It has been a busy time in Redmond. Three hundred and two days ago, on September 30, 2014, Windows 10 was announced by Microsoft. The name, at the time, was a bit of a surprise, and Windows 10 was born out of the ashes of Windows 8.1. Over the last three hundred days, we have seen a pronounced change in how Microsoft develops software. Windows 8 was the crowning achievement of Steven Sinofsky, and his sudden departure from the Redmond company only weeks after Windows 8 shipped perhaps signaled that Microsoft knew out of the gate that Windows 8 would be controversial and difficult to adopt for their core user group. A new direction was necessary.

And so we have Windows 10. Separated from Windows 8 by more than just a number, it was also forged by a Microsoft who was more open about the development process than I can ever recall. The day after Windows 10 was announced, Microsoft opened up the Windows Insider program, to give anyone who wanted a look at the new take on Windows to give it a spin, and not only that, they could offer feedback and suggestions for apps and features. The changes made to Windows 10 over the last three hundred odd days, have been dramatic, which is a testament to how the new Microsoft takes and processes the huge amount of feedback it received.

Windows 10 Start Menu and Desktop in October 2014

The Windows Insider program was very successful. Very quickly the number of people who had signed up was over a million, and the last count that I saw was that there are over five million people in the Windows Insider program. The response has certainly been enthusiastic.

Windows 10 Start Menu and Desktop at release

Of course it helps that the software being tested showed that Microsoft was listening well before the Insider Program even began. Windows 8’s biggest pain points, such as the Start Screen, full screen apps, and the Charms bar, were not going to be tweaked in this release, but completely done away with. Back was the Start Menu, back was windowed apps, and back was what made Windows, well, Windows. Where Windows 8 was promoted as touch-first, Windows 10 was created as productivity first, with the OS trying to assist you with things like Snap Assist rather than get in your way.

There is a lot of changes and features to go over, and in typical AnandTech style, we are going to provide as much information about each as we can. I wanted to ensure that we did the review with the final code, to ensure any of our tests would be accurate and real-world results. Hopefully the full review is worth the wait.

With Windows 10 being the first ever free upgrade, here is a quick look at what to expect if you signed up to get the upgrade on day one.

Windows 10 gains a personal assistant in Cortana. What originally launched on Windows Phone has been brought to the PC, and it can now work across all of your Windows devices. One of the key benefits of Windows 10 over Windows 8 is that features like Cortana are easily discoverable. Cortana now lives in a search box right beside the start button, and it can keep track of your travel plans, set up reminders, and perform searches for you.

Microsoft is also adding a new browser to Windows 10, with Microsoft Edge. Although based on Internet Explorer under the hood, huge chunks of code have been taken out to improve security, and the rendering and scripting engines have been optimized to make Edge one of the fastest browsers around. It adds support for new features like being able to markup web pages and share them, and Cortana is built in to provide contextual search results right in the page. It is a big step up from Internet Explorer in standards compliance, and while it’s not quite finished yet, Microsoft has promised to update it often through the Windows Store.

With Windows 8, Microsoft basically built a tablet operating system, and stuck the desktop inside of it. I actually quite liked the design when using Windows 8 with touch, but using it on a large screen desktop could be frustrating. Windows 10 is still designed for both systems, but they have added Continuum to Windows 10 to automatically prompt to switch from one mode to the other. Optimizing Windows for what you are doing is a much better approach than optimizing for what you’re not doing, and Continuum finally bridges the gap between desktop and tablet on one device.

Gaming is getting a big boost on Windows 10, with support for DirectX 12 which is the biggest change to their gaming APIs since DirectX 10 launched with Windows Vista way back in 2006. DirectX 12’s most important feature is likely its low-level API, which can provide much better performance in a lot of scenarios where developers had been CPU bound before. Graphics Processing Units are massively parallel devices, but could be bottlenecked by the API being CPU bound. DirectX 12 makes some big changes to the API to give the developers the chance to get around these bottlenecks, and the upcoming DirectX 12 games can add a level of detail that was unattainable before.

Gaming doesn’t stop there though. Windows 10 brings some other cool things to gaming on the PC. The built in Xbox app will support Game DVR, allowing you to record game sessions, edit them, and share them, all within the Xbox app. One of the coolest features coming is game streaming from an Xbox One to any Windows 10 PC, allowing you to use any PC or tablet as the display for the Xbox, as long as it is on the LAN. This isn’t new tech, but it will be built into every Windows 10 PC. Windows 10 is also going to offer cross-device gameplay, allowing you to play against people on Xbox One or Windows 10. Some games will even support starting a game on one device and finishing on the other.

The built in apps have all gotten major overhauls with Windows 10, and now work a lot better on a desktop but equally well on a touch device. Photos has gone from an almost unusable application on Windows 8 to a very nicely executed app in Windows 10. Mail has seen a huge change, and has taken cues from their purchase of Acompli, which had one of the best email apps on iOS. Maps has also gotten a big facelift, and it can sync information among all of your Windows devices. Xbox Music has been rebranded to Groove Music, and the movies app is now a movie player with the Windows Store being unified to include all purchases including movies and TV.

On the security side, Windows 10 brings a lot of features here as well. One I am very much looking forward to is Windows Hello, which will allow you to log in with supported facial recognition hardware, or fingerprint readers. Once logged in, Passport will be available as a service to allow authentication to external services, if they add support. This will leverage public-private key technology, so if a third party was able to obtain the database of passwords from a web service, they would just have your public key which is useless to them. I’ve said it before, and will say it again. Passwords have outlived their usefulness and any work to move this technology forward should be a huge benefit to everyone.

