Archive for the ‘Windows 10’ Category


Fearing forced Windows 10 upgrades, users are disabling critical updates instead

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Some Windows 7 and 8 users would rather chance a malware infection than an involuntary Windows 10 upgrade.

Microsoft stepped on the gas in its quest to drive Windows 7 and 8 users to Windows 10 over the past couple of weeks, rolling the upgrade out as a Recommended update. Watch out! The only behavior that could deny the Windows 10 upgrade before—closing the pop-up by pressing the X in the upper-right corner—now counts as consent for the upgrade, and worse, the upgrade installation can automatically begin even if you take no action whatsoever.

It’s nasty business, and it’s tricking legions of happy Windows 7 and 8 users into Windows 10. Over the past week, I’ve received more contact from readers about this issue than I have about everything else I’ve written over the rest of my career combined. But beyond merely burning bridges with consumers, these forced, non-consensual upgrades could have more insidious consequences.

“I fear some segment of consumers will turn off Windows Update as a result,” Wes Miller, research vice president at Directions on Microsoft, told me. “Which is a very bad side effect.”

Indeed it is. Windows Update delivers critical updates to your PC, plugging holes in the operating system and slamming the door on potential hack attacks. Keeping your operating system patched is a crucial part of staying secure on the modern web. That’s why PCWorld and many other technology experts advise users that the best course of action is usually to leave the Windows default intact, letting the OS download and install Recommended updates automatically. Doing otherwise is dangerous, unless you’re an expert yourself.

Using that critical avenue to push Windows 10 on people—pardon, “make it easier for consumers to upgrade to Windows 10”—violates the trust people hold in the sanctity of Windows Update. And, yes, as a direct result of Microsoft’s actions, at least some people are disabling Windows Update on their Windows 7 and 8 PCs.

Here are just a couple of the readers who reached out to me directly to say they’ve disabled Windows Updates to avoid being forced into Windows 10.


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6 ways to cut the cost and pain of a Windows 10 migration

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User Environment Management (UEM) tech will streamline your adoption and solve your migration problem for good

For most organizations that migrated to a new version of Windows in the past two years, the cost and frustration was not only high, the resources required were crippling. But ready or not, chances are a new migration project will soon be on your to-do list. In fact, almost a quarter of all PCs will be upgraded to Windows 10 within a year. That’s more than 350 million devices. It’s already on more than 100 million devices, and counting.

With employees upgrading their personal devices to Windows 10 at a record rate, the demand for Windows 10 on the business desktop will be extraordinary, forcing most companies to adopt Windows 10 at a faster rate than they have ever adopted a new version of Windows before. So how can you face an inevitable Windows 10 migration without the madness? By adopting a new approach to user profiles through the use of advanced User Environment Management (UEM) technology. This will streamline your adoption and solve your migration problem for good.

UEM technology delivers the ability to separate user profiles from the OS so you can enable users to seamlessly move from OS to OS without managing multiple profiles and policies. Rather than operate in a continuous state of migration, you can seamlessly move user personalization, files and settings between disparate Windows operating system versions – even run multiple Windows versions in parallel – without impacting user productivity.

Consider these six ways UEM technology will reduce the cost, and pain, of migrations for good:

* Simplify data migration between desktops – For users, one of the greatest frustrations when migrating is misplacing critical files and folders. This can cost hours of lost employee productivity as users search multiple network shares for their vital content. The risk? Users will turn to public cloud file sync and share services to store their content, creating a “shadow IT” environment where company data is in unknown hands. An advanced UEM solution solves this challenge by centrally storing user content within the IT storage infrastructure where it’s safe, protected and easily accessible, regardless of the Windows device a user chooses to use.

* Minimize application package customization – When performing a traditional migration, one of the top challenges is preparing user applications for effective use on the new OS. UEM technology streamlines this process by decoupling application settings from the package itself and automating modifications of application configurations based on the destination OS. This saves hours of application package customization time and further enables user flexibility by allowing users to access their applications seamlessly from any desktop, regardless of the OS it may be running.

* Secure endpoints from malicious threats – One of the largest time and cost drains that can impact today’s enterprise IT is a security breach. Even with robust antivirus solutions, endpoint systems are at constant risk of zero-day threats that can wreak havoc in just a matter of hours. With UEM technology, endpoints are protected because the attack surface that threat actors can exploit is reduced. Using privilege management and application control technology, these solutions prevent unknown executables from penetrating the endpoint because they simply lack the privilege or authorization. This means endpoints are secure from any threat that isn’t authorized to be executed.

