised ads and ad tracking.

We'd prefer all these settings to be off by default, of course.

Windows 10 review: Anniversary Update

On 2 August 2016, Microsoft slowly rolled out the free update to everyone on Windows 10. Microsoft's operating system will receive a few updates which will change a few key features, here's a list of the key changes:

  • Windows Ink: Greater emphasis on using a pen to handwrite notes or quickly take a screenshot of your work. The functionality also integrates with Cortana, whereby you can handwrite an appointment note, and Cortana can provide you with the option to set it as a reminder
  • Windows Hello: Now works with compatible apps which have it integrated
  • Windows Defender: You can now schedule scans and be provided with notifications
  • Cortana: You can now use voice activation to set reminders directly from the lock screen. You'll also be able to use Cortana to provide you with more information within web-based searches. Unfortunately, Microsoft has decided to forcefully keep Cortana-based searches. You can disable the option, but you won't be able to fully remove it as you were able to prior to the Anniversary Update.
  • Microsoft Edge: The browser now has extensions, web notifications and the option to clear your browsing history on exit, among other smaller changes
  • Windows Store: Xbox Play Anywhere games will now be made compatible on Windows 10 - games are set to release in late 2016
  • Tablet mode: You'll now see the All Apps list displayed in fullscreen view. Making it easier to navigate through your apps.
  • Start Menu: Live-tiles now take you to what is being displayed, rather than to the app's home page. The All Apps list is now the default view when opening the Start Menu, meaning a removal of the extra option; this also changes the positioning of the power button, which now resides in the left-hand corner
  • Action Centre: Has received an update allowing you to customise the tiles and add 14 Quick Action tiles
  • Dark Mode: There is an option to turn your Windows settings and Edge browser to have a dark theme by default. This also applies for apps like Mail, Calendar and the Windows Store
  • Emjoji keyboard: You've now got fun emojis and figures you can choose from 

The Anniversary Update is a good step forward by Microsoft, where its emphasis is on Cortana, Windows Ink and small tweaks to the user interface. Let us know in the comments below what you think of the update.

Windows 10: Specs

  • Windows capable PC and web connection
  • membership of Windows Insider Program
  • Windows capable PC and web connection
  • membership of Windows Insider Program

OUR VERDICT

For the majority of home users, Windows 10 costs £99.99 to purchase, where prior to 29 July 2016, was a free upgrade for those on Windows 7 and above. Despite the cost, Windows 10 combines the familiarity of Windows 7 with the performance gains found in Windows 8/8.1, which result in a very attractive OS. It’s even better if you have several devices which can run Windows 10 – particularly a phone – as the tight integration means you can set reminders on the go and pick them up on your PC, say, when you get home or into the office. That’s just one tiny example, of course. If you use OneDrive to store your music, photos, videos, notes and documents, you’ll be able to easily access them from anywhere: the online web app has improved a lot since the early days. The bottom line is that Windows 10 is a great operating system. Indeed it’s fair to say that it’s the best Windows yet - as it brings a familiar design that works both in terms of performance and aesthetics. If you're on Windows XP or below, Win10 brings a much sleeker interface and is a more efficient operating system. If you're on Windows 7 and want a faster Windows experience - such as the performance gains found in Windows 8/8.1, then Win10 is an ideal upgrade. If you're on Windows 8 or 8.1, the newer operating system will provide you with a similar feel to previous Windows builds - meaning you no longer have to force yourself to like the Metro UI. Windows 10 is the best operating system Microsoft has come out with, but it's up to you to work out if it's worth the investment.