10 reasons you should upgrade to Windows 10

Windows diehards take note: Win10 is more than a misguided mash-up of Win7 and Win8

10 reasons you should upgrade to Windows 10

10 reasons you should upgrade to Windows 10

By now you’ve surely seen the Microsoft TV ads showing 10 reasons to upgrade to Windows 10: It’s familiar, Cortana, Microsoft Edge, Xbox, Multi-doing (is there a pedant in the house?), Security, Windows Hello, Music and more, Continuum, and Windows Store.

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The ads aren’t targeted at you and me -- they’re designed for your Great Aunt Mabel, who undoubtedly will get hooked searching through YouTube. If you’re more than mildly conversant with either Win7 or Win8, it’ll be hard to stifle a guffaw.

Don’t let the ads lead you astray. It’s easy to dismiss Windows 10 as a misguided mashup of Win7 and Win8, but there’s much more to the story. Let me step you through the 10 real reasons why diehard Windows users should upgrade to Windows 10. (But before you blow out your current OS in favor of Win10, stay tuned for my forthcoming companion piece pointing out 10 reasons for avoiding Windows 10.)

10. Windows 10 is the way of the future

10. Windows 10 is the way of the future

Yes, Microsoft tried to sell us the same bill of goods with Windows 8, but this time it’s very likely true.

Even though the Windows 10 desktop and the Win32 API underneath it will be around for a long time, and those “legacy” programs you’ve known for years will continue to save our butts, there’s no question that the new Windows Universal app platform (you can call it “Metro” and I won’t mind) is where we’re headed.

The WinRT API, which drives Universal apps, will become the platform of choice for Windows developers -- assuming that all of the Windows developers don’t turn to iOS or Android in the process. WinRT was originally conceived as a way to run the same apps (more or less) on both Windows and Windows Phone. Now, with Windows Phone not even a pimple on the mobile boil, that motivation is fading. But WinRT still has a draw on other devices, and in other contexts, including Internet of things, HoloLens, Raspberry Pi, and heaven knows what.

9. The new Start menu represents a big plus for Windows 8/8.1 mousers

9. The new Start menu represents a big plus for Windows 8/8.1 mousers

Windows 7 customers who rely on a mouse have good reasons to think twice before upgrading to Windows 10. But mousing Windows 8.1 folks will find the new Start menu overwhelmingly inviting. If you use a third-party Start menu (such as Start8) with Windows 8.1, you may already be happy enough. But if you’re tired of the Win8.1 interface, Windows 10 represents a significant improvement.

For mousers, Microsoft made a huge mistake with the Windows 8 interface and only partially rectified the problem with Windows 8.1. While other considerations may make you refrain from Windows 10 (for example, the OneDrive foibles), for most Win8 mousers, Windows 10 is a huge step forward.

8. DirectX 12 makes a big difference with hard-core games

8. DirectX 12 makes a big difference with hardcore games

Looks like frame rates may double. Right now DirectX 12 is making a big splash in the gaming industry. Some day, we may see big gains in all sorts of graphics rendering. Even on a slowpoke Intel integrated video chip, the improvement is marked.

For now, the only beneficiaries are gamers, running games specifically capable of taking advantage of DirectX 12.

Still, it’s worth pondering.

7. Security improvements, both shipping and anticipated

7. Security improvements, both shipping and anticipated

If memory serves, every Windows version since 3.1 has laid claim to being “the most secure ever.” Windows 10 includes many security improvements, some of them game-changing.

The biggest security improvement? Internet Explorer is no longer the default browser. That, by itself, will do more to improve the general security of Windows than any other change in recent memory.

Windows Hello, which you’ve probably seen in videos but never experienced in action, uses your face, iris, or fingerprint to verify your authenticity. Many machines have fingerprint readers that will work with Windows Hello. Few have the Intel RealSense camera necessary to pull off facial recognition. Intel lists 11 laptops and all-in-ones with the requisite camera, with three more that are sold only in Japan.

Aside from updates to current features -- Windows Defender, SmartScreen, Family Safety -- Microsoft is expected to ship Enterprise Data Protection, to wall off company data on mobile devices, later this year, as well as Device Guard, an app that takes a stern look at programs trying to reach a Win10 machine.

6. Catching up with every modern mobile phone and tablet, Win10 finally has a notification center

6. Catching up with every modern mobile phone and tablet, Win10 finally has a notification center

Microsoft calls it an Action Center, but at least it stores away your notifications so that you can find them, instead of flashing them on the desktop and tossing them into the bit bucket.

