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Windows 10: You've got questions, I've got answers


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[Updated] There's more to Windows 10 than just the revamped Start menu. I've been keeping this FAQ up to date throughout the Preview program. Here are the latest details, less than two months before the official release.

By Ed Bott for The Ed Bott Report | June 2, 2015 -- 22:20 GMT (15:20 PDT) | Topic: Windows 10

[Most recent updates: June 2, 2015]

Windows 10 will be available as a free upgrade to every qualified device running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. Anyone can download and test preview builds as part of the Windows Insider program. Windows 10 will be formally launched to the public on July 29, 2015.

In this post I cover what's in Windows 10, how you can get it, and what you can expect through the remainder of 2015 and into next year.


Windows 10's new Start menu and distinctive iconography

Here's what you need to know.

What is Windows 10?

Windows 10 is the successor to Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. (Yes, they skipped Windows 9.)

It was formally unveiled in fall of 2014, with a Technical Preview opening to the public on October 1. On January 21, in a two-hour-plus event at its Redmond headquarters, Microsoft unveiled a much broader vision for Windows 10, with features appearing "over the next three, four, five months." Two days later, the company released a new Windows 10 Technical Preview version, build 9926.

Those who have signed up with the Windows Insider program have received multiple updates since then. Microsoft divides the preview program into two "rings," Fast and Slow, with the Slow ring being for builds that have passed muster after evaluation by the Fast ring. The most recent builds, as of June 2, 2015, are:
  • Fast Ring: Build 10130, available as an online update only
  • Slow Ring: Build 10074, available via Windows Update and as an ISO download
Over the past few months, Microsoft has delivered significant new features into Windows 10 and also changed the name from Technical Preview to Insider Preview. With a few noteworthy exceptions, most of that work is now complete, and what you'll see on launch day should look very close to what is in Build 10130. According to Microsoft's Gabe Aul, in the blog post announcing the release of this build:

As I mentioned with the last build, from here onward you are going to see a lot of tuning, tweaking, stabilizing, and polishing which means fewer big feature changes from build to build.
Will my Windows desktop programs work with Windows 10?

Virtually all desktop programs that run on Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 will work with Windows 10. Some types of low-level system utilities, including backup tools and antivirus software, will require updates from the developer. Check with the developer of your software if you're not certain whether they plan to support Windows 10.

The Windows 10 compatibility checker should flag known issues.

What's new in Windows 10?

The biggest change is the new Start menu, which completely replaces the Windows 8-style Start screen, as well as the ability to run so-called modern apps in windows on the desktop. Cortana, the voice-powered personal assistant, makes her debut here after an extended run on Windows Phone. Cortana takes over the search box to the right of the Start button after you complete a few quick setup steps.

An Action Center, with notifications and buttons for common system tasks, appears on the right side. It completely replaces the now-defunct Charms menu.

Windows 10 includes a new tablet mode designed to make operation easier on devices that lack a keyboard and mouse. This set of features has been changing apidly in recent builds, especially on devices with smaller screens. As shown here, it expands the Start menu to a full screen, although the design is very different from the Windows 8.x Start screen.


Yes, that is a hamburger menu in the upper left corner

The list of Windows 10 features also includes new biometric support (Windows Hello) and a collection of first-party apps: Photos, Mail, Calendar, and MSN News, Sports, Money, Travel, and Weather apps.

All Windows 10 devices share a single Windows Store, which offers access to Universal Windows Apps capable of running on devices of many different sizes.

The Microsoft Edge browser is in current preview releases but is still using the Project Spartan codename.

Beginning with build 9879 last fall, there was an most important change in the way the OneDrive sync utility works. It no longer integrates with File Explorer, and Microsoft has gotten rid of the placeholder files introduced in Windows 8.1, which allow File Explorer to display cloud-based files folders even when they're not synced to local storage. A new sync utility is promised for later this year but isn't in this build. (You can find a full report on the OneDrive changes here.)

Microsoft has also announced some important new enterprise security features for Windows 10 that are only beginning to appear in preview releases.

Will my PC and my existing apps and devices work with Windows 10?

Most PCs that will run Windows 8.1 will run Windows 10. Almost all desktop apps that run on Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 will run on Windows 10. The Get Windows Now10 app includes a compatibility checker.

I heard that after a year Microsoft is going to start charging for subscriptions. True?

Not true. The Windows 10 upgrade will be free, as in beer, for the first year after it's released. And there won't be any surprise fees after that.

The basic licensing model for Windows has not changed with Windows 10. You get a perpetual license, and you will continue to get updates "for the supported lifetime of the device." What does that mean? At some point in the future, your hardware will no longer meet the specifications for a new release, and that will be the end of the line. But as long as your device can accept updates, it will get them.

Microsoft contributed to the confusion with some clumsy wording, but its intent is clear. The free upgrade offer is designed to get as many current devices as possible to move to a single platform with a single Windows Store. And the one-year deadline is intended to add some urgency to the decision so that Satya Nadella, Terry Meyerson, and company meet their self-professed goal of seeing Windows 10 on one billion devices.

How can I sign up to receive the free upgrade when it's released?

The upgrade will be delivered to qualifying PCs (Windows 7 and Windows 8.1) via Windows Update. To receive the bits, you need to run the Get Windows 10 app, which is installed by update KB3035583. For more details, see "Get Windows 10: Microsoft's biggest software upgrade in history begins today."

