Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Windows 10 Day 1: The actual upgrade

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After 9 months of trying out everything good and bad about Windows 10 through the Insider program, today (July 29), I will officially start using Windows 10 on my main computer. Previously, I was only using Windows 10 on a occasional basis which mostly happens when there is a brand new feature or there was something I needed to clarify. That Windows 10 experience was based on an old Dell laptop which initially ran Windows Vista and was powered by a Core 2 Duo processor.
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Technically speaking, that didn't affect my review of Windows 10, I was evaluating the software experience and not the hardware performance. But nonetheless, Windows 10 ran quite solidly on my old laptop. With that out of the way, now I have the opportunity to actually put Windows 10 through it's paces with real world tasks and for the next week or so, maybe more, depending on my initial findings I will be blogging about my experience of using Windows 10 as my daily driver.

Windows 8.1 to Windows 10

Before actually using Windows 10 on my main computer, I will need to upgrade it from Windows 8.1 which means I will be bidding away my old Start Screen. For this upgrade, I did not rely on the ISO file which Microsoft is offering. Instead, I will be relying on the good old Windows Update to go from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. 
Download: Windows 10 ISO (32/64-bit)
The story here starts with the hidden folder on my C:/ drive called $Windows.~BT, this file has actually been silently downloading in the background and if you've noticed that your internet connection felt a little slow this week, this is the problem. The file itself is about 2-3GB depending on which version you are upgrading to, either the Home or Pro version or the 32-bit or 64-bit version. Once that is downloaded, the contents of the folder will start decompressing to a size upwards of 5GB. 

Just keep not that all of this is done automatically in the background without your consent. 

Depending on when you reserved your copy of Windows 10 through the taskbar bubble, this folder might've already been downloaded last week. Keep not that the $Windows.~BT folder is a hidden folder, so you will need to enable some settings to actually see it. Having the magical update folder downloaded onto your computer is actually just the first step.

Once you have confirmed the existence of that folder on your C drive, all you have to do is wait for the mystical Microsoft servers to activate your Windows 10 upgrade. Here's a little fun fact, Microsoft actually wanted to launch Windows 10 on July 25 but they were unable to do that because of the server load they were being imposed. They ended up with July 29 because only by then will they be able to get 40Tbps of server capacity from their distribution partners. That is a whopping 4TB/s to deliver Windows 10 upgrades to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users worldwide.

If all goes well and your computer gets the green light from Microsoft servers, there should be a popup requesting you to schedule an upgrade. I was a little impatient so I spammed on Windows Update to see the message asking me to upgrade to Windows 10. The actual release time for Windows 10 upgrades was 12AM ET.

Do note that my upgrade was done on Windows 8.1 and the steps is similar on Windows 7. 

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Before

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After

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Agree to some terms

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Annnd the upgrade can begin

Windows 10 Upgrade

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The upgrade itself is quite simple, you don't need to click anything. Just the let the automated setup do it's thing. With Windows 10, Microsoft has updated how the Windows installation screen looks like. It's basically just a black screen with a big round percent counter. If you've installed recent preview builds, you would've seen this screen quite a bit. For my computer, the update took about an hour and after that, I could immediately resume using the system.

As for the post-upgrade configurations, it was pretty straight forward. Just a few buttons to click and if you've kept all your previous settings from Windows 7/8/1, you shouldn't be prompted to do the basic setups like connecting to wifi and signing in to your Microsoft account. I would highly recommend you to not do a complete system wipe at this time as driver support might be a problem.
One thing to note is that if you opt to go with the automated Windows 10 upgrade through Windows Update, you will not be given the option to do a clean install (wipe everything). It'll automatically migrate all your documents and programs into the new operating system. But fret not as you will be able to do a clean install (if you wish) after the installation is complete. Just go to the new Settings app, navigate to the 'Update & Security' tab and click on the Recovery tab. From there you can click the button under the Reset this PC heading.
windows-10-reset-pc
Once you've initiated the reset, there will be a wizard to guide you through the process and depending on the amount of applications and data you have on your computer, the reset will take about 2-3 hours and cannot be reversed. Also for some reason you want to downgrade back to Windows 8.1, there is an option to do just that but it'll only be there for 1 month after you upgrade.

