Horse Sense #128

The (Early) Good, Bad, and Ugly of the Windows 10 Upgrade

What I Learned from My First Windows 10 Upgrade

One day after the Windows 10 upgrade became available, I forced my office Windows 7 Pro machine with a powerful processor and a solid state disk to upgrade. Because it has not had as much wear and tear and most of the programs are very new, I hoped that the upgrade process would go (more) smoothly. I predicted in my last Horse Sense that the upgrade would not be grief free. It was not. The Windows 10 upgrade downloaded at a steady 1.75Mbps on my 15Mbps Internet connection. No matter how fast your connection is, you can only download as fast as the slowest link in the chain. While I waited for the download to complete, I removed programs I did not think I would use any more. After all, when the upgrade started it said I could continue using my PC as normal. I was not actively trying to *make* the upgrade fail, but one of the programs I was uninstalling forced a reboot. After that, the Windows 10 upgrade would not install at all. I had to remove failed download files manually (not something most would know how to do) and start over again. The download took *less* time than I expected. The installation required 40 minutes and several reboots. Low power processor based machines with traditional mechanical hard disks will take much longer. You should budget at least 90 minutes or more for the upgrade events. Unfortunately, there are more time consuming tasks to perform once the upgrade completes.

Symantec claimed that the upgrade would work without removing Symantec Endpoint Protection first. It did, but Endpoint Protection was nonfunctional. Symantec's management console sent me mail to say it had detected the upgrade and it would attempt to fix that issue automatically within the hour. One hour or more is a long time to have your anti-malware not working as you like it, so I did what I recommended you do in my last Horse Sense. I uninstalled my anti-malware product and reinstalled a compatible version from Symantec's web site. Endpoint Protection works just fine now.

Four updates were waiting to be downloaded to my freshly upgraded machine. Had I chosen to be a Windows Insider, basically an ongoing beta test group, I might have seen a lot more. Do not request to be a Windows Insider with a production machine. I expect a deluge of Windows 10 updates in the next few months. Those updates needed another reboot to complete.

Using Microsoft's built in removal tools, which have been around since Windows XP, I removed over 33GB of files Windows 10 was holding on to "just in case!" Most of those files were to help revert to Windows 7. I did not try this and I hope you do not try it either. I made an image of my system first. Restoring that image would be a safer, faster, and surer way of getting my old software configuration back on my PC. My favorite cleanup utilities removed an additional 1.5GB of files. Windows Defender alone accounted for over 400MB of junk files! Since I use Endpoint Protection, I do not even use Windows Defender.

The upgrade may catastrophically fail if it runs out of disk space. Cleaning up *before* starting the upgrade will help it succeed, make it go faster, and leave less to clean up afterwards. Post upgrade cleanup is mandatory if you want to save space, increase performance, and decrease maintenance effort. On the plus side, there was a mistake in many of the documents issued about the upgrade. You do NOT need 60GB of hard disk space to install Windows 10. 16GB was also listed in some places and is the more likely number for a clean installation without programs or data. However, if you want the *upgrade* be successful, I doubt it will work unless you have at least 30GB or more of free space. Make an image based backup of your entire system before you try the upgrade in case it fails on you or you decide you should switch back.

Windows 10 Pro booted up with a completely new login screen. At your first login, be careful not to compromise your security by using the "Express Setup" settings. Turn Microsoft's anti-malware off if you are using another anti-malware program. Turn off or uninstall apps you will not use to improve performance and security. Business users are not that likely to use Microsoft OneDrive, for example, and should disable or uninstall it. Unneeded programs and apps uninstall under Control Panel -> Add/Remove Programs and/or the Apps tab in Systems Settings. Some executables showed up in both places. Others did not, though apps did not tend to show up as programs. Look in both places to clean up your system.

Windows 10 makes foolish choices when it comes to business. Microsoft will not let you remove Xbox, Maps, and Groove Music software from your business desktop. Even turning off the Xbox software was difficult. I uninstalled the Sports app, Get Office (I already had it on the PC, so why offer it?), Skype, and some others. Many of the defaults and accelerators in the IE and Edge browsers will not suit business users. Removing unneeded software and browser add-ins and choosing more reasonable defaults will improve security, reliability, and performance.

Microsoft has designed Windows 10 with the idea that you want to live in an all Microsoft world. The Windows 10 upgrade inserts Microsoft options at every opportunity and defaults to contacting the Microsoft mother ship as well. This becomes more than annoying when it costs you time and effort to undo and you have real worries about security.

[An upcoming Horse Sense will have more on Windows 10 (In-)Security.]

The PC I upgraded is built from quality parts of varying ages. My 2013 Gigabyte motherboard's latest software drivers ran fine under Windows 7 but one caused a blue screen every time Windows 10 shut down. I had to figure out which of the many drivers it was and uninstall it. Even more painful was figuring out how to get the office HP LaserJet 5N printer from 1997 to print. I doubt most people could do it. Windows 10 does not recognize the ASUS video adapter I bought in 2006 and uses the default generic Microsoft video driver instead, but at lower than the native resolution of my monitor. Like earlier Windows versions, increasing the resolution results in unreadably tiny lettering. I would like my icons and print to be readable while being able to use the maximum resolution of my monitor so the images would be "crisper." The Windows 10 upgrade did better with some software than I expected. A DOS emulator I had running programs under Windows 7 still works just fine!

