Upgrade to Microsoft Windows 10? Cautiously!

If you are thinking to yourself, Should I upgrade to Windows 10 and the next question is How should I upgrade to Microsoft Windows 10? The very short answer is "Cautiously".
The Rolling Stones kick started the launch of Windows 95 about 20 years ago around August. I remember that because I was waiting for the amazing integrated desktop that had better organisation and UI look/feel than windows 3.1. Over these 20 years, I have gone through each and every version of Windows be it 98, CE, ME, 2000, Vista, 7, 8 and now 10.

Around that time (this might surprise a lot of users) a lot of users had monochrome monitors, so windows was running in glorious scales of gray, slightly more than the 50 shades :) The flat TFT monitors came in the Monochrome variety and were slightly cheaper and more manageable than the Color CRT 15" boxes.

Advantages of Windows

I am not a Windows Hater, after all it was Windows that that brought in all the interesting stuff in my life. The one thing that was admirable of Windows was that it would support a range of hardware options, the only drivers that I knew prior to windows were the ones that worked, driving us around. It used to be an interesting learning curve where you had to select/set the appropriate drivers and hardware in .ini files and then hope that you get to see the GUI screen. One advantage was that since the hardware sold was common (similar) if the vendor had managed to get this setup running, it could be duplicated, so that meant less tinkering.

Explosion of options

The hardware options grew exponentially after Windows 95, A company called Creative Labs introduced a new piece of hardware called the Sound Card. Imagine that, you can now actually play sounds from your PC, not just the beeps from it's speakers. Wolfenstein was special since it made use of the Sound Blaster Card and you could hear the doors open and the gun fire, it was the unthinkable - the future was upon us. At that time the only other machines that could do something similar were the Amiga and the Atari that had amazing polyphonic capabilities built on-board. Some other hardware that were new and changed the face of computing (literally) were the Network Card, and the Fax/Modem. The Network card was popular with the offices but the Fax/Modem was popular with practically every household, not for the Internet but to be able to send/receive Faxes. The entire fax send/receive was managed by this wonderful software called Delrina WinFax. It was as powerful and useful as any modern mail client, it is a surprise that they did not create an eMail client and just disappeared. Then the motherboards, the short of this is that setting up Windows 95/98 was not easy, you had to keep at hand the floppies that came with the hardware to be able to use it. There was no Download option (GASP!!) because in many parts of the world there was not Internet. However the setup wizard would take you through setting up a network and a dial-up (if it found the relevant hardware).

Better with newer versions?

As technology evolved, it was no longer a requirement to really know what hardware you have, earlier, you had to make an inventory of each hardware you had including the minor sub part numbers just so that it works. Mainly despite having either an AMD, nVidia or Intel display, most windows setup was in 16-colors with a crappy resolution that at the end of the installation reminded you that you should have been more smart about setting up windows. Thankfully CD-Roms were common so you could simply use them instead of Floppy disks. Still, you had to point windows to the directory where the drivers resided and more often than not, it would not accept/detect those drivers.

A major portion of my career was managing the entire IT Operations for a large BMW Dealership and the DMS works on an AS/400 so the staff were mainly using Dumb Terminals. So, everyone that required to work with other software (that ran on a PC) had two monitors on their desks, a green Dumb terminal and a Windows box running windows 3.1 (They were unable at that time to get the terminal emulation working on 95/98). When I joined, our preferred vendor supplied us with Fujitsu-Siemens machines, they were amazing BUT... they cmae with their own drivers CD-ROM, you had to retain the correct CD-ROM for the appropriate machine. Thankfully Laptops were not common at the time. The 98/ME/2000 upgrades were not exactly so I had a custom CD-ROM that had all the drivers and it became a habit to burn all the relevant drivers to a CD-ROM and all of the setup programs that were required. This worked for a while.

Rise of the Laptops

Then along came Laptops, each one of them was different, with the desktops you could request the vendor for a specific piece of hardware, but with Laptops they came with what they were manufactured with. If you purchased a Toshiba (for example), the drivers for a Satellite were different than for a Protege. However this time around the Drivers were on a CD-Rom or the network AND (drum roll) the drivers for the CD-Drive and the Network card were the ones that did not work, so there was no access to the CD-ROM or the Network in addition to the crappy 16-bit 600x800 resolution.