* Avoid roaming profile corruption – When Roaming Profiles are used to persist user preferences and settings from desktop to desktop you are opening the floodgates for the consumption of a significant amount of disk storage, logon delays and corruption. This increases support costs and impacts user productivity. Using an advanced UEM solution will eliminate the risk of corrupted roaming profiles so that your users are productive and your storage requirements remain slim.

* Minimize support requests for system rollbacks – With a UEM solution users are able to easily and automatically self-heal when malicious changes or unexpected system failures occur. Users can simply rollback the desktop or application settings to a preferred working state without the need to ever call the helpdesk. This saves hours of IT staff resources and improves overall user productivity.

* Enable future, even ongoing, migration – Inevitably Windows will announce new fixes and versions. By untethering your user profiles from their environment you can accomplish migrations far more easily, and most importantly, enhance productivity through use of a consistent desktop that always feels familiar to the user. As a result, you’ll never have to worry about the high cost and resource drain of a migration again. Every time a new OS is introduced you’ll be ready without impacting user uptime or draining your IT staff resources.

Don’t remain stuck in a constant state of migration. Consider Windows 10 your opportunity to eliminate the migration headache for good.

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How to stop Windows 10 asking you to give feedback

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If you’ve signed up to the Windows Insider program, you’re enjoying preview builds of Windows 10 before the vast majority of people. Whether you are on the Fast or the Slow Ring, getting hold of Insider preview builds is a great way to stay on the cutting edge — but it comes with its drawbacks.

One of these — aside from the need to download gigantic updates from time to time — is that Windows 10 will constantly pester you for feedback. While it could be argued that this is very much the point of the preview program, some of you will almost certainly just want to get on with using Windows 10 without being asked ‘Would you recommend this build to a friend?’ or ‘What do you think of the latest features of Windows 10?’. If you want to kill the feedback popups, here’s how to do it.

What’s important about feedback is letting Microsoft know when something goes wrong or doesn’t work as expected. But rather than feeling harangued into answering simple Yes / No / Maybe style questions, it makes far more sense to seek out the Feedback app and go into more details about problems you have encountered, when you encounter them. If you wait to be asked about your experience, you may well have forgotten what irked you. Take back control. Be pro-active. Hit the Feedback app, and ditch the nagging.

· Fire up Settings from the Start menu.

· Open up Privacy and move to the Feedback & diagnostics section.

· From the Feedback frequency drop down menu, select how often you’re happy for Windows to hassle you — cut it down to a daily or weekly occurrence, or select Never to kill it completely.

Close Settings, and you’re done.

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70-697 Practice Test – Windows 10 Devices in 2016

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Welcome to the free practice test for 70-697 – Configuring Windows Devices. This simulated multiple-choice test was handwritten for the benefit of other IT professionals including engineers, helpdesk and managers. It contains 15 random questions selected from a wide range of Windows 10 topics – all relevant to the 70-697 subject material.

The questions will help to compliment your study material, providing the opportunity to test what you’ve learnt and improve your chance of passing the exam first time. Remember, if you enjoy the questions and answers then please share this page with friends and work colleagues.

The 70-697 Specialist exam was introduced in 2015 for the Windows 10 MCSE certification path. Unlike exams from the Windows 8 series which tended to focus on a core principle the 70-697 exam covers a wider range of topics.

Candidates should bear this in mind when studying for the exam as it will test your experience across a wider spectrum of subjects including cloud based Intune management, virtualization and apps.

Topics you need to know
The exam is an even split between each of the following high level topics:
Windows Store and cloud apps
Desktop and device deployment
Intune device management
Data access and protection
Remote access
Updates and Recovery

● Exam 70-697 Configuring Windows Devices is near completion, and should soon be available. Passing this exam will confer a Microsoft Specialist certification, and it serves as the “recommended prerequisite” for the MCSE: Enterprise Devices and Apps certification (in lieu of exams 70-687 Configuring Windows 8.1 and 70-688 Supporting Windows 8.1). – See more at:

You should be comfortable answering questions around the Windows Store and cloud apps, with an understanding of Microsoft Office 365 and the inner workings of Intune for sideloading apps to devices.