And these features are really just the tip of the iceberg, with far more available including virtual desktops, drop shadows, a new dark theme, and more. Windows 10 is a big step up from Windows 8, but also from those that hung back on Windows 7. With the free upgrade from Windows 7 or 8 being offered for a year, adoption should be strong, but time will tell. I have been running Windows 10 since October, and as my daily computer since January. It has been worth the wait.

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  • BMNify - Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - link

    You can also block "everything" if you want via blocking the windows update service and the post i was replying to said that "automatic patches that you can't prevent or learn anything about" which is patently false and FUD.
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - link

    "You can also block 'everything' if you want via blocking the windows update service"

    You can also turn off the computer and never use it. Wow.
  • toyotabedzrock - Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - link

    My problem is that security patches can't really be blocked and the malware scan tool that scans your files and reports back to Microsoft will more than likely be one of those unstoppable patches.
  • Oxford Guy - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - link

    That was, in part, what my post was about.

    There is also the issue of potentially unwanted additions, like the horrible indexing that Microsoft added to XP which slowed things down to a crawl, as well as drivers that "upgrade" the computer to an inferior earlier version.
  • Oxford Guy - Sunday, August 9, 2015 - link

    Truth hurts, bucko:

    "Windows 10 driver problems haven’t been confined to manufacturer support either, with the Register reporting that the new mandatory update cycle imposed by Windows 10 on users was causing crashes and glitches for many users.

    Further problems have occurred, as reported by ExtremeTech, where Windows 10 has attempted to install drivers for hardware that wasn’t even present in the users’ devices."

    -- The Register, Aug 9th
  • abrogan - Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - link

    Don't forget you can type "services" into the start menu, and disable the Windows Update Service.
  • Oxford Guy - Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - link

    Yeah, who needs updates anyway?
  • royalcrown - Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - link

    First post from Skynet Pro - 0109 hundred hours !
  • TheJian - Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - link

    Most of this junk is meh to me (no intention of xbox1 purchase etc). Drop shadows? I turn that off in win7 as it annoys my eyes. Virtual desktops can already be had. IE:
    Many ideas for free (the first article is 6yrs old..LOL, other 2014), but I prefer something like Displayfusion myself (at least for win7 for now). There are probably far better apps for VD than the two articles above list, just a quick google for those, and displayfusion is not related to VD. It's multi-monitor toolbars etc. Opinions vary on either idea I'm sure, just pointing out win10 isn't special if you're already using tools to do much of the same stuff in win10 (and probably 3rd party stuff is much better anyway!).

    Adoption for me will be likely the last day it's free (let everyone else beta test), and only if it does NOT kill my Win7 code EVER. I will likely have to pass IT tests on it eventually but not many companies will upgrade for at least a year or more (I'll have something on a test box, but I'm talking replacing my main OS - even then likely a dual boot...LOL). Heck we have govt agencies that just hit win98/office 97 (unbelievable!) last year! We need to fire these stupid people. I have zero interest in adding numbers so MSFT can push dx12/xbox1. I prefer Vulkan winning any api war and there is nothing in win10 that I need over win7 which is rock solid and does everything I need after adding utils to fix it's issues, my hate of win explorer, replaced with apps like xplorer2, xyplorer etc. If change doesn't make me FASTER daily, you can keep your change until I'm forced to use it.

    I can't wait for a 500w PC like ARM box with an ~85w cpu and discrete GPU to compete with WINTEL boxes. Now that we have 64bit ARM devices moving to 4GB, we should finally get a box probably next year so REAL apps can start coming to ARM's side (adobe's full suite etc). The ARM armada is the new AMD to Intel (but can't wait for ZEN too), in case ZEN fails to cause any Intel movement on the cpu side. I sure hope someone plans on putting out an ARM CPU soon north of 50w for PC's at 4ghz etc. This is surely their goal at some point as they march up the Intel laptop, desktop chain. It's just a question of who and the right timing for the OS/apps.

    Poor people could axe the microsoft os fee, and ARM providers could put out a chip for $100 or more less than comparable Intel chips and still profit, while powerful boxes could ship at $200-250 off PC pricing. This is the logical way to increase your revenue on ARM's side (Intel's 60B revenue + MSFT's revenue) with much of WINTEL's revenue at stake in this simple evolution of ARM's product. NV should put one out at 14nm/10nm with pascal and HBM2 for memory in cheap potent soc boxes first, then strip the gpu and allow discrete once you see how much the first integrated way gets you. This is why I say next year as HBM2 should make things interesting for low cost game capable boxes on ARM with pascal in there, and then discrete as an addon initially (then a full separate cpu sans gpu at some point like ZEN and probably Intel soon after ZEN hits). Maybe Qcom tries it (apple already heading there to get rid of Intel too), but I think them and samsung will lose the IP case big time (along with others later), so I'd rather have NV kickstart it all. Or heck AMD? but probably no funding without ZEN being a huge hit for AMD and this would delay the story until 2017 probably at best. You have to profit for a year on ZEN before this is possible as they already delayed apus for zen (no funding now for both at the same time). So again, someone with more cash needs to fire the first salvo on PC ARM boxes.

    No win10 for me for now. I wasn't overly impressed with the beta & consider this more like 8.1 with better lipstick to me. The way I operate daily, they just keep slowing me down. Stuff like boot times etc mean nothing to me on SSD and rarely doing it anyway. Make me faster ALL DAY, and EXPOSE the whole OS so I don't have to resort to something like GOD MODE in win7 to get places quickly ;) Don't change things that WORK already unless it makes me much faster doing it. Gizmos and graphics (while pretty) don't get work done.
  • royalcrown - Wednesday, July 29, 2015 - link

    You could just go DOS 6.22 and get all this HAL, GUI nonsense out of your way....

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