As a little bit o’ lagniappe, there are handy shortcuts at the bottom. (Hint: “All Settings” doesn’t really have All Settings; it’s simply an easy way to get into the Universal Settings app.)

5. You can actually use Win10 on a touch screen -- most of the time

5. You can actually use Win10 on a touchscreen -- most of the time

Windows 8.1 tablet aficionados may not appreciate all the nuances (I talk about them in the forthcoming list of reasons to avoid Windows 10), but Microsoft has reorganized the touch side so that you can actually get at many of the features available with a mouse. Illustrated here is the All Apps list, in Tablet Mode, which is a contortionist’s dream in Windows 8.1.

If you have two hands full of thumbs, as do I, you’ll probably want a stylus. But for general touch use, I find that Windows 10 works better than Windows 8.1. In particular, Win10 doesn’t require you to memorize weird swiping combinations, and it doesn’t hide tiles in “Where’s Waldo” land.

4. Multiple desktops are built-in, not patched on

4. Multiple desktops are built-in, not patched on

Windows has had the ability to run multiple desktops since XP days, but you had to install an add-on like the XP Virtual Desktop Manager hidden in Microsoft’s XP Power Toys. With more recent versions of Windows, dozens of virtual/multiple desktop management add-ins hit the scene, including Sysinternals Desktop from Microsoft. In Windows 10, instead of installing a separate program, multiple desktops arrive built-in.

Many people don’t like virtual desktops -- it’s hard to keep them organized, there’s no differentiation in background (one wallpaper applies to all the desktops) and no hint as to which desktop is currently in use. But I’ve found them worthwhile when trying to juggle two completely different tasks.

To bring up the multiple desktop interface -- and put your programs in Task View, as shown in the screenshot -- click the icon to the left of the Edge icon. It’s the one that looks like a schematic of a table and two chairs.

3. Cortana may change the way you work. Someday

3. Cortana may change the way you work. Someday

Much has been said about Cortana, the minus-500-year-old AI that occupies the spot to the right of the Start button. She/he/it is improving constantly. Windows 10 serves as a funnel to send your interactions with Cortana back to the Microsoft mothership. Expect Cortana’s repertoire to grow by leaps and bounds as Microsoft moves to match Apple’s Siri and Google Now.

The big downside to Cortana? She (pardon the anthropomorphism) constantly sends your personal data to Microsoft. Run a search on your local computer, and the search terms go to Microsoft’s Bing collector. Ask to be reminded about an appointment, and that data gets stuck in your bucket in the sky -- and your Outlook calendar.

That said, you can opt to turn off Cortana’s intrusive ways. You can even disable Cortana completely. The simple fact is Cortana needs access to all that information in order to personally assist you -- very much a two-edged sword. Make sure you understand the consequences.

2. Microsoft Edge is good and getting better

2. Microsoft Edge is good and getting better

The best part about Microsoft Edge? It isn’t Internet Explorer. Finally, Microsoft’s getting serious about creating a browser that’s fast, efficient, compliant with Web standards, and doesn’t care too much about backward compatibility. It’s about time.

The downside? It isn’t ready yet. Although Microsoft’s promised us it’ll be easy to switch default search providers, the only alternatives to Bing that I can find are Wikipedia and Twitter search. We’ve been promised add-on support, but there isn’t any. Without add-ons/extensions like an ad blocker, Edge coughs up all the garbage ads on your favorite pages. Not a pretty sight.

Personally, I’ll stick with Firefox and Chrome, though they aren’t yet available as Universal apps. But I have my eye on Edge, and when the features get flushed out, I’ll likely be all over it.

1. Better navigation for mousers

1. Better navigation for mousers

Maybe I’m the only one to notice or care, but navigation in Windows 10 using a mouse and keyboard has improved so much, I’d be tempted to upgrade to Windows 10 for the additional help in organizing. (In fact, if you’re coming from Windows 7, you may seriously consider getting Win10 simply because it brings back the “Up arrow” in File Explorer.)

If you’re sick and tired of accidental edge bumps in Windows 8 -- let your cursor drift too far to the upper right and you get blasted with charms; too far to the left and apps you’ve recently run appear out of nowhere -- Windows 10 banishes them all.

But there’s more. I use Snap Assist all the time: Drag a window to the left, to occupy half the screen, and the other windows that could go to the right all appear. Click on the app you want, and there’s a side-by-side screen, set up and waiting. You can also drag into a corner for the window to occupy one-fourth of the screen, as in the screenshot.

Sometimes the little things make a big difference for people who wrestle with the beast, day to day.