Adventures in Windows 10

So, I work on computers in my day job and also have a pretty strong curiosity about new versions of things, thus I updated my 2 daily driver laptops to the latest version of windows 10, with mixed results.

First Impressions

My first impression of windows 10, is that it feels much more like windows 8.2, by which I mean not much under the hood has really changed. The interface feels… third party, like Stardock or Classic Shell had a stab at remaking the windows 8.1 interface to include more bells and whistles. It does not quite have the polish of other windows versions. Each version of windows since XP has added an extra layer of cotton wool around the settings and options that, as an IT person, I am usually digging around in at least once or twice a day, so it is frustrating to see that once again an extra layer of cotton wool has been put between the user and the settings. This can be a good thing to stop inexperienced users breaking stuff, but for me its a hassle. Forced Automatic updates rings immediate alarm bells in my ears, if you knew the number of windows updates that had wrecked computers to the point where a wipe and reinstall was now required, it is also concerning for people who use 4G based WiFi hot-spots that can be quite expensive per megabyte. It could be positive for home users who previously never kept their computers up to date and would get themselves into a security nightmare however so time will tell on that front.

Things I like

Getting rid of the charms menu from windows 8.1 and replacing it with the action center. The action center gives you a brief run through of system notifications as well as toggles like you would find on an android tablet, like WiFi and Bluetooth toggles and brightness settings, this is one of the features that feels like a third-party add-on, but I like it and it functions well enough, holding down on the icons will give you a shortcut to their settings which is a nice feature. There is a distinct tablet mode which pushes the start menu full screen, I don’t hate it and it makes it more 8.1 like when its in tablet mode, so I like that part of it, but it does hide the desktop for some reason so I also don’t like it that much. Its still a step up if you are coming from 7, running faster on the same equipment. Its a free upgrade for people running windows 7 and newer which is a pretty good move on Microsoft’s part.

Things I don’t like

Privacy concerns, its nothing a tablet or phone doesn’t already do, but the desktop still had some element of offline disconnected safety, the default settings of the windows 10 installer is awfully share happy with your data and it is worth installing using “custom” options clicking the little text option in the bottom left corner, instead of installing with the default options by clicking on the giant blue button on the right. There are some cool features sure, but it requires a lot more of your data floating around on the internet than many feel comfortable with. Cortana search is unavailable in Australian English which is disappointing as it was the only new feature I was looking forward to playing around with. The interface feels cheaper, not as premium feeling as previous versions IMHO. It seems as though all of the same windows 8.1 stuff is there, but instead of a full screen it is now in a window, making it just as cumbersome and tedious to navigate, just slightly easier to multitask around. On my tablet it doesn’t feel as easy to use as 8.1 was, I have an 11 inch i5 based windows tablet and at 1080p on an 11 inch screen, everything is a little too small for my fingers compared to 8.1 which had much larger buttons, I’m sure I could play around with settings to make it better, but out of the box its less accessible. I do not mind so much forced windows updates for a tablet that doesn’t have much complex software installed, but forced driver updates are a supremely bad idea and I will go in to detail about my troubles with it later on this page.
My unique problems

I have 2 unique problems with windows 10 with my hardware personally.

My main personal computer is a fairly new (at the time 1 month old) Metabox P650SE which is a custom built high performance laptop (i7, dedicated GPU, lots of ram and SSD storage). Windows 10 upgraded over 8.1 smoothly however one of the drivers was causing problems and making it experience a blue-screen of death, which is horrifying on my brand new precious computer. The Synaptics driver for the touch-pad is to blame (referenced on the blue-screen every time), thankfully I am not alone as there are many articles covering the problem on many different models of computer for windows 8.1 and 10. Uninstalling the driver and letting the standard windows drivers work with the touch pad or updating to the latest driver from the Synaptics website resolves the problem. HOWEVER, it does not stay resolved for long, as the forced windows updates find the broken driver in its repository and goes about downloading and overwriting the manually installed driver or the generic driver every day or so, which was driving me mental, the forced windows updates no longer have a method for deselecting problematic updates so there is no easy way to stop it. This is not a “search for drivers when you plug in new hardware” options that can be disabled this is the “your computer is working fine, but we think we have better drivers, here cop this repeatedly” problem. Thankfully some magician made a Windows Update PowerShell Module that, after some wrestling, allows you to manually disable specific drivers in PowerShell, not for your standard user but at least there was SOME RELIEF for me. The fix didn’t actually work and the bad driver kept coming back again and again, thankfully Synaptics have released a new driver and the windows update is not over-writing this one, so time will tell.

My portable workhorse for on the go IT support is a Toshiba z10t-B, an i5 based hybrid tablet which also upgraded over 8.1 easily and without any issues, however it does not detect the keyboard when I boot it up until I pull it out of the keyboard and re-dock it, so in order to login, I have to re-dock the tablet portion into the keyboard all the time, which is tedious. I have not found a fix for that yet so it is as yet un-resolved, I might make a script that forces it to scan hardware on boot and maybe that will help but I shouldn’t have to, it is effectively a usb-hub, keyboard and touch-pad mouse that remains plugged in to the unit all the time and should just work, but it doesn’t.

Conclusion (and should you update?)

Its a small incremental update to windows 8.1 that solves a few peoples superficial quibbles with windows 8/8.1 without upsetting the apple-cart too much. The forced updates are annoying and I think if I was not technically skilled I would be best off waiting 6 months to get the bigger wrinkles ironed out.  Should you update? Yes, and No. If you have windows 7, and your laptop has appropriate at least windows 8 era drivers available, it is worth upgrade. If you are midway through the semester of uni and your computer is crucial, LEAVE IT WHERE IT IS, try windows 10 in the holidays because there are unknowns that can put your computer out of action that you should be cautious of. If you have windows 8.1 and you like it, I wouldn’t rush to windows 10 but there is no big reason to stay on 8.1 unless you have driver issues with 10, so try it out but be prepared to roll back if all doesn’t work out for you which will take a good couple of hours of prodding at the screen to get done. As a PC gamer (#gloriouspcmasterrace) you will eventually want DirectX 12, but lets face it, no game will fully utilize that until 2017 anyway so there is no point rushing at it like a bull at a gate. Over all I don not think Windows 10 is bad, just not as giant a leap forward as you’d think it would be and there are always wrinkles to resolve in new operating systems. There is no busting reason to rush at it, so take your time and look at upgrading in a few months.