The day has finally come, and after quite a bit of hype and buildup, Windows 10 is now officially available. The update itself is on a staged rollout, which means it will be slowly becoming available to users over the coming weeks and months, so don't panic if you haven't already received an update notification. Besides, you have until July 29th, 2016 to download your free copy of Windows 10 if you're eligible, so there's plenty of time to get your ducks in a row.
Cortana, Microsoft's voice-activated personal assistant, originally launch on Windows Phone, but is now built directly into Windows 10 complete with "Hey Cortana" voice search (take that, Apple). It can help you locate files, set up reminders, control music.
Windows 10 is officially here, and frankly, there's a ton of new features in Microsoft's latest operating system. From the return of the Start menu to the new Edge browser, Windows 10 can take some getting used to.
Windows 8 had an easy "Set for monitor" option that allowed you to use different wallpapers on a multi-monitor setup—an option that is seemingly absent from Windows 10. But with a quick command, you can easily restore this function on Windows 10, so that it behaves like Windows 8.
The Start menu is finally back in Windows 10, but a lot has changed since we last saw it in Windows 7. From a visual standpoint, the first difference you'll notice is the addition of live tiles, which occupy the right half of the Start menu and provide quick information from your "Universal" Windows apps.
Quite a few things have changed with Windows 10, but one of the more central features that has received a makeover is the old Windows Explorer program, which has been renamed to File Explorer in this version.
If your PC setup includes a mouse and keyboard, you'll be happy to know that most of the touchscreen-first features of Windows 8 have gone by the wayside in Windows 10. Where it once required awkward gestures to access key features, Windows now recognizes when you're using a traditional desktop or laptop, then responds by making sure that all features can be easily discovered with clickable buttons and menu entries.
Up until now, if you wanted to record videos of the apps on your screen, you had to rely on a third-party option. However, Windows 10 changes this thanks in part to the new Xbox app. One of the new features of the Xbox app is the Game bar, which allows you to record footage of your gameplay.
Microsoft has invested years and countless man-hours in an effort to get their cloud storage service on par with competitors like Dropbox and Google Drive, who have long resided at the top of this market. Their hard work has definitely paid off, as OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) has finally reached a point in its development where it can stand toe to toe with any comparable service in almost any measurable regard.
Just recently, I was experimenting with a dual-boot Windows setup, and somehow managed to wipe my primary Windows installation in the process. "Why," I asked myself, "Why didn't I make a backup before I started this?" Still to this day, I'm going through the painstaking process of installing and configuring all of my favorite programs, and I may not ever get things back exactly the way they were.
Ah, the fabled dark mode. In the past, many users were delighted to find the existence of something called Royale Noir, a dark theme option that was available for Windows XP. Yet for reasons unknown, Microsoft had kept knowledge of Royale Noir a secret until some bright minds discovered its existence, and the rest is history.
There are a bunch of new and interesting features packed inside of Windows 10, but one of the most exciting ones is the Microsoft Edge web browser, the long-awaited replacement of Internet Explorer.
Windows 10 makes it a cinch to change the lock screen background: simply go to Setting -> Personalization -> Lock screen, then change the background to whatever you'd like. But, trying to change the login screen background—the screen where you enter your password—was a long, complicated, and possibly dangerous process. Luckily, developer Krutonium has published a tool that automates the entire process, and it's very easy to use.
More than likely, the first thing you noticed after booting up Windows 10 initially was a handful of new items in the taskbar across the bottom of your screen. Windows 8 users were probably glad to see the Start menu button back from the dead, but just to the right of that Windows logo are a pair of brand new entries.
Slowly but surely, Microsoft is pushing more and more options out of the Control Panel and into a new menu simply called Settings. This new Settings menu debuted with Windows 8 and mainly focused on touchscreen-related options, but starting with Windows 10, you'll find quite a few general options residing here as well.
On the whole, Windows 10 is vastly different than its predecessors, but there's not any one big change that distinguishes it from Windows 7 or 8. On the contrary, it's a series of small tweaks and optimizations that makes this version such a departure from previous iterations.
Linux and Mac users have long enjoyed the use of multiple virtual desktops to free up clutter on their home screen and keep individual workflow environments separated, but Windows users have always been stuck with one solitary desktop.
As the Insider Preview builds of Windows 10 progressed, certain features were removed as new ones joined the fray. Some came back, while others disappeared, seemingly for good. One feature that seems to have been removed are the colored title bars on app windows.
Microsoft's new voice-enabled virtual assistant, Cortana, is a lot like a blend of Siri's personality and Google Now's predictive capabilities—but the best part is it's baked right into the taskbar in Windows 10.
Whether you're upgrading to the Windows 10 Insider Preview or the official build of the operating system, you'll notice a significant hit on hard drive space—up to 20 GB taken away from you. For those with older or even solid-state hard drives (SSDs), this can be a substantial hit.
For all of the flak that Windows 8 received from desktop users, it certainly had some interesting and unique features. For instance, the "Charms" bar allowed you to easily access several key menus by simply hovering your mouse pointer in the top- or bottom-right corner of the screen.
The world's most commonly-used desktop operating system is getting a huge makeover in the form of Windows 10. While there are many sweeping changes in this new version, some of the smaller tweaks may prove to be the most useful.
The desktop Start menu is finally back! After receiving a lot of negative user feedback, Microsoft ditched the touchscreen-first approach of Windows 8 and went with a more traditional setup for mouse-and-keyboard users in Windows 10.
Windows 10 is due to be released on July 29th, and the majority of existing Windows users should be eligible to upgrade to the newer version for free.