For the last year since its release, Microsoft have been offering Windows 10 as a free upgrade that ends on Friday 29th July, and anyone wanting to upgrade after that point would need to purchase a Windows 10 license to do so. The offer is available on any computer running Windows 7, or 8.1 – computers running Windows 8 can be upgraded too but first need to be updated to 8.1.

The computer industry by its very nature is a fast moving one, with something new always around the corner and it’s never long between major software or hardware updates and that can seem daunting to those who aren’t enthusiasts.

Microsoft have made it very easy to adopt Windows 10 this time around though, with the upgrade process being smooth and incredibly easy as well as of course the fact that it’s free removing any financial barrier to entry.

  Should you upgrade?

Windows 10 brings a lot of improvements in performance over the versions that came before it, as well as support for the latest technologies and a fresh new interface.

While I personally didn’t miss it in Windows 8, the lack of the Start Menu was a key point for many and it makes a return with Windows 10. Clicking ‘All Apps’ brings up the list of folders familiar from older versions of the Start Menu, as well as allowing you to customise the size and shape of the larger pane of the menu with the new Windows 10 apps as well as any other programs you wish to have there. The Windows Store from Windows 8 returns with 10, with apps from Windows 8 still compatible as well as many new ones.

Windows 10 offers improved performance in general across most hardware, with many updated systems seeing a significant boost in start-up time and general operation.Being the latest version of Windows, 10 will also be the focus of updates from Microsoft. The Anniversary update is due for release soon and will bring a number of new features, and Windows 10 in general is kept up to date through Windows Update to keep on top of the latest security issues to make sure that you’re safe online.

Gamers in particular will see a lot of benefit from Windows 10. The latest version of DirectX, version 12, is exclusive to Windows 10 and features a number of performance related benefits for compatible games by more efficiently utilizing system resources and allowing simultaneous use of multiple GPU cores.

Microsoft have also announced that the vast majority of their exclusive titles on Xbox One will also be released on PC through the Windows Store with titles such as Gears of War 4, Halo Wars 2 and Forza Horizon 3 all due for release alongside the Xbox One release. Buying the digital version of any game lets you play it on both platforms but critically for PC gamers this will let them play many titles that would otherwise be unavailable to them if they didn’t own the console.

  How do you upgrade?

There are a couple of ways to upgrade to Windows 10. Most users will have seen a Windows icon in the taskbar over the last year that can be used to launch the update.

If you don’t have the icon you can still easily update from Microsoft's website which will give you options to either update the computer straight away or create installation media with the download too.

Either method works perfectly fine, though I’d personally recommend using the download tool to create a USB installer as that way you have Windows 10 available to install off a USB stick should you ever need to reinstall a computer and as you only need a small USB stick the cost of doing so is incredibly low.

If you are installing off USB, make sure to do so from within Windows for the initial upgrade, as it needs to be run from your existing operating system to register the license key – after upgrading your existing license key can be used to reactivate Windows 10 on that computer in future.

  Are there any compatibility issues?

The main compatibility problem we’ve seen with Windows 10 is display adapters. Windows 10 on release required its own dedicated graphics drivers (Windows 7 and 8 share the same driver) and some older hardware is no longer updated to receive these drivers. The Windows 10 installer will warn you of any incompatibility and if the graphics card is a problem then a compatible card would be required but this thankfully isn’t particularly expensive with basic models such as the GT 710 available for under £30.

Software wise, I’ve not yet encountered anything that won’t work on Windows 10 that will on 7 or 8. I play a lot of older games and, aside from the kind of tweaks that would be required to get them to run on Windows 7, haven’t had any issues at all. While there likely will be a few programs out there that do have problems, as a general rule if it works on Windows 7 it should be fine on Windows 10.

  What happens if I don’t like Windows 10 after upgrading?

Then it’s easy to go back to your previous version of Windows. The upgrade process keeps all of the files of the old version for 30 days. Simply open the Start Menu and go to settings, then select Update & Security.From the Recovery menu option, you should then see an option to ‘Go back to Windows x,’ just click this and follow a couple of steps and Windows will revert to the previous version.

  Don’t want to upgrade?

If you're happy with your current version of Windows and don't want to upgrade then that’s fine too. Your current operating system will keep functioning as it is. Windows 7 will continue receiving critical security updates until January 2020 while Windows 8.1 is covered until 2023 so there’s plenty of life left in both.

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