Several authentication mechanisms are available in Windows 10; certificates, Microsoft Passport, virtual smartcards, picture password, biometrics etc. You should be comfortable answering questions for each of these authentication types and any corresponding authorisation processes.

Many of the classic Windows configuration questions reappear, such as profiles and roaming with a focus on virtualization (Hyper-V) and mobile options such as Windows To Go and Wi-Fi Direct.

Networking and storage have their own subject areas which focus on classic networking principles such as name resolution and network adapters. On the storage side expect BitLocker to make an appearance in addition to classic questions on NTFS and data recovery.

Buzz Topics
Intune – provides mobile device management, mobile application management, and PC management capabilities from the cloud.
Hyper-V – software infrastructure and basic management tools that you can use to create and manage a virtualized computing environment.
BitLocker – a full disk encryption feature designed to protect data by providing encryption for entire volumes.
Windows To Go – boot and run from USB mass storage devices such as USB flash drives and external hard disk drives

Azure RemoteApp – brings the functionality of the on-premises Microsoft RemoteApp program, backed by Remote Desktop Services, to Azure. Azure RemoteApp helps you provide secure, remote access to applications from many different user devices.

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Microsoft acknowledges bug led to Windows 10 November upgrade stoppage

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Restores 1511 to download site, restarts Windows Update push

Microsoft has restored access to Windows 10’s November upgrade from its download center, saying that it pulled the upgrade because of a bug.

“Recently we learned of an issue that could have impacted an extremely small number of people who had already installed Windows 10 and applied the November update,” a Microsoft spokesman said in a Tuesday statement. “It will not impact future installs of the November update, which is available today.”

Microsoft yanked the upgrade from the download website — and stopped serving it to Windows 10 users via Windows Update — last week. According to the company, the upgrade had reverted four preferences within the operating system to the original “on” default settings.

“We will restore their settings over the coming days and we apologize for the inconvenience,” the spokesman added.

The settings that were changed included two in Windows 10’s privacy section — one that lets the user’s advertiser ID to be tracked across multiple apps, another that enables an anti-phishing filter for apps that display Web content — and a second pair that synchronized devices and allowed various first-party apps to run in the background to, for instance, provide notifications.

Microsoft provided some information on the settings bug in a support document, and also rolled out a new cumulative update, the only kind for Windows 10.

While the bug may seem minor — especially in the context of the roll call of louder complaints about the November upgrade on Microsoft’s own support forums — the company may have been ultra-sensitive to the privacy settings snafu, considering that the firm has been manhandled by critics over what they saw as a significant uptick in intrusiveness. Those who had turned off the advertiser ID tracking, for example, would certainly have been upset to discover that it had been switched back on after the upgrade.

After fixing the problem, Microsoft restored the upgrade to the download center, where current Windows 10 users can generate installation media — usually a USB thumb drive, but alternately a DVD — with the Media Creation Tool (MCT). Many have been using the MCT to cut the line for the upgrade, normally served through the Windows Update service, and skip the wait as Microsoft slowly rolls it out in its now-familiar staggered fashion.

Computerworld confirmed that the MCT now downloads the November upgrade, which Microsoft identifies as both 1511 — a nod to the November 2015 release date — and build 10586, rather than the original July 29 code that it had reverted to last week.

The gaffe with the November upgrade could be seen as a setback for Microsoft’s strategy to convince customers that it can provide regular upgrades to Windows 10 two or three times a year, and more importantly, prove that it can do so with high-quality code that requires less testing than prior editions.

After the upgrade’s Nov. 12 release, but before it was pulled from distribution, Gartner analyst Steve Kleynhans had called 1511 a milestone in Microsoft’s scheme. “This is a proof case for the ongoing update process,” Kleynhans said in a Nov. 13 interview. “It’s only the first data point, of course, but having delivered it, more or less on time, is a pretty good sign.”

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Why Windows 10 is the most secure Windows ever

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With Device Guard and Credential Guard, Windows enjoys unprecedented protection from malware and advanced persistent threats

Microsoft added two game-changing security features for enterprise users in Windows 10, but until recently, the company has been relatively quiet about them.

So far the buzz has mainly been about Windows Hello, which supports face and fingerprint recognition. But Device Guard and Credential Guard are the two standout security features of Windows 10 — they protect the core kernel from malware and prevent attackers from remotely taking control of the machine. Device Guard and Credential Guard are intended for business systems and are available only in Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education.

