In light of Microsoft’s recent blog posting regarding Windows 10 Insider Previews, I decided to take the plunge and install the preview on my “Cherry Trail” Microsoft Surface 3. After all, we’re only a little over a month away from the full release, so why not see what all the fuss was about, and to tempt fate by installing it on a tablet that itself only came out a month ago here. What’s the worst that can happen?
Microsoft have clarified what will happen following the release of the full Windows 10 operating system on July 29th, and basically it is free for almost everyone (Enterprise/VL customers need to check the terms of their software assurance), and surprisingly even those that do a clean install using the provided ISO and key within Microsoft’s own Insider Program, which essentially side-steps the threat of imminent piracy in the short term. The main caveat is that you are required to install and sign into the preview using a Microsoft Account, which isn’t a big deal to setup.
So, to begin with, I quickly signed up to the Insider Program, and following this, chose to trigger Windows Update to upgrade my current copy of Windows to one of Windows 10’s eligible upgrade paths. You also have the option to get the clean ISO and key to stick it on from scratch if you’d prefer. Going the update route downloads a small 7MB file, and automatically initiates Windows Update to download the next stable build of the Insider Preview (mine was Windows 10 Pro 10074). The download was approximately 2.4GB, and once completed, you’re asked to confirm another two times (are you really really sure you want to do this?!) whether you want to initiate the upgrade, which I found a little amusing.
Things started getting a bit weird at this stage. The unit switched off twice, when it was meant to be restarting. Powering it on each time just continued with the installation, which took nearly 1.5 hours to complete. Once it was done, I was prompted to log in as usual, and noticed some slight changes to the old 8.1 login, but largely looking the same. The first thing that struck me was how sluggish everything seemed to move when in the system, with everything from getting the start menu to appear, to re-sizing or moving windows. Upon investigating, it appears that the incorrect display driver was installed, and after forcing it to search Windows Update, it managed to get the correct Intel HD driver installed, and everything started moving as snappily as the Windows 8.1 Pro install that preceded it. Everything appears to be working as it should, including the MS Surface Pen, and the Type Cover 3, which i’m currently using to type this post.
So far, this is the extent of my testing with Windows 10, however on first impressions, I am rather impressed with the direction Microsoft have taken with their latest addition. They’ve suitably spruced up the look and feel of the old explorer structure and menu icons, reintroduced a start menu similar to Windows 7, however also incorporating the ‘Tiles’ from ‘modern Windows‘ to really good effect. ‘modern Windows’ programs still exist, however everything appears to exist on one desktop now, and can also run in it’s own window like a regular old full-fat windows executable (Microsoft Windows Desktop App). The Spartan browser is a welcome change away from Internet Explorer, which as the name suggests, is a fast, no nonsense web browser that is possibly quicker than anything else I’ve seen so far in terms of page load, and scrolling.
On the flip-side of all the goodness, I think Microsoft have a few minor kinks to work out, which include slightly more battery drain, and random crashes in modern Windows apps. I’ve so far only experienced one full crash, which was from updating the video driver, and required a forced shutdown and reboot. I would like to see the installation time cut down, too, as this has been one of the lengthiest updates I’ve had to perform for a Windows machine since Windows XP. Other than this, installing to a Surface 3 was a relatively painless experience, considering it is still an Insider Preview.
Taking into account everything I’ve mentioned above, and if you’re feeling particularly brave, I’d say go ahead and take the jump, especially since you would be transferred to the final build free of charge very soon anyway. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, you can specify what update ‘ring’ you’d like to be involved in within the settings menu, which dictates how fast you can expect the next cutting edge updated build, warts, bugs and all.
I will be doing further testing shortly with some of my most commonly used apps, and will revisit this again in an upcoming post. In the meantime, if you’ve had your own memorable (whether good or bad) experiences with Windows 10 Insider Preview builds, why not stick them in the comments below? I’d love to know more about how our readers are getting on with it, and what they expect going forward!