Trying My Luck at Home on Two More PCs

I went home and forced the upgrade on a 2013 Acer Iconia W4 Windows 8.1 Home tablet and a 2009 Windows 7 Home gaming laptop. Downloads were much faster on my 50Gbps Verizon FIOS connection than they were at work. Installing the downloaded code on my home machines took longer than the work one, though all of these machines have solid state drives. My more powerful processor at work decreased the time needed to install the code. The Iconia's anemic processor took over three hours to complete the whole process. It was quite a chore to then neuter unneeded applications, get the anti-malware working, plug some security holes, and tune the machines for better performance. I spent 45 minutes on the laptop, but more 90 minutes on the tablet. The tablet had fewer programs, but making the changes needed is tougher if you have fat fingers for your touch screen and a slow processor. Setting more reasonable defaults and removing junk improved responsiveness dramatically, so the effort was worth it. Accepting the Microsoft defaults is a terrible idea.

My laptop is still "not quite right." I cannot use the AMD software I had used previously to control my video. Quite a few pieces of software that used to start automatically do not start any more. My TiVo software completely failed. The only solution was to reinstall the software. Unfortunately, TiVo does not support that software version any more. I had to find an archived version. After reinstalling the TiVo software, the system startup configuration shows two entries for each piece of TiVo software, and one shows up as disabled. Windows 10 will let you remove the enabled entry, but not the disabled one. The TiVo software works, so I'm declaring victory for now. This laptop used to freeze solid and require a power reset every so often. I never figured out why. Windows 10 has not changed that. Windows 10 does not appear to be using some of the drivers I used in Windows 7 Pro, but I am going to call this a successful upgrade for now.

Early Reports from the Field

One upgrader got tired of her machine "not doing anything" during the upgrade and turned it off. She had no backup when it turned into a brick. Yipe! Some upgraders report nearly problem free upgrades with standard equipment, though they do not appear to be looking at the machines as hard as I have. Others report major issues with display drivers and laptop drivers. Manufacturer specific (OEM) software mean to support or control a PC, which are plentiful on laptops, usually fails.

I have seen many machines with an odd Windows Update error message that Windows 10 tried to install but failed. The Windows 10 upgrade is supposed to appear as a choice in Windows Update. Most of those machines did not show that option. Sometimes, after I ran Windows Update the Upgrade to Windows 10 selection would appear. How could the machine show it failed to upgrade to Windows 10 if even the selection did not exist? Furthermore, had the machine really attempted to install the Windows 10 upgrade without the required permission?

First Impressions....Should You Upgrade?

If you like Windows 8.x on your personal machine, upgrading is likely a good idea. You will get a lot of things you like and drop some of the things you hate about Windows 8.x. You will especially like the upgrade if you are using a Windows 8.x based tablet. My Iconia W4 is much more comfortable to use. Windows 10 turns a tablet into a much more full-fledged Windows device and makes a lot of common tasks easier. Windows 10 on a tablet is not just trying to be an alternative to Android and you will appreciate that. Using a pin code to bypass the login screen and the Cortana digital assistant can be big time savers. Unfortunately, I am not happy at the huge agreement you have to sign to use Cortana, its invasiveness, or the amount of data it sends across the wire to Microsoft. Windows 10 tablets require more hard disk space and a much stronger processor than Android, but you can also run real desktop type applications rather than more limited tablet based apps. Add a keyboard and mouse to that tablet and you have a full blown "PC." A 2 in 1 adds keyboard, mouse, extra connectivity, and battery life for when you need more than a tablet. Windows 10 is the first operating system to automatically adjust to leverage the capabilities of a 2 in 1 in either its tablet or laptop mode.

Windows 10 could be a useful upgrade to a Windows 8.x corporate desktop. If you are running Windows 7, the security, manageability, and bandwidth management issues of Windows 10 are going to be a problem for you and the interface may confuse some of your people. Many of the most interesting Windows 10 features will not be available or will have less functionality if you are upgrading from an older Windows 7 desktop. I predict many businesses will instead replace older Windows 7 machines with new Windows 10 desktops when they decide to upgrade.

Older hardware, really new hardware, and specialty hardware may not work at all or have real issues working under Windows 10. Generic, well distributed hardware and software will probably work fine. Anti-malware, password, or other security software, and video and audio software are all likely to fail, though...

What am I going to do here? These are my "guinea pig" machines. I do not plan on upgrading any more machines for a while. Somewhat because I have to, I will be using Windows 10 and be the "canary in the coal mine" for others. I may yet wipe out these machines and start over with a clean install of Windows 10. Some devices, like my tablet, would make a clean install more difficult, though.

7 Key Takeaways

(1) The Windows 10 upgrade works better than any previous Microsoft operating system upgrade other than Windows 8 to 8.1 or a Service Pack.

(2) Do not accept the Microsoft serving, performance zapping, insecure defaults.

(3) Expect a lot of cleanup and reconfiguration later, especially to resolve issues with (2).

(4) A clean install, if you can afford to, is likely to be a better long term option and save you from niggling issues I have seen. So far, I have not had to enter a license key for any of my upgrades. A clean install might require one.

(5) As an operating system Windows 10 still appears to be unfinished when compared to previous Microsoft operating system releases.

(6) Although many machines can run Windows 10, without manual intervention they may never be able to upgrade.

(7) Windows 10 still feels a little rough around the edges. Consumers might want to take the plunge on the upgrade now, but businesses need to remember the adage that the early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse to the mousetrap gets the cheese. My most used laptop gave me the message today that it was ready to upgrade itself to Windows 10. It tells me the download has completed. Windows Update says the code is only 2.1GB, which is smaller than I reported. And....I'm going to just keep upgrading that machine with the latest Windows 7 patches for a while.

We are interested in what your experiences are and stand willing to help if you need us!

©2015 Tony Stirk, Iron Horse