In case you missed it, Windows 10 will be available on July 29, 2015 (which is less than two months from now) in 190 countries. We’ve written about the new OS during its first unveiling, and the various features Microsoft has added since then, so the biggest PC OS release since Windows 8 (well, some say since Windows 95) shouldn’t be too unfamiliar to those who have been following our site.
Still, we recognize that there are questions aplenty among our readers, which is why we have this FAQ, where we cover things like how to get Windows 10, its pricing, and the editions relevant to most of us.
For those unaware, Microsoft is pursuing this One Windows Platform strategy whereby one OS will support different types of devices, from PCs, tablets, and phones to Xbox One, HoloLens, and IoT (Internet of Things) devices.
The July 29 release of Windows 10 is for PCs and tablets. For other devices (e.g., Windows phones), their own version will come later this year.
With Windows 10, what Microsoft has done is to put core OS components (e.g., the base OS, drivers, runtimes, and frameworks that are applicable regardless of devices and form factors) into a single, common platform. But Microsoft can only standardize that much. Since each device type inevitably has its own specific components, or specific functions and experiences it wants to achieve, Microsoft still needs to marry this common core with device-specific portions. In short: same same but (slightly) different.
Microsoft has disclosed that there will be seven Windows 10 editions, namely Windows 10 Home, Mobile, Pro, Enterprise, Education, Mobile Enterprise, and IoT Core.
For PCs, tablets, and 2-in-1 devices, Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro are the two that you need to care about. These are also the editions that will be released on July 29. Expectedly, Windows 10 Home is the cheaper version, and if you’re buying a new entry-level or budget Windows 10 device, this is most likely the version that it’d come with. On the other hand, Windows 10 Pro sports additional features for advanced and small business users, such as BitLocker disk encryption and Client Hyper-V virtualization.
In short, a typical user won’t lose out much using the Home edition, as it still comes with all the spanking new features in Windows 10, like the Cortana personal digital assistant; the new and modern Microsoft Edge web browser; Continuum tablet mode for touch-capable devices; a unified app store; Action Center for notifications and quick system toggles; and Windows Hello for face-recognition, iris and fingerprint login. There’s also a slew of first-party, constantly updated built-in apps like Music, Movies & TV, People, MSN Weather, MSN Money, Maps, Mail, Photos, and Calendar.
In addition, if you’ve avoided Windows 8 on your PC due to the loss of the Start menu, know that it’s back (in a prettier and more powerful form) in Windows 10.
Check out this Microsoft blog post for more information on the other editions; and here for a feature comparison table between the Pro, Home, Enterprise, and Education editions. Windows 10 Enterprise and Education editions would arrive on August 1. Volume licensing customers will be able to download them from the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC).
Microsoft is making Windows 10 available as a free upgrade for qualified Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 devices. The catch is that this upgrade offer is available for only one year from the time Windows 10 is available. Now that we know that Windows 10 (for PCs and tablets) will be released on July 29, 2015, this means you’ve until July 29, 2016 to take advantage of this offer.
If you purchase a new Windows 8.1 device between now and July 29, the Windows 10 upgrade will be available to you and many retail stores will upgrade your new device for you.
If you already have a qualified device, you can now reserve your free Windows 10 upgrade through a reservation process. This is done through the Get Windows 10 (GWX) app, which you should have (look for a small Get Windows 10 icon in your taskbar like the one in the image above) if your system is up to date (at least Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 Update, and with KB3035583 update installed). Once the final bits are downloaded and ready to be installed, you’ll receive another notification to perform the upgrade or schedule another time. Remember, Microsoft will notify qualified upgraders not together, but in waves. If you don’t get a notification on July 29, don’t panic - your turn will come.
Not seeing the GWX icon, even though you're sure that your system qualifies and your OS is up to date? If so, there's a handy script over at gHacks that you can try.
And oh, pirated Windows users need not apply.
(Check out this article for more details on Microsoft's Windows 10 rollout plan.)
Based on how Windows 8.1 is delivered, Windows 10 is very likely to be available as a digital download as well as on a pressed DVD. In a statement to Neowin, Microsoft has revealed that Windows 10 Home will cost US$119 and Windows 10 Pro US$199. These match the current prices of Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Pro. If you bought Windows 10 Home and want to upgrade to Pro, the Pro Pack costs US$99.
Update (July 17): Microsoft has opened up pre-orders of Windows 10 on USB flash drives on Amazon. It looks like Microsoft is charing the same prices regardless of media, as Windows 10 Home on a USB flash drive costs US$119.99, and Windows 10 Pro on a USB flash drive US$199.99. Both versions will be released on August 30 in the U.S., which suggests that it's unlikely that we will see them in our local stores before that.
