Windows 10 vs. Windows 8 (or 8.1) vs. Windows 7
 

Microsoft recognized that Windows 8 was a failure and jumped right on fixing the problems.  OK, perhaps jumped is not the right word and perhaps they didn't really fix the issues so well.  They did fire the Windows 8 development team, and they made some incremental improvements (in Windows 8.1 and update 1), but the user interface still sucked.  Fortunately, by adding a  Start Menu replacement, such as Classic Shell (www.classicshell.net) and by changing some of the default programs so that the desktop versions opened for music, pictures etc. instead of the Modern (Metro) version, we could make our systems reasonably usable.  All it took was to avoid, as much as possible, the Metro side of Windows altogether and know how to get back to the desktop in case we accidently wandered over there.

It took a while, but finally Microsoft gave in and came out with Windows 10 (yes, they skipped over 9 altogether just to get as far from 8 as they could) which addressed many of the issues.  The also are providing it FOR FREE for users of Windows 8.x AND Windows 7 (with a few caveats) for 1 year.

Here is what the straight dope (in my opinion) of the various versions:

Windows 10  As I said, Microsoft has recognized the failure of Windows 8 (and the "improvements").  Finally, Windows 10 is available with a number of improvements from Windows 8.x.

First among them is the return of the Start Menu, and a real one, this time, and perhaps even improved.  It seems to be a composite of the Start Menu and Metro screen, whereas apps can be pinned and moved and resized. 

The Start Menu portion cannot be changed in appearance, but it is pretty good as it is.  All of the items are alphabetical (with the letter headings before each grouping), with shortcuts and folders intermixed in order (Windows 7 displayed shortcuts first, then folders), and, as I said, you cannot change how it is displayed.  Metro Apps are included in the list just like anything else.  Each line is taller, allowing fewer items in a screen and thus more scrolling, but the letter headings make it easier to find things.  If you click on a heading, Windows displays just the headings (A,B,C...) and you can choose a letter and be taken right there.  This also helps.  It is different from Windows 7, but once you get used to it, it is pretty good.

The right column in the Start Menu is populated by Metro style tiles.  Microsoft populates this with a bunch of stuff (most of which you want to get rid of), and you can add your own choices, as well as resize the tiles and move them around, like in Windows 8.  All in all, the Start Menu is pretty good, once you get used to it.  If you really dislike change, you can install Classic Shell and replace the whole thing with a Windows 7 like menu.

Windows 10 includes what is called Continuum.  If you have one of the new "convertible" computers, that double as a tablet (either with a detachable keyboard or a keyboard that folds under) this neat feature switches your display from the desktop to the Metro Start Screen automatically (you can configure this if you wish).  The Metro Start Screen was always designed for tablets (as opposed to desktops), so this seems to me to be a very good feature.

Metro apps now run in windows on the desktop, just like any other applcation.  This removes the jarring switch between modes and makes Windows plural again (Metro Apps ran ONLY in full screen mode and therefore were not really a window).  Thus, in Desktop mode, Metro apps behave just like any other program. 

A completely new feature to Windows is the ability to have multiple desktops (this feature already exists in Apple's OS-X).  For those of us who have many windows open at the same time, finding the one you want can be inconvenient.  Now, you would be able to have Word open on one desktop (by itself) and Excel open on another desktop (by itself).  I have tried this and really do not find it all that useful.  The icons are common to every desktop, even documents that you put on the desktop, so all of the desktops are equally crowded.  I would much rather have multiple screens (yes, more cost) or I will simply minimize those windows I am not using.

Microsoft also removed the Charms Bar and replaced it with Settings, accessed from the Start Menu.  In some cases, choosing a Settings option takes you to the Control Panel, which works as it has in earlier versions of Windows

One thing I am really unhappy about is the loss of the Microsoft Games that has come with every version of Windows since, well, Windows.  The games available for download from the App Store simply are not good enough.  I want my Windows 7 games.  However, not all is lost.  I found a web site which describes how to hack the Windows 7 games so that they will run in Windows 8 and 10.  This is not for the casual user (it requires editing the actual EXE file), but it can be done.  If you wish this, make an appointment and I will set you up.

All in all, I find Windows 10 to be a worthy system, although not necessarily compelling.  If you are considering a new system, go ahead and get Windows 10.  If you have Windows 8.x, then go ahead and upgrade unless you really like it or have gotten it to the point where you are happy.  For Windows 7 users, the choice is more difficult.  The upgrade is good until late July 2016, I would wait a bit until things settle down, then probably do the upgrade.

Tell me about Windows 8 and 8.1! Windows 8 is the latest version of Windows and is a major departure from previous versions.  It is the biggest redesign since Windows 95 and represents a major shift in Microsoft philosophy.  I think it SUCKS!!  Windows 8.1 is supposed to be an improvement, by returning the Start Button, and a few other improvements, but in my opinion, it is not enough.

Microsoft has recognized the reality of the major encroachment of the tablet and phone in the world of computing.  Microsoft decided that users would want consistency across all of their platforms; that the look and feel of the desktop (or laptop) computer should be the same as the phone or the tablet.  In this way, being familiar with one platform would mean little or no learning curve for the others, and therefore make users more likely to stay within the Windows family rather than look elsewhere (like Apple or Android devices).  I cannot disagree more with this approach, but more about that later.

Microsoft has slowly recognizing that Windows 8 has been a commercial disaster and has made "improvements" to try to gain back supporters.  In truth, the improvements are real but I do not feel they go far enough.

1st was Windows 8.1 which returned a Start button, but not a Start menu behind it; it took you back to the Metro screen.  Right clicking on the Start button opened a menu of some useful system utilities.  There were some other tweaks to make things more logical, but basically, the improvement was small.  Windows 8.1 was a completely new installation, not just an update

In April 2014 came the Windows 8.1 update.  While a large download, this update made more significant improvements, particularly for mouse/keyboard users.  Metro Apps would have a minimize and close button on the top (if you hovered your mouse at the top of the screen) and a taskbar would appear if you hovered at the bottom. You could boot to the desktop and Metro Apps would appear on the desktop taskbar. If you have a desktop PC (as compared to a tablet or phone), the desktop versions of picture viewer, music played, etc. would be the defaults instead of the Metro versions.  Several other tweaks also improve the desktop users experience.  Not quite what I would look for, but better.  I still install Classic Shell (www.classicshell.net) to return my Start Menu.   If you do have a Windows 8.x system, don't panic.  The world will not end, and, with some "improvement," you can make it behave more like Windows 7.  Contact us for help in this.

And Windows 7?  If you are buying a new computer, go ahead and get Windows 10 (as long as there are no incompatibilities with specialized software you run).  Windows 7 is still worthy and can still be gotten.  The biggest downside, is that Windows 7 is scheduled for end-of-support (think what happened to XP) in early 2020.  This still gives you 4 years, but not so much for a new computer.  You should think about taking advantage of the free upgrade (available until July 2016), but hold off for a while.