Windows 10 review: Hold off if you use Windows 7

Windows 10 is what Windows 8 should have been, but it has too many rough edges to attract Windows 7 users. Continuous upgrades could change that as early as this fall

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2

Management

Microsoft has created a wondrous deployment and patching infrastructure for Windows 10. But forced patches for those who aren’t attached to servers stand out as a big sticking point. In the past week we’ve seen two dramatic examples of poorly constructed patches pushed down the automatic chute. Those went to beta testers, who should be accustomed to being treated like cannon fodder. We still don’t know what will happen when bad patches hit the teeming masses.

There’s an extensive discussion of deployment in the Microsoft Virtual Academy. As mentioned before, in-place upgrades look very clean. In a similar vein, the nondestructive Repair works well in my tests. Deployment has been well thought out, but many enterprises will be stuck with very different deployment models for Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows 10.

The patching infrastructure has undergone massive changes, with the new Current Branch, Current Branch for Business, and Long Term Servicing Branch defining how updates get deployed. Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet has a good overview. The admins I know are concerned about the way the CBB and LTSB servers, and the “old” WSUS, will interact. It’s a big unknown at this point.

On a micromanagement level, Windows 10 loses the Guest account, which may be of note to some. I’m more concerned about the general lack of changelogs and patching notifications. As best I can tell, none of the Windows Store apps from Microsoft have changelogs. It’s very hard to say, right now, which version of a particular Windows Store app is the most recent, and how it differs from the last version. Windows Update, as we’ve known it for decades, no longer exists, and with its departure Windows users won’t be able to tell which patches have been applied.

It appears that Windows 10 Home customers have no option to delay or block updates. Windows 10 Pro customers, on the other hand, may be attached to a Current Branch for Business server, and the admin there may be able to postpone patches for a finite (but still undefined) amount of time. I haven’t heard anything definitive about Windows 10 Pro customers who aren’t attached to a CBB server, but there’s no Settings page as yet that would implement the ability to block specific patches. It looks like Win10 Pro users who aren’t attached to a CBB server will get patches as they come hurtling out. That has some troubling consequences, which I’ll explore in a later post.

Security

Microsoft has been talking about security improvements in Windows 10 for almost a year.

From a user point of view, the single largest improvement is in multifactor security techniques tied to accounts where you simply log in once and do nearly anything. The single most important improvement is the system-level separation on a given device of corporate and personal data, using a new technology called Data Loss Prevention. 

There’s built-in support for VPNs. Admins also get corporate lockdown capabilities, limiting apps that can be installed to those signed by specific vendors, along with Azure Active Directory integration. Enterprise apps from the Windows Store can be sideloaded -- and much more.

Windows 10 has its own native Mobile Device Management (MDM) with BYOD support, Enterprise Data Proection policies, and full wipe capabilities. The built-in MDM capabilities are integrated into Intune. They’re also promised to work well with third-party MDM packages. I haven’t seen anything extending MDM-like capabilities to the individual -- if you lose your laptop, there’s no FindMyPhone feature accessible from the Web, for example.

Compatibility

This is one area where Windows 10 shines. I’ve had few compatibility problems running any of the numerous betas and expect to see very few still around on July 29. Some drivers may not work properly, but the installer highlights those and tells you what (if anything) you can do about it. I fully expect that any application running on Windows 8/8.1 -- and, by implication, almost any app that runs on Windows 7 -- will do fine on Windows 10.

Conclusion

Windows 10 is a curious combination of enormous potential and disappointing current reality. With big advances in many areas, and fumbling starts in many others, it’s a mixed bag, particularly for anyone relying on the Microsoft-developed Universal apps. For example, if you need to run a Mail client on Windows 10, the Microsoft-supplied Universal Mail app works, but the Maps and Photos app will have you pulling your hair out.

Windows 10 does what it set out to do: Bring the Windows 7-style interface into the tiled universe. It is, in many ways, what Windows 8 should’ve been. It has all the advancements from Windows 8 -- security, stability, power saving, and on and on -- with much of the Windows 7 interface fully integrated. Windows 10 makes the old-fashioned desktop an integral part of the product, instead of an accidental tag-along, as it was in Windows 8 and, to a lesser degree, Windows 8.1.

At some point -- sooner rather than later -- I figure most Windows 8/8.1 users will want to upgrade to Windows 10, although there may be some touch-sensitive types who won’t like the new Tablet Mode.

For Windows 7 users, it may make more sense to hang tight for the foreseeable future -- or at least until Windows 10 Update 2 or 3 or 4 or 17 may be available. Sit back and watch the rollout unwind. It will take months for the major problems to surface and be corrected by Microsoft. It will take longer -- perhaps much longer -- for updates to make the promising new features attractive enough to warrant upgrading.

Eventually all Windows users will get Windows as a service. But there's no rush. Microsoft isn’t going to run out of bits. Wait.

1 2 Page 2
Page 2 of 2