Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Windows 10 - Should I Upgrade Now?

With the July 29th upgrade date creeping up quickly, many of our customers are asking the question - "should I upgrade now?"  Microsoft's next generation operating system brings back the Start Menu to its rightful place, adds Cortana - a talkative personal assistant to your machine and blends the best of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 - but is it right for you?  And, is now the right time to upgrade to the next-generation operating system?

In a matter of days, Windows 10 will no longer be a free upgrade, the year-long promotion allowed customers running genuine copies of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 to upgrade to the next-generation desktop operating system, for free.  Beginning July 29th, Microsoft will charge you $119 for a full version of Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Professional will cost you $199.

Windows 10 already holds the record for the fastest adoption rate of any Microsoft Operating System, however it's already had a ton of issues.  This decision is a crucial one, taking the wrong path can lead to a drastically slow system or possible system shut down.  Elite PC Experts, LLC has already seen and worked on countless laptops and desktop computers with issues relating to Windows 10 upgrades.

So, is now the right time to upgrade your home or work computer to Microsoft's latest operating system?  Here is what we can tell you; Windows 10 is a brilliant operating system, a world apart from Windows 8.  But, it's not perfect - and it's certainly not for everyone.  We will break it down for you here:

Why should I upgrade to Windows 10:  First, if you are using a desktop computer with an old fashioned mouse and keyboard, and you happen to be running Windows 8 or 8.1 - STOP READING THIS ARTICLE AND UPGRADE NOW!  In addition to returning the Start Menu to it's rightful place, making the desktop much friendlier to those working on a traditional desktop set-up, it also allows for quick access to all Apps, Settings, Power Options and File Explorer.  Long term Windows users will immediately feel familiar with the improved start menu, which comes with additional live tiles that constantly refresh with small snippets of information.  For example, the News app will scroll through the latest headlines from within the Start Menu.  It's a nice visual tweak and - more importantly - is almost completely optional.  Users can resize the Start Menu by dragging the corner of the window, so you can choose to include more live tiles in your Start Menu if you find them useful, or shrink down the menu to its bare essentials.

If you're running a two-in-one hybrid, like the impressive Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Windows will automatically expand the Start Menu to fill the entire screen a' la Windows 8.1 when you launch the menu without a keyboard attached.  This tablet-optimized view makes navigating around the live tiles and menus with your fingertip a breeze and helps bridge the gap between a traditional desktop machine and lightweight tablet computing.  However, Windows 10 is not always so well polished when it comes to catering to those working on touchscreen devices.  For example, Microsoft's Snippet screen recording utility, Paint, Notepad and File Explorer apps can be troublesome to use without a mouse, thanks to the minuscule menus and icons designed for cursors - not fingers.  Windows 10 also offers a Universal Apps platform allowing users to transfer purchased and downloaded apps across all gadgets.  For example, the order of the live tiles within your Start Menu are synced across windows 10 devices, and notifications in the Action Centre can be mirrored between your Android or Windows Smartphone, so you can reply to a text message from your computer or action a notification on your smartphone and the changes will be reflected across your gadgets.  This seamless desktop to mobile continuity was previously only available to those firmly entrenched within the Apple ecosystem.  If you own multiple Windows or Android device, you'll appreciate the convenience of them being able to talk to one another.

The latest Microsoft operating system also ships with Windows Hello, which is a useful new security feature that allows unlocking your device by verifying your identity with a quick scan of your iris.  During expert tests, Windows Hello unlocked devices consistently and faster than we could ever type out our password on our keyboard.  Other than the obvious improvements for those working with a keyboard and mouse, the cohesion with other devices - the only other feature worth upgrading for is voice assistant, Cortana.

Cortana is a proactive voice assistant that permanently lives in the task bar - as well as your Edge browser - and chips in with usual information, calendar reminders, calendar reminders, prompts and more.  Granted, talking to your desktop computer with a cheery "Hey Cortana" is a little weird, so thankfully Microsoft has also included the ability to type our commands to the virtual secretary.  For example, if you paste a flight number into Cortana's search field - she will bring up the latest flight tracking information, or ask her to remind you to buy milk when you leave the office and she will seamlessly add the geo-fenced prompt to your Microsoft Account.  This information is shared and synced across your Windows 10 devices, or your IOS and Android gadgets too - thanks to the standalone Cortana app.  The more you come to rely on Cortana, the more accurate and useful the information and results become.  It's not going to be for everyone, but those who use Google Now and Siri to keep track of their lives on mobile will love the addition to the latest Microsoft desktop.

Aside from the shiny new features like Cortana and a redesigned Start Menu, Windows 10 will also be kept up to date with the latest security patches and software updates for much longer than its predecessors.  For example, mainstream support for Windows 7 Service Pack 1 ended in January 13, 2015 and the extended support runs out January 14, 2020.  Upgrading your device to Windows 10 extends its lifespan until at least 2025, according to information available on Microsoft's support cycles.

So, Why shouldn't you upgrade to Windows 10:  With all the awesome features listed above, Windows 10 might not be the best choice for you, afterall it's not perfect.  For many PC owners, it can be a case of "if it's not broke, don't fix it".  We have heard all the issues - wifi connectivity, infuriatingly slow boot-up speeds, issues with child safety features after upgrading and more.  There have also been a number of reported issues involving driver incompatibility with the new OS.  In a nutshell, if you have an external device that is crucial to your workflow - you need to triple check that it will work with Windows 10 before you click on the upgrade button.  Also, if your computer is currently running slow, locking up or not booting properly - DO NOT UPGRADE, this will not resolve your issues - call us immediately for additional information.

If you're not eligible for the free upgrade, you'll probably be better served by simply sitting tight until you need to upgrade your computer - since your new machine will come with Windows 10 preinstalled.  It's also worth mentioning that PC Owners who have come to rely on Windows Home Media Centre should also look for alternative software suites before upgrading, Microsoft unceremoniously ditched the app when it moved to Windows 10.

Finally, there is the small matter of Windows 10's new data collection policies, which are intimidatingly broad.  Windows 10 Home Edition, installed with default settings, has the ability to track and send your hardware details and any subsequent changes you make to them directly to Microsoft.  It can also log your internet browser history, keystrokes, Cortana questions and requests, as well as display adverts within your start menu.  That might sound like a lot, but Microsoft claims this anonymized data will help it fine-tune Windows 10 to its users needs, iron our any troublesome bugs, and streamline the functionality of features like Cortana.

While you are able to disable some of the Big Brother-esque tracking within the privacy settings menu, certain core data collection settings cannot be switched off.  Essentially, if the data being siphoned relates to the health and performance of the Windows 10 operating system, Microsoft wants to know about it.  Most users probably won't be unnerved by the stream of information and data being beamed back to Microsoft, and those who are can download a number of third-party solutions to block the data collection.

If you have any questions regarding upgrading, please give us a call at (630) 366-1976, we would be happy to help you with your decision to upgrade or not. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Thank you for your continued business.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Happy 4th of July

Please remember ALL the men and women that have served and are currently serving to keep our country FREE on this Independence Day.

Elite PC Experts, LLC would like to wish everyone a SAFE and HAPPY Fourth of July.