What options are available for installing the Windows 10 Insider Preview?

You can sign up for the Windows Insider program and download a small installer file directly from a public Microsoft web page. That installer enables Windows Update to deliver the Technical Preview. If you have an MSDN subscription, ISO files are available on the MSDN download page.

For more detailed instructions, see "Hands-on with Windows 10: Installing the Windows Technical Preview."

How do I get the most recent preview version?

Microsoft releases new builds as automatic updates for anyone running the Windows Insider Preview with the Fast or Slow option selected in the Preview Builds settings. It's also available through Windows Update for anyone running Windows 7 Service Pack 1 or Windows 8.1, after signing up through the Windows Insider program and running a small installer file. It can be downloaded in ISO format in any of 25 languages as well.

To configure your preferences for future updates, go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced Options. and choose the Fast or Slow option at the bottom of the page, as shown here.


After an update is installed, the watermark on the desktop changes to reflect the new build number.

Will I be able to get an ISO to do a clean install after Windows 10 has released?

Probably, but Microsoft has not released those details yet.

When does the Windows 10 Preview expire?

The Insider Preview program will continue after the launch of Windows 10 on July 29, 2015.

All preview builds released in 2014 have already expired. Beginning with the January 2015 release, build 9926, the license for the preview edition expires on October 1, 2015, at 4:59 PM. On October 15, 2015, those builds will no longer boot.

The final release will remove the expiration date completely..

Will I be able to update from the Insider Preview to the final release of Windows 10?

Microsoft says yes, that scenario will be fully supported.

How many Windows 10 editions will there be?

Microsoft announced its lineup of Windows 10 editions in May. All of the editions share common features, but are sold and distributed differently depending on the type of device for which they're intended.

There are two and only two editions of Windows 10 for installation on new PCs. Remember, the Windows 10 upgrade is free for consumers and small businesses who already have a Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 PC, but OEMs still pay Microsoft for Windows 10 licenses for installation on new PCs. Those costs are passed along to PC buyers.

  • Windows 10 Home is the cheaper option. It includes the entire Windows 10 feature set, minus a handful of features reserved for the Pro edition. OEMs commonly install this edition on devices aimed at the price-conscious consumer and small business markets.
  • Windows 10 Pro is typically found on higher-quality, higher-spec business-class devices. It costs more and includes a group of features that enthusiasts, professionals, and anyone on a Windows business network will appreciate: Hyper-V virtualization, BitLocker encryption, the ability to set up a PC as a Remote Desktop server, and the ability to join a Windows domain or enroll with Azure Active Directory are the key ones.
See also "Windows 10 editions: Everything you need to know."

Where's the Enterprise edition?

The Technical Preview version available to the public via the Windows Insider program contains the same features as Windows 8.1 Professional and can be used as an upgrade for that edition. If you want the Windows 10 Technical Preview for Enterprise, go to this download page and register. You'll find a FAQ for IT Pros here.

The Enterprise edition is also available to anyone with a current MSDN subscription.

The MSDN Subscriptions download page is also where you'll find checked and debug versions for use by developers.

Why does the Windows 10 preview download include a product key?

The Windows 10 Technical Preview shouldn't require activation, but it is a preview release, so not everything goes as planned. In my testing, upgrading an installation of Windows 8.1 Enterprise resulted in this prompt:


The solution was to look in the MSDN download area, where a product key is included in the product description (not in the product key field), with the text revealing that it's "for mitigation purposes." If you've installed the Technical Preview from the Windows Insider site, go back to the ISO download page to see the product key.

Enter the new product key on the activation screen and you should be back in business.If that fails, you may need to use an elevated command prompt to change the key using the slmgr.vbs -ipk command.

Can I uninstall Windows 10?

Upgrading a PC to Windows 10 leaves the recovery partition for a Windows 8.1 PC intact. As long as you don't remove that partition, you should be able to roll back if you want to.

Windows 7 does not have a Windows-standard reset mechanism, so there's no easy way to ensure a safe rollback from the Windows 10 upgrade. It might be possible, but for safety's sake you should create an image backup for use in the event of problems.

Does Windows 10 really include a keylogger?

Short answer: No. Longer answer here.

What are the keyboard shortcuts for working with Windows 10 virtual desktops?

Try these:
  • Create a new desktop: Windows key + Ctrl + D
  • Switch to previous desktop: Windows key + Ctrl + Left arrow
  • Switch to next desktop: Windows key + Ctrl + Right arrow
For this release, there's no way to save virtual desktop configurations.

Why is it called Windows 10 instead of Windows 9?

Microsoft's official responses to this question have been almost comically vague. It's reminiscent of the decision to abandon the Metro name, which was also never explained in a satisfactory way .

So we're left to speculate, and my best guess is that choosing the number 9 would imply that Windows 10 is just around the corner, followed by 11, 12, and so on. That's a recipe for delay, as customers play a "watch and wait" game.

One (unlikely) theory speculates that assigning 9 as a version number could wreak havoc with old versions hard-coded to search for Windows 95 or 98 version strings.

It's more likely, though, that the name is about branding. This really is the last big release of Windows, with future updates coming in incremental form. As a brand name to stick with for the long term, Windows 10 is numerologically satisfying, almost ... perfect.

Or, alternatively, there's the "dad humor" explanation: Seven ate nine.