To be fair with Microsoft, they did bring in a lot of new features to Windows, till about 2007 I would quite look forward to their next release, I was quite impressed with Vista, not for the technology, but for it's graphics and the anticipation Microsoft had build for their OS called Longhorn (what was released was called Vista, it did not have the features that Microsoft were promoting as part of Longhorn). Around this time, Apple for some very strange reason considered using Intel motherboards for their Macs, and the rest is history. When I got my first white plastic 13" macbook, I had no clue what to do with it. It has no software on it, atleast Windows came with some stock utilities (in fact windows 3.1 came with a huge stock of utilities that I still miss). The plastic design was hmmmm, not well made, so the case would generally break where your wrists rest on the case. Apple were smart and they made the unibody Macs to avoid this issue. At the time the Mac OS X was Tiger (10.4) and when Leopard was announced there were some that were very excited, I still remember there were three OS on my desk, my Toshiba Laptop running Windows Vista, the Macbook and a Dell box with dual monitors running Ubuntu Hardy Heron, it had just been released. I needed all three for the various roles that I held at the University, one for my Collaborative Projects, the Linux for my teaching and windows for my software and other stuff. Some other colleagues were running Ubuntu on the Mac (drivers were an issue, but the community was large and they were working at porting linux over to the mac). Then I got myself a copy of VMware Fusion and an additional 2GB RAM on the Macbook, that was it, I could run Windows Vista and Mac OSX on the same machine and IIf I had enough space I could even try Fedora or Ubuntu, so in 2008 I upgraded to a MacBookPro 15" and the migration was smooth all files and data copied over fine, it was running Leopard and we even got official upgrades to Snow Leopard while it costed ~$30-$60. Since Snow Leopard was a backend upgrade the UI was not affected much.

Comparing to upgrades on the Mac

The upgrades from Tiger to Leopard to Snow Leopard (these were all paid upgrades) In fact if you owned the first lot of iPods, you would also recollect that the upgrades for your iPods were not free either, it cost about $10 just so that you could add Maps functionality to your iPods. The funny thing was that you could connect an iPaq (Microsoft Windows Mobile) to the network and stream, run excel, powerpoint (helped a lot to look at Lecture slides in a compact form) BUT the iPods would not connect, they required WPA or something (cannot recollect, they would not connect on the university Wi-Fi network).

Fast forward a bit, Windows 7 is the most amazing software ever released, you can run it on a box with limited resources which was not possible earlier. Apple keep working on their software, and literally take the Lion's share of the market. Windows 8 is released, it throws away all of the things one learned with using windows out of the box and impresses on them a new confusing system. I was using Macs more than I was using Windows, I would admit that it was confusing even for me, I would press the Windows key only to toggle between the desktop and the start menu. Even a simple task like brining up the terminal was a complex chore. Earlier it was simply a matter or Windows + R and type cmd. All of the learning was out of the door, Microsoft shafted a lot of developers when it simply brought down the curtains on VB 6.0 to push their Dot Net agenda. They did a Brittney, "Oops, I did it again!". From Lion through to Mountain Lion, Mavericks, Yosemite to El Capitan, Apple have been releasing their OS updates and thankfully they all seem to work fine on the same machine that was running Snow Leopard. While Windows 10 can also upgrade and run on the same machine that came with Windows 7, the upgrade is not as smooth as it is with Macs.


With all of this, the expectation from Microsoft is that when it starts installation and tells us to sit back and relax, it could list all of the hardware available on the machine, then provide a list of drivers that it can find indicating to the user that for the hardware that it could not find an appropriate driver, it would use a standard generic driver. That would give the user the opportunity to either cancel the upgrade or find the appropriate drivers. Since the manufacturers work closely with Microsoft, they could also detect the machines and hardware and query the manufacturers sites, after all I found the display drivers for the GeForce graphics card on my Toshiba laptop from the Toshiba website. Though identifying the device involved flipping a heavy laptop to get a peek underneath.

It has been 20 years, one would have expected that this would be one thing that Microsoft would have gotten right after creating so many setup packages. If the first impression of a user is that of pain and panic and not being able to use the machine, that is a straight lose for Microsoft, because when you start up an iPod, iPhone, iPad or a Mac, you are guided through a setup and then it just works, same goes for the updates, the updated devices simply work. Microsoft needs to pull up their socks, if third party developers can create utilities like Bart PE etc that can detect and run on most hardware, then that it is minimum that one would expect from Microsoft. Even linux that used to be finicky with display drivers, work quite well out of the box these days. Running a dual screen on Ubuntu was a pain, and a colleague of mine had three screens - details maybe for a different article.


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