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Gary Eikenberry Consulting
22-1010 Polytek Street, Ottawa, ON Canada  K1J 9J1
E-mail: Click to email;  Web: http://www.geconsult.ca
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Adventures with Windows 10
(a cautionary tale)

You win some; you lose some...
Having run the Windows 10 technical preview on a laptop for several months and having experienced a relatively painless transition to the final release I rather recklessly decided to "upgrade" the Windows 7 Pro, SP1 partition on the desktop computer which is my primary Windows workstation. This was in spite of the fact that I harbour some very serious reservations about the rather heavy handed approach Windows 10 takes to security and privacy. After the "upgrade" the vast majority of applications I used on a regular basis either wouldn't start, started with one or more error messages or started and then crashed. It may have been the case that most of these errors were caused by permission errors in the Users/#username#/AppData folder hierarchy, but after wasting too much time with the upgrade I decided my odds of cutting my losses were better with attempting to revert to Windows 7 than trying to get Windows 10 working.

Some of the things Windows 10 broke:

  1. Saved network locations all returned permission errors and I was unable to log into the NAS I use for archiving.
  2. MS Outlook 2010 refused to start. The first error message referred to the forms cache. Word and Excel also returned errors and security wwarnings, but at least Word started -- Excel started but hung when I tried to open a relatively simple budget spreadsheet. After attempting a repair installation of Office the errors varied, but Outlook still wouldn't start and Excel started but crashed when I tried to update the same budget spreadsheet.
  3. No browser other than MS Edge would start. This had a rather Orwellian feel to it. Firefox, Chrome, Chromium and Safari all failed with various errors referring to profiles, configuration data, etc. When I tried to download and reinstall Firefox with MS Edge, the Firefox downoad page loaded but nothing happened either with the automatic start for the download or when I clicked the download link. Additionally, Edge refused to let me add my preferred search engine, DuckDuckGo as a search option, let alone set it as my default.
  4. Neither my preferred code editor for Windows, Notepad++ or platform independent one, jEdit would start without errors. jEdit did work once I got past the error messages, but when Notepad++ eventually started, some of its functionality was lost and it wasn't long before it crashed.
  5. Filezilla started, but couldn't load my saved configuration or site manager settings.
  6. None of the applications in LibreOffice 5.0 suite, which I actually prefer over MS Office, and which I needed since MS Office wasn't working, would start.
  7. My Linuxpartition was still there, but inaccessible. Although I was pretty confident that I would be able to reinstalll an alternative boot loader and get it back, this was more or less the last straw.
Quite possibly, my configuration and requirements are more complex than most, and at least some of these issues might have been resolved by mucking around in the security settings in the AppData folder hierarchy and/or reinstalling the applications in question. But this was promoted as an upgrade, not a clean install and if I had known that hours of undoing and repairing would be required, driving my productivity down to zero, I would have waited. And, by the way, I had already waited until Microsoft emailed to say that my upgrade was ready.

At this point I am unlikely to try again or recommend upgrading from Windows 7. Windows 10 is clearly an improvement over its immediate predecessors, 8 and 8.1 and, at least in my limited experience (my own laptop and 3 systems belonging to clients) the upgrade from those versions appears to work without significant issues. It may also be an acceptable choice for a new machine or a clean install, and the upgrade process from Windows 7 may work for some, but it was seriously flawed in my case, and, in at least one other case where I have been ask to handle the rollback process for someone who was eager to give it a try. As far as I'm concerned, at least at present, the process of upgrading from Windows 7 still needs work and is not to be trusted, especially in the case of a critical system.

The most positive thing I can say about my "upgrade" experience is that the process of reverting to Windows 7 undid most of the damage. Some shortcuts and custom libraries were broken, I had to remove and re-create some saved network locations but at least among those applications I use frequently, only the Chromium browser and a scanner control application had to be reinstalled. In the end, I opted to restore the entire system from the clone I had generated (http://clonezilla.org/) before embarking on my Windows 10 adventure rather than tweak the restored Windows partition and install and configure a new boot loader in order to get back access to my Linux partition. All things considered the price I paid for my ill-considered upgrade attempt, although measured in yet more hours I will never get back from Microsoft, was far less than it might have been.

If I had to make a recommendation...
As for whether or not I would advise someone to opt for Windows 10 for a new system or a clean install, calling it "an improvement over its immediate predecessors" may be damning with faint praise, but I still consider Windows 10 to be something of a productivity siphon when compared to Windows 7 or most of the Linux distributions I use. Some of the shortcomings of the new start menu and search functions (sorry, but, at least for the time being, I consider Cortana more of a toy than a tool and, when your consider "her" data tracking and accumulation inclinations, a not entirely benign toy) can be overcome with shortcuts on the desktop and taskbar to make the apps and folders or files we routinely use more readily accessible. Being touch friendly and favouring so-called "modern" apps over the ones most of us still use on an everyday basis to get things done is not necessarily a change for the better. If your requirements are more oriented to content consumption than content creation or maintenance and if you prefer a touch interface but sometimes require a mouse or physical keyboard, and you aren't overly concerned about its data accumulation tendencies and privacy implications, then Windows 10 might be right for you.

Would I pay for an upgrade? Probably not. Would I purchase a new Windows 10 computer? I probably would if I needed applications that only run under Windows, but I would want to make sure it would support alternative operating systems should the need arise.

Some other perspectives on Windows 10:

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