Surviving the Windows 10 Upgrade: Some Tips and Observations Based on My Personal Trials

I hate upgrades. They never seem to work for me. More often than not, I finish an upgrade only to find that the programs I like most don’t work like they did in the old system. I, then, spend a long time trying to get everything back to the way it was and cursing my decision to upgrade. Another problem I have is waiting hours for an upgrade to complete only to get a message like, “Windows has encountered a problem” or “Windows was unable to complete the installation”. In this case, I’m usually given the option to try again or abort the upgrade. Being the wild-eyed optimist that I am, I usually try again, only to get the same message but wasting twice as much time.

So, yes, I held out little hope of getting the Windows 10 upgrade installed without some problem. I also had a somewhat outdated Acer laptop with a pretty full hard drive. It was running Windows 7. Yes, it was old and it had its quirks, but I had learned to live with them and knew all the workarounds. Did I really want to take a chance to lose it all? So, as anyone who wants to upgrade should do, I backed up my most important files.

My first word of advice is to set aside a large block of time when you won’t need your computer. My second piece of advice is to do the upgrade at home, preferably, when no one else is there. The reason for this will become apparent when you read the details of my upgrade below.

Almost as soon as I began my upgrade, I got an error message. This didn’t look good. I tried again and all seemed to go well. The upgrade will automatically shut down all your running programs so be sure to save anything you may need later. I began the upgrade at 908am.

0935 – Upgrading windows actually begins. “PC will restart several times. Sit back and relax.”
1005 – Computer restarts at 30% upgrade. Begins “installing features and drivers”.
1006 – A piercing, loud, high pitched wail starts coming from my computer. It was like one of those hearing tests where this was the highest pitch that a human can hear. It probably broke the eardrums of dogs within a one mile radius. This was the first time I thought about shutting off my computer to cancel the installation. If you’ve ever had your computer freeze up while you were playing some tune and one prolonged note drones away like some berserk smoke detector, you’ll know what I’m talking about. My main worry was that my computer would overheat, and I even believed I could detect that plastic smell of burned insulation. Under normal circumstances, I would have shut it all down, but, for the purposes of this post and humanity in general, I did not. I had to go upstairs to get away from the sound. It was giving me a headache. Luckily, I was home alone. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I had tried this in an office environment.
1032 – Noise stops after almost 30 minutes. Configuration 76% complete.
1113 – For almost 30 minutes, the installation seemed stuck at 82%. I again considered cancelling the installation or receiving some sad message about the inability of the installation to continue.
1221 – Installation seemed stuck at 86% for almost an hour.
1300 – 95%; I keep expecting some bad message to appear.
1301 – “Hi, there. Welcome back” message appears. I can’t believe it. I’m in.
1313 – Finalizing settings and welcome screen. “Hi. We’re setting things up for you. This won’t take long. Setting up your apps.”
1316 – “Taking care of a few things.”
1318 – Desktop miraculously appears.

Total installation time: 5 hours 10 minutes

In other words, set aside about 5 or even 6 hours for the installation. I’m sure other computers would perform the upgrade faster than this, but you’d be wise to prepare for the worst, which is another reason why you wouldn’t want to do this at work, unless you don’t use your computer much.

You will then be asked some questions about how you want to use Windows 10.

windows-10-customize-settings-100600055-primary.idgeA lot of people complain about this. They say Microsoft seems to be forcing you to accept settings that will compromise your privacy. There may be a case to be made for this, after all, the “Customize settings” button in the lower left corner is pretty small, but, at least, it’s there. I would certainly suggest turning off a lot of these options.

windows 10 privacy settings

After you choose what you do and don’t want, you will finally get to your new Windows 10 desktop. I liked the minimalism of the interface. The desktop was intuitive. I could use it right away, though a little tutorial video is available. I tried the programs I was most worried about. My old Word 2003, which I still prefer over newer versions, looked good. Utorrent worked. Skype worked. Only the Tor browser, which doesn’t have widespread use, seemed to be having problems. However, there was one thing that bothered me – the screen seemed stretched out. The icons were too wide, the wallpaper image was elongated, and text sometimes went off the screen.

This is when I discovered the first problem with upgrading to Windows 10; you don’t get a lot of support. A lot of the issues haven’t been ironed out yet. This was one reason I was glad to get the upgrade later than most people. I wanted the goats to find out where the mines were in the cyber landscape of Windows 10. However, there still hasn’t been enough time. I found that others had the same issue with their desktop, but most of the advice I got was worthless. In the end, I had to figure a lot of this out on my own. I noticed that Windows 10 defaulted to a regular monitor with a graphics driver from 2006. After 2 hours of working on the problem, I finally went to the Acer website and downloaded the latest graphic/VGA driver. At last, I had my desktop and life was good.

One of the features of Windows 10 that I wanted to test out was the Microsoft Edge browser. At first glance, it seemed very bare-bones, but that could be because I opted out of a number of its functions. You’ll have to import your favorites from whatever browser you used before. You’ll also have to have all of your passwords available. You search through the address bar, which seems strange at first. Bing is the default search engine, but you can change that in settings. I was also confused as to why the home page icon was set to ‘off’ by default. I suppose Microsoft wants you to use their start page. They don’t make it easy for you to set your own home page. In fact, when you start Edge, it does not go to your homepage but their start page. I also had problems renaming favorites. The back button/arrow will not show you your browsing history if you right click on it.

But all is not lost. There were some things I really liked about Edge. I like the ‘Read’ button next to the address bar. It gives you an ad free article that you can read whenever you want. But I think my favorite part of Edge is the ‘Make a Web Note’ feature. Clicking on the icon lets you circle passages or other content on web pages that you find interesting. It also allows you to highlight key points. You can add a note as a bit of a comment, right on the web page. Finally, and best of all, you can snip out part of an article and send it on to a friend. Snipping content automatically copies it so that you can paste it into other programs like Word. Below is an example of all of these features.

windows 10 clip

I haven’t had time to try all of Windows 10 features. I opted out of the pre-installed photo, music, and video players. I haven’t tried setting up the built-in VPN, and basically turned off Cortana, the virtual personal assistant, as it seemed to want too much personal information. I may regret this later. You may have to add some icons to your desktop. There is no, ‘My Computer’ icon, for example. In fact, I find that you don’t need this. There’s an icon in the task bar called, ‘File Explorer’ which I find will get you where you want to go. You’ll also get an icon that connects you with Microsoft app store, if you’re interested. And though Windows 10 works across all mobile devices, which is a decided plus, I have only tried it on my laptop.

So what’s my final verdict on upgrading to Windows 10? Well, this is only my second day of using it and I haven’t found all the bugs yet, but I’m going to give it a thumbs up. Upgrading certainly wasn’t easy and I can understand why someone may be hesitant. In fact, if your current system is working well enough, I’d recommend staying with it. Keep in mind, however, that Microsoft has already stopped mainstream support for Windows 7 and will end all support in five years. Windows 10 is expected to go on until the end of time. Besides, if you don’t like what you see in Windows 10, you can always revert to Windows 7 again within the first 31 days. That said, if you don’t take advantage of the free upgrade offer by the end of July, 2016, you’ll have to pay for it, and that will cost you between $120 and $200.

About Steve Mierzejewski

Marketing consultant for InZero Systems, developer of the next generation in hardware-separated security, WorkPlay Technology. I've worked in Poland, Japan, Korea, China, and Afghanistan. I'm a writer, technical editor, and an educator. I also do some work as a test developer for Michigan State University.
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