Windows 10 is five years old

By | August 3, 2020

Last week, Windows 10 turned five (happy birthday Windows 10!), so I thought I’d write a bit about it in this week’s newsletter and point out a change Windows made last year that you might not all know about!

I’d expected Microsoft to make more of a song and dance about it really – but Windows 10’s birthday just passed quietly by with no-one marking the occasion apart from a handful of techie journalists.  And they were mostly moaning!  

But I think Windows 10 has come a long way in the last five years.  

It’s worth remembering that in the past we’d have all had to fork out for a new version by now!  Before Windows 10 came along, a version of Windows would only stick around for a few years, then a shiny new one would come along to replace it.

I’m just remembering back to the early days of Windows 10 – with Cortana popping up to “help” all the time, a Mail app that was barely usable, a virtually empty Microsoft Store and a frankly pretty rubbish web browser.

Since then:

  • Cortana, the virtual assistant, has been gently pushed to one side – there for those who want her, but not forever popping up when you’re not interested.
  • The Settings app has gradually filled out, so you can make more changes to your computer without having to brave the rather scary-looking control panel.
  • The Microsoft Store is actually pretty useful now. There are loads of apps in there that you can install without any worries about picking up viruses or other malware from dodgy download sites.  But unlike Apple, Microsoft haven’t stopped you getting apps from wherever you like!
  • They’ve faffed about with the Start menu and the search box so many times I’ve lost count.  But they’ve settled on something that I think works well.  (Just leave it alone now, please, Microsoft.)
  • The Mail app now works – not brilliantly (I still don’t use it!) but at least it does the job.
  • And they’ve finally bitten the bullet and replaced Edge (their built-in web browser) with a new version that’s based on the same technology as Google Chrome.  Technically, it’s a much better browser now.

The one problem that Windows 10 has always been plagued with, though, is the updates.  The way it works now is that rather than bringing out a new version – “Windows 11” or “Windows Aubergine” (or whatever daft name they decided to give it) – you just get changes and new features through regular updates.

That sounds like a good thing, but it’s actually really hard to make an update that will work for all eleventy-billion different combinations of equipment that people run Windows on.  Different makes and ages of computer, different graphics chips and sound equipment, different printers (urgghhh, don’t get me started on printers…).  And that means every time there’s a big update, it causes problems for someone – usually quite a lot of “someones”.  I read today that Windows 10 is now running on over a billion devices worldwide!

Updates on Windows 10

Because of all the problems that were caused by automatic updates, Microsoft actually changed the way their system works at the beginning of last year.

All security updates install automatically, as well as quick fixes to make things work better, and changes to Windows apps like Edge.  Your computer downloads these once a month (unless there’s something really urgent) and quietly installs them in the background.

Then twice a year, Microsoft bring out their big “Feature Updates”.  These are the ones with big changes to how your system works.  Now, these used to just install automatically as well, but techies kicked up enough of a fuss over the problems caused by these updates that Microsoft changed that.

Now, you have to actually choose to install each feature update when it comes out.  You can’t put it off forever – eventually it will install automatically – but you could be waiting over a year for it to do it!  Here’s how to check whether you have a feature update waiting and install it:

  1. Click on the Start button in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen
  2. Then click on the cog icon to open the Settings app
  3. Click on “Update & Security”
  4. If there’s a feature update waiting, it will say something like “Feature update to Windows 10, version 2004” with a little pale grey “Download and install” underneath.  Click that to install the update – but make sure you know you aren’t going to need your computer again any time soon (these things can take a while)

Right – that’s it from me for this week.

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