Going by the above, we’ll assume that in Singapore, Windows 10 Home and Pro would be priced at S$219 and S$369 respectively, and the Home-to-Pro upgrade S$179. It’s also likely that there will be separate SKUs for OEMs and system builders, but Microsoft hasn’t said anything about that yet. Sure, things may change, so we’ll update this FAQ if we hear anything.
Update (July 29): Microsoft has revealed the local pricing for Windows 10 Home and Pro. Windows 10 Home costs S$229 and Windows 10 Pro costs S$399.
In short, it's about screen sizes. Windows 10 Home and Pro (and the other business versions) are for devices with a screen of 8 inches and up. Most of such devices are 2-in-1 devices, notebooks, and PCs. If you happen to have a device that has a screen smaller than 8 inches (i.e., 7.99 inches and under), it won't be running any of the aforementioned versions of Windows 10. Instead, it will run Windows 10 Mobile, the version designed with smartphones, phablets, and small tablets in mind.
It was back in January when we heard Microsoft's OS group chief Terry Myerson used the words "Windows as a service". He also mentioned that once a device is on Windows 10, it'll be kept current with updates at no charge during the device's supported lifecycle. This led to many to think that Microsoft is changing its OS servicing model, and is planning to charge for updates or introduce a subscription model some point down the road.
As written by ZDNet's Ed Bott after Microsoft updated its Windows 10 support lifecycle policy, which shows the company will continue its usual 10-year support lifecycle policy (5 years mainstream, five years extended support), this isn't true. To quote him, there will be no charges for updates during the supported phase; and there will be no Windows 10 subscription fees during the supported phase. Even if a device running Windows 10 is no longer getting driver and firmware updates from its OEM, it will not stop working and will continue to receive OS updates from Microsoft.
In general, if your device is capable of running Windows 7 or 8.1, it can run Windows 10.
Of course, certain features may have additional requirements. For example, Windows Hello requires specialized illuminated infrared camera for facial recognition or iris detection, or a finger print reader which supports the Window Biometric Framework. And at launch, Cortana is only available in select countries, like the U.S., the U.K., China, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain.
For more details, check out this Specifications page from Microsoft.
Again, for the most part, your Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 apps (including legacy desktop apps) will run just fine on Windows 10. As noted by Microsoft here, applications, files, and settings will migrate as part of the upgrade, but some apps or settings may not migrate as-is, like antivirus apps or apps pre-installed by the OEM.
But there's one important thing to take note of if you're running Windows Media Center on Windows 7 and 8.x. Microsoft has killed WMC on Windows 10, and as such, it will also remove it when you're doing an upgrade.
To ensure a smooth upgrade process, you can use the Check my PC function in the Get Windows 10 app. This scans for device and app compatibility, and informs you if there’s any issue. Here's an FAQ regarding this compatibility check tool.
During the upgrade, if it's detected that your system isn’t ready yet, more details on how to proceed would be provided. If there are app or system issues that need addressing, in some cases, Microsoft would include contact info so that you can follow up with the vendors. If the compatibility issue is app related, you may be able to choose to proceed with the upgrade, and then find alternative compatible solutions in the Windows Store after that.
The easiest way to get Windows 10 now (albeit a preview version, so it’s not for the faint hearted) is to sign up for the Windows Insider Program, and follow the easy-to-understand instructions to upgrade your Windows 7 or 8.1 system to Windows 10 (Insider Preview). If you prefer to do a clean install, or run the preview on another partition or virtual machine, links to ISO files are also provided.
For Windows Phone users eager to try out Windows 10 Mobile, the Windows Insider Program is the place to go too.
Update (July 29): Now that July 29 is here, many of you must be wondering if there's a way to not wait for your turn in the reservation and get Windows 10 quicker. The answer is yes: Microsoft has now made Windows 10 available in ISO format. You can use it to do an upgrade over your existing, activated Windows 7 and 8.1 installation or a clean install. But before you do either, read and understand this FAQ on what you're in for first. Encountered activation errors? There's an FAQ for that too.
Microsoft’s Gabriel Aul has confirmed that Windows Insiders using Windows 10 preview builds will be able to upgrade to the final bits.
Update (June 21): As we've reported here, Microsoft is now saying that as long as you're running an preview build and connected with the Microsoft account you used to register for the Insider program, you will receive the Windows 10 final release build. Apparently, this works even if you’ve clean installed the preview using an ISO, either on a PC you’ve just assembled, or for Mac users, on a virtual machine or via Boot Camp. Does this also mean XP and Vista users can use this route to get Windows 10 for free?
Update (June 23): Microsoft has just made its best attempt yet to clear up the recent confusion on whether there's a loophole to get a free Windows 10 license if you don't have genuine Windows 7 or 8.x. In short, no. However, you can keep using Windows 10 for free forever as long as you remain enrolled in the Insider program and use the preview builds that come with it. Confused? More details can be found here.
We don’t know, but there are some theories floating around.