The desktop

Unlike on Windows 8, booting up to Windows 10 for the first time doesn't prompt an automated tutorial about using the operating system. Instead, you will be redirect straight to the desktop and your productivity can resume as usual. As I said earlier, I have been using Windows 10 through the Insider program ever since it was released last October but that was on a 15" laptop with a 1280 X 800 resolution.

I started off with something like this...

...And ended up with this

Using Windows 10 on a big monitor is a relatively new experience for me. On the taskbar I can now fit more than 20 applications without splitting into a separate page and I have also just realized that the Windows 10 taskbar icons are smaller. It was a little harder to use at first but I got used to it in no time. Another thing that I found out is that the Start Menu is actually capable of expanding more than two columns, it depends on the actual screen resolution of the device. For my 1080P display, the Start Menu could expand to a whopping 4 column layout.

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As you can see, the icons are slightly smaller
Besides that, there was something else that I noticed about the desktop and lockscreen. Windows 10 actually synced my wallpaper for both the desktop and lockscreen, the lockscreen pin has also been synced through. This however isn't something new as Windows 8 already features such a sync feature. I remember reading an article last week that the Start Menu layout and installed applications will not be synced from device to device. So, naturally that gave me the mindset that other settings will not sync to the cloud too.

While the Start Menu doesn't sync between Windows 10 devices, I am happy that my existing lineup of pinned apps on my Windows 8 Start Screen made it's way on to the new Start Menu. A nice little surprise indeed, but I ended up un-pinning most of the applications to create a single column layout.
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Right, back to the taskbar. Yes the icons are a little smaller when compared to Windows 8 but the taskbar on Windows 10 looks a bit more refined with the accent color underline. In my review yesterday, I did mention that the tasbkar on Windows 10 no longer comes with colors, well I was a little wrong with that. It does come with color and in contrast with the Windows 8 one, the Windows 10 taskbar tends to focus more on the theme color than the underlying content which the transparency provides. What that means is that the theme color is a little darker in practice.

There is also an option to go with the black palette for the taskbar, Start Menu and the sliding Action Center, but I ultimately decided to go with a solid color option. I'm not too sure why, but I felt that the black didn't quite suite my workflow as previously on Windows 8 which had colors and suddenly it becomes black. Also, the black doesn't quite have that transparent look. It's more of a subtle translucent look than actual see through black. Maybe I will go back to the black taskbar color in another day. 
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Windows 10 is definitely not perfect yet and in the coming weeks ahead Microsoft will be pushing out patches and updates to solve some problems. One of the problem which I personally encountered was a complete system freeze. It wasn't technically a freeze, just the Start Menu was not responding but the programs in the foreground ran as usual. What cause it? Well, I was just testing out the local search on Cortana and it just froze there.

That's not all, when I first booted up to Windows, programs loaded up slowly and so I did a restart. That didn't turn out well as the restart took about 5 minutes and even after booting up to the desktop, applications started loading up slowly and at that point I was planning to reset the computer. But luckily I did not do that as things started to feel normal again after a while (an hour later). Not sure what's causing this problem but, yeah could be a bug.

Overall I am pretty happy with this upgrade, all my peripherals work nicely on Windows 10. Wasn't required configure anything extra. And yeah, that's about it for day 1 of my upgrade to Windows 10. I'll try my best to make it all the way to 10 days but I will at least go to 5 days.

Insider Talk (out of topic)

This article was actually a spontaneous decision. Initially I was planning to write on about how to upgrade to Windows 10 from Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 but I felt lazy about doing it, so I gave up the idea. What gave me the motivation to write this article is when I read Gizmodo's daily Windows 10 experience blog posts. They're onto day 5 already and I thought it was a good idea to talk about my personal experiences running Windows 10 to see where the problems first hand.

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