“Clearly, Microsoft thought a lot about the kind of attacks taking place against enterprise customers and is moving security forward by leaps and bounds,” said Ian Trump, a security lead at LogicNow.

Device Guard relies on Windows 10’s virtualization-based security to allow only trusted applications to run on devices. Credential Guard protects corporate identities by isolating them in a hardware-based virtual environment. Microsoft isolates critical Windows services in the virtual machine to block attackers from tampering with the kernel and other sensitive processes. The new features rely on the same hypervisor technology already used by Hyper-V.

Using hardware-based virtualization to extend whitelisting and protecting credentials was a “brilliant move” by Microsoft, said Chester Wisniewski, senior security strategist for Sophos Canada, an antivirus company.

Microsoft published tehnical guides for Device Guard and Credential Guard on TechNet last week.
Apps on lockdown

Device Guard relies on both hardware and software to lock down the machine so that it can run only trusted applications. Applications must have a valid cryptographic signature from specific software vendors — or from Microsoft if the application comes from the Windows Store.

Although there have been reports of malware code writers stealing certificates to sign malware, a significant majority of malware is unsigned code. The reliance of Device Guard on signed policies will block most malware attacks.

“It is a great way to protect against zero-day attacks that make it by antimalware defenses,” Trump said.

While this approach is similar to what Apple does with its App Store for iOS and OS X and with its Gatekeeper app-signing technology in OS X for verified developers who offer non-App Store apps, there’s a twist: Microsoft recognizes that enterprises need a wide array of applications. Businesses can sign their own software without having to make changes to the code, and for applications they know and trust (custom software they bought, for example), they can sign those applications, too. In this way, organizations can create a list of trusted applications independent of whether the developer obtained a valid signature from Microsoft.

This puts organizations in control of which sources Device Guard considers trustworthy. Device Guard comes with tools that can make it easy to sign Universal or even Win32 apps that may not have been originally signed by the software vendor. Clearly, Microsoft is looking for middle ground between a total lockdown and keeping everything open, enabling organizations to “have their cake and eat it, too,” Wisniewski said.

Under the hood, Device Guard is more than another whitelisting mechanism. It handles whitelisting in a way that is actually effective because the information is protected by the virtual machine. That is, malware or an attacker with administrator privileges cannot tamper with the policy checks.

Device Guard isolates Windows services that verify whether drivers and kernel-level code are legitimate in a virtual container. Even if malware infects the machine, it cannot access that container to bypass the checks and execute a malicious payload. Device Guard goes beyond the older AppLocker feature, which could be accessed by attackers with administrative privileges. Only an updated policy signed by a trusted signer can change the app control policy that has been set on the device.

“It’s exciting for Windows to put this right in the box,” said Trump. “It may become a corporate standard.”
Isolating secrets

Credential Guard may not be as exciting as Device Guard, but it addresses an important facet of enterprise security: It stores domain credentials within a virtual container, away from the kernel and user mode operating system. This way, even if the machine is compromised, the credentials are not available to the attacker.

Advanced persistent attacks rely on the ability to steal domain and user credentials to move around the network and access other computers. Typically, when users log into a computer, their hashed credentials are stored in the operating system’s memory. Previous versions of Windows stored credentials in the Local Security Authority, and the operating system accessed the information using remote procedure calls. Malware or attackers lurking on the network were able to steal these hashed credentials and use them in pass-the-hash attacks.

By isolating those credentials in a virtual container, Credential Guard prevents attackers from stealing the hash, restricting their ability to move around the network. The combination of Device Guard and Credential Guard could go a long way toward locking down an environment and stopping APT attacks.

“Microsoft’s Implementation may not be as easy as some vendors, and Microsoft may not have a fancy dashboard, but to include security features like these [Credential Guard, Device Guard, Microsoft Hello two-factor authentication, and BitLocker] you have an operating system worthy of the title ‘Enterprise’ and a very hard target to hack,” Trump said.
Not for everyone

Exciting features aren’t enough to spur adoption. While Windows 10 will make inroads in the enterprise, the hardware requirements and infrastructure changes will delay widespread adoption of Device Guard and Credential Guard for at least four or five years, Wisniewski predicted.

