My opportunity to take advantage of the free upgrade to Windows 10 happened when I least expected it. I had retired to an undisclosed location to work on my perpetually unfinished novel.
By Saturday afternoon I’d entered the advanced stages of procrastination, but Microsoft came to my rescue. A window opened in the lower right corner of my screen announcing that my Windows 10 upgrade was ready.
“You’re good to go!” the message said. So, I did what any procrastinating writer would do, and clicked on the message. Thus began my trip down the path to the Microsoft Promised Land as I fired off the upgrade.
Actually, the first thing I did was answer a few questions, including whether I wanted to perform the upgrade immediately, or if I wanted to schedule it for some time later. I also told the upgrade app that I didn’t want to do a clean install. If I’d chosen a clean install, then the Windows 10 installation would have started without saving my applications and settings, but most of my data would still stored on the machine.
Then I told the upgrade app that it should go ahead and do the deed. Microsoft warns you that the upgrade will take a while. Even though some of the upgrade files will have already been pre-positioned on your computer, there’s still a lot of data, and there’s a lot for the software to do, all while running on whatever hardware you’re using.
In my case, the upgrade was taking place on a Lenovo ThinkPad T-430 laptop. I was surprised that it happened only a couple of days after the official release date because I’d only reserved the upgrade earlier that same week.
Microsoft estimated that my upgrade would take about an hour. In reality, it took a little longer, probably due to the fact that I was downloading Windows over a WiFi connection that may not have been the fastest on the planet.
I was also surprised that Windows 10 didn’t ask me to uninstall any of my applications. Normally, I have an odd collection of network diagnostic and testing applications and some ham radio software installed in addition to typical apps as Microsoft Office and iTunes. Nevertheless, it chugged away, counting out its progress in percentages as it restarted several times.
At one point during the process, the installation software clearly had booted into Windows 10, and the progress counter became a circular display that indicated activity on something like a clock display.
Then it restarted again, and started off by saying “Hello” in Microsoft’s distinctive sans-serif font on the screen. The process continued while it said it was setting a few things up, then a few final tweaks, and then it was done. I had the Windows 10 sign-in screen.
How to Successfully Install the Windows 10 Free Upgrade
Windows asked for my name and password and then took me through a setup process with which I’d become familiar during my test of the Windows 10 preview version, including giving it my Microsoft account information.
But there were differences and perhaps the most surprising was an invitation to create a PIN for Windows 10. The software explained that passwords were just so last century and the new practice was PINs.
And then it was done. Despite all of the testing of the preview version, I wasn’t quite prepared for the fact that when Windows 10 finished installing and started running, it looked just like Windows 7. Then I realized that there are, in fact, some differences, but they’re all in the taskbar.
On the lower left of the screen the Start Button was replaced with a Windows logo. To the right of that is a search bar that says: “Ask me anything.” In the center of the taskbar are the icons for applications you can click on to open right away. There’s a new Task View button that shows which applications are running on the screen, but not on the desktop.
The Windows Explorer button is in its usual place, but is now called the File Explorer. In the lower right corner you’ll see the notifications you’ve seen before for your battery condition, network connection and the like, but there’s also a new icon that looks like a cartoon speech bubble. That one is for notifications.
Of course, there are plenty of other differences. The search bar leads you to Cortana, which is Microsoft’s version of Apple’s Siri personal assistant. The Windows logo leads you to the Start Menu, which includes the Windows 7-like listing of application as well as the Start screen which includes a Windows 8-like tiled interface. As was the case with Windows 8, you can change the order, size and shape of the tiles.
You’ll also see a Store icon, which takes you to Microsoft’s app store. You can now run apps written for the tiled start screen while you’re still using the desktop, a distinct improvement over Windows 8.
What’s notable is that the learning curve for most people and most uses should be minimal. People who currently use Windows 7 will see a few differences, but there aren’t that many of them. While some training is still a good idea, it won’t be much.
One word of caution. Don’t do the upgrade like I did away from my home office. You should make sure that you perform the upgrade in a location where you have information and tools at hand in case something goes wrong.
Also, you should back up your copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 before you start the upgrade process just in case something unexpected goes wrong. Finally, choose your time carefully because while the upgrade is in progress, you won’t be able to use your computer.