I have been running Windows 8 / 8.1 Professional 64-bit for about a year and a half up to October 1, 2014.
We are all familiar with the outcry over the loss of the Start Menu and the Metro Interface that (a) did not always make sense and (b) made us use a Start screen in order to use our Desktop applications. Then, too, games, Explorer and other applications in Metro only worked full screen. That is often a bad idea and many users rejected this as well.
Now people (with wallets) are the very final voter, and people stampeded away from Windows 8 leaving it with low market share. Windows 8.1 came out to improve things and try to mollify the people but that effort was largely unsuccessful.
With Windows 8.1, I made it start to the Desktop (could not be done prior to V8.1) and I made a “start” menu that comes on the right side task bar and points to all applications. It is tool bar: %ProgramData%Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs that works from one of the Up arrows on the right side task bar. I just called it Programs.
With those two modifications (no purchased software), I got Windows 8.1 working smoothly and well and, in many ways, just like Windows 7 (which I had used for about 3 years). I purchased a subscription to Office 365 / 2013 and installed that, upgraded Adobe to V11, made sure my Nokia CS-18 USB Internet key worked, upgraded NCP Secure Entry for VPN access to clients, and installed VMware Workstation V10 so I can run Virtual Machines (Windows 7 Pro, Vista Business and back all the way to Windows 95 and DOS 6.3).
I did all this on a 3 pound ThinkPad X230 with an i5 CPU with 4 cores, 8 Gb of memory and a 500 Gb 7200-rpm hard drive. This makes an excellent machine to carry to clients and is a complete test bench in addition. All this running on a Windows 8.1 host machine.
Now the rumor mill has been abuzz for months now that Windows 9 was coming and that (my words) it would be the savior to move on from Windows 7. On September 30, Microsoft announced Windows 10 (there never was a Windows 9) and on October 1, a Windows 10 64-bit Technical Preview was made available. I downloaded this (about an hour) and then made a Virtual Machine (another hour or 2) which I now have running. I have been running Windows 10 for 24 hours elapsed time.
So I have some first impressions, but (a) such impressions have been formed with less than a day’s use and (b) Microsoft has built in a feedback mechanism to get customer input. Needless to say, the Windows 10 production release sometime early next year will be different than what I see here. Allow me to give you some first impressions here.
Usability: If you are using Windows 8.1, you can adapt to Windows 10 in less than 30 minutes.
Desktop: Windows 10 starts in the desktop and so far I only see one mode. I have no “apps” yet but everything is running in “windows” and full screen is no longer forced upon us. I am a sturdy believer that my computer will be set up my way and (a) my way generally does not include full screen and (b) I have a lead baseball bat to beat operating systems into submission. I do this regularly (starting with the goofy interface in XP).
Internet: The browser is Internet Explorer V11 and is a slightly different version number in Windows 10 than in Windows 8.1 but it seems to work smoothly. Windows Update works and it is downloading 2 updates just now. Windows Update usually does work for me, but some people have difficulty with it and I am happy the Windows Update is working just fine in Windows 10.
Networking: Works! I connected a drive from my Windows 7 machine to my Windows 10 machine and moved software over. This is important because networking is the underpinning of Windows and business people use networking all the time. It was nice to know that networking worked without issue or special accommodation. I use Sync Back Pro (2brightsparks.com) to keep 50 GB of documents and files synchronized between my laptop and desktop so that I have a current backup of all my files at all times. Networking 2 machines is the first thing I do with a new machine so that I can get all my software, email and virtual machines easily over to the new machine.
Start Menu: The Start Menu is back! A year ago I said (and fairly so) that Microsoft was not listening to users. Windows 8 was the proof of that. Today, it appears that Microsoft has been duly humbled and has broken to user demand with a proper Start Menu. It is similar to the Windows 7 Start Menu except it has pictures out the right side. Some people may like this, but I can see it getting in the way of working, so I will probably figure out how to remove the pictures.
Application compatibility: I have not loaded Office 2013 but I am sure it will work. An early version of iTunes 11 never worked on my Windows 8 machine. It just barfed and stopped working. I left iTunes on my Windows 7 Desktop to manage my iPhone and moved to Companion Link on the Windows 8 machine to manage Calendar, Contacts and Notes. Now iTunes V11.4 works perfectly well on Windows 10. That is good news for me. I use Net Term (a terminal application) on an infrequent basis. I use to use it a lot when I had and managed Netopia wireless routers. Net Term worked on Windows 8 but I could not make it work on Windows 8.1 (stopped working errors). The newest version of Net Term works happily in Windows 10. So this far (in less than a day) modern software troublesome to Windows 8.1 is working in Windows 10. This is good news as well.
I have the newest version of Symantec Endpoint Protection (12.1.5 and EMET (Microsoft) Version 5) running on Windows 8.1. I expect both will run on Windows 10 when it goes into production. Right now Windows Defender runs on Windows 10 and just updated, so it should be fine for the time being.
Access and Login: Windows 8 was standard local computer access. When Windows 8.1 came out, it enforced an email account to log in which you can change in PC Settings. I changed the login way back so that when I turn on the Windows 8.1 machine, it uses a user name and password just like Windows 7.
Windows 10 also enforces an email account also. I went directly to PC Settings and changed it. There was a warning in Windows 10 (absent, if I remember correctly, in Windows 8.1) that your documents would be lost and needed to be backed up first. I have no documents in Windows 10, so this was not an issue. I had no documents in Windows 8.1 so it was not an issue then, either.
Overall: Windows 10 is much more unified than Windows 8. Microsoft has now said that the Windows 10 operating system for Windows Phone will be different (as it will need to be) than the Windows 10 for computers. I think, based on what I see, that this strategy has a decent chance of working.
A senior person at one of my clients is using a tiny Windows Surface Pro 3 with Windows 8.1 and two grand 21 inch monitors on it. He says Windows 8.1 makes sense on the Surface Pro 3, and so I expect Windows 10 will easily make sense on Surface Pro x next year.
This Windows 10 machine works and is comfortable. If it were a production release today, I would buy it today. So far, I do not see any show stoppers. I like it so far and I expect you will also.
Below is a screen shot of my Windows 10 desktop.