The hardware requirements are hefty. To enable Device Guard and Credential Guard, the machines need Secure Boot, support for 64-bit virtualization, Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) firmware, and the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip. Only enterprise hardware, not consumer PCs, includes such features. For example, business laptops such as Lenovo ThinkPad and Dell Latitude models typically have these specs, but consumer models such as the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro do not. The hypervisor-level protections are available only if the machine has a processor with virtualization extensions, such as Intel VT-x and AMD-V.

Employees regularly working in the field or traveling extensively throughout the year are more likely to opt for a lighter laptop — and most Ultrabooks do not have TPM inside. “The executives are the ones I worry about,” Wisniewski said, as they’re the ones most at risk of attack and more likely to be using consumer models.

The hardware isn’t the only barrier to getting started; most organizations will also need to make changes to infrastructure and processes. Many IT teams don’t currently use UEFI or Secure Boot because they impact existing workflows. IT may be concerned about getting locked out of computers with Secure Boot; it’s easier to wipe a machine and load a stock corporate image when setting it up. Likewise, some machines may run critical applications with specific requirements that cannot be upgraded.

Fortunately, Device Guard and Credential Guard don’t require an all-or-nothing decision. IT can build a new domain with Device Guard and Credential Guard protections turned on and move users who meet the hardware requirements. The machines that can’t be upgraded can be left in the existing domain. This lets IT maintain a “clean” network with signed policy and protected credentials and focus their attention on the older, “dirty” domains. “Don’t hold the entire network back for just one thing,” Wisniewski said.

Few enterprises believe the current state of enterprise Windows security is acceptable. Device Guard and Credential Guard actually offer a way forward, albeit one that demands a substantial investment. With Windows 10, “Microsoft is telling enterprises, ‘If you want good technology you need to do security [our way],’” Wisniewski said. Time will tell whether enterprises are willing to follow that path.


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How to uninstall Windows 10 and go back to Windows 7 or 8

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Did you upgrade to Windows 10 and regret it? You can go back to your older operating system in a few clicks.

You’ve had Windows 10 for more than a week now, but try as you might the new operating system’s just not working out for you. Maybe a mission critical program doesn’t work properly, maybe you hate the new Start menu, or maybe Cortana is giving you the creeps.

If that sounds like you, it might be time to downgrade back to your past operating system and try again later.

To make life easier on Windows 7 and 8.1 converts, Microsoft will allow you to rollback your Windows 10 installation to the previous operating system for 30 days post-upgrade. Don’t worry—if you want to come back later, you can still take advantage of the free Windows 10 upgrade for the next year.

Keep in mind that downgrading to your older OS requires that you still have your Windows.old folder at C:\Windows.old. If you typically delete that after upgrading, or you’ve done a post-upgrade clean install of Windows 10, you’re out of luck.

Getting ready for the rollback
Before you use the rollback option, take the time to set a few things set up. First of all, make sure all your data is backed up on an external hard drive, or with a cloud-based back-up service like Backblaze or Carbonite.

You might also want to make sure you have your old Windows 7 or 8 product keys handy just in case. You shouldn’t need them, but it can’t hurt to have them on hand if you want to be careful. Don’t worry about saving your Windows 10 product keys—those are handled differently than in previous versions of the OS.

The keys for your previous operating should either be on a sticker on the back of your PC (under the battery if you’re on a laptop), or included with the system discs that came with your PC.

Once you’ve got all of that organized, it’s time to get with the rollback. Open the Start menu, select the Settings app, and go to Update & Security > Recovery.

windows 10 rollback
If you’re eligible to downgrade you should see an option that says Go back to Windows 8.1 or Go back to Windows 7. If you see it, click Get started and follow along with the wizard.

Once you’ve returned to your previous version of Windows, you need to tinker with it to perfect your setup once again. Older programs may need to be reinstalled, and if you had a different password on the older system than you did with Windows 10, you’ll have to sign-in with that one.

Getting to this tutorial after the 30-day grace period has passed? If you need to downgrade to your past operating system and Windows 10’s rollback option is gone, you’ll either need recovery discs generated from your original Windows 7 or 8 machine to do a clean install of your old system, or have a system image backup stashed somewhere.

If that doesn’t work, your last option is to install Windows 7 or 8.1 in a virtual machine on your Windows 10 system—if you can get your hands on a product key and the older system discs. It’s a pain, but a VM will work surprisingly well for those times when only Windows 7 or 8.1 will do.

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Windows 10: Fact vs. fiction

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With Win10 slated to drop July 29, we give you the straight dope on support, upgrades, and the state of the bits

It’s a few days before Windows 10 is officially slated to drop, and still, confusion abounds. Worse, many fallacies regarding Microsoft’s plans around upgrades and support for Win10 remain in circulation, despite efforts to dispel them.

Here at InfoWorld, we’ve been tracking Windows 10’s progress very closely, reporting the evolving technical details with each successive build in our popular “Where Windows 10 stands right now” report. We’ve also kept a close eye on the details beyond the bits, reporting on the common misconceptions around Windows 10 licensing, upgrade paths, and updates. If you haven’t already read that article, you may want to give it a gander. Many of the fallacies we pointed out six weeks ago are still as fallacious today — and you’ll hear them repeated as fact by people who should know better.

Here, with Windows 10 nearing the finish line, we once again cut through the fictions to give you the true dirt — and one juicy conjecture — about Windows 10, in hopes of helping you make the right decisions regarding Microsoft’s latest Windows release when it officially lands July 29.

Conjecture: Windows Insiders already have the “final” version of Windows 10

Give or take a few last-minute patches, members of the Windows Insider program may already have what will be the final version of Win10. Build 10240, with applied patches, has all the hallmarks of a first final “general availability” version.

If you’re in the Insider program, either Fast or Slow ring, and your computer’s been connected to the Internet recently, you’ve already upgraded, automatically, to the Windows 10 that’s likely headed out on July 29. No, I can’t prove it. But all the tea leaves point in that direction. Don’t be surprised if Terry Myerson announces on July 29 that Insiders are already running the “real” Windows 10 — and have been running it for a couple of weeks. Everyone else can get a feel for the likely “final” Windows 10, build 10240, by checking out our ongoing Windows 10 beta coverage at “Where Windows stands right now.”

Fact: Windows 10 has a 10-year support cycle

Like Windows Vista, Win7, and Win8 before it, Windows 10 has a 10-year support cycle. In fact, we’re getting a few extra months for free: According to the Windows Lifecycle fact sheet, mainstream support ends Oct. 13, 2020, and extended support ends Oct. 14, 2025. Of course, if your sound card manufacturer, say, stops supporting Windows 10, you’re out of luck.

ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD: What if Windows went open source tomorrow?

I have no idea where Microsoft’s statement about covering Windows 10 “for the supported lifetime of the device” came from. It sounds like legalese that was used to waffle around the topic for seven frustrating months. Microsoft’s publication of the Lifecycle fact sheet shows that Windows 10 will be supported like any other version of Windows. (XP’s dates were a little different because of SP2.)

Fiction: The 10 years of support start from the day you buy or install Windows 10

There’s been absolutely nothing from Microsoft to support the claim that the Win10 support clock starts when you buy or install Windows 10, a claim that has been attributed to an industry analyst.

The new Windows 10 lifecycle and updating requirements look a lot like the old ones, except they’re accelerated a bit. In the past we had Service Packs, and people had a few months to get the Service Packs installed before they became a prerequisite for new patches. With Windows 8.1, we had the ill-fated Update 1: You had to install Update 1 before you could get new patches, and you only had a month (later extended) to get Update 1 working. The new Windows 10 method — requiring customers to install upgrades/fixes/patches sequentially, in set intervals — looks a whole lot like the old Win 8.1 Update 1 approach, although corporate customers in the Long Term Servicing Branch can delay indefinitely.

Fact: You can clean install the (pirate) Windows 10 build 10240 ISO right now and use it without entering a product key

Although it isn’t clear how long you’ll be able to continue to use it, the Windows 10 build 10240 ISO can be installed and used without a product key. Presumably, at some point in the future you’ll be able to feed it a new key (from, say, MSDN), or buy one and use it retroactively.
Fiction: You can get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Pro from Win7 Home Basic/Premium, Win8.1 (“Home” or “Core”), or Win8.1 with Bing

A common misconception is that you can upgrade, for free, from Windows 7 Home Basic or Home Premium, Windows 8.1 (commonly called “Home” or “Core”), or Windows 8.1 with Bing, to Windows 10 Pro. Nope, sorry — all of those will upgrade to Windows 10 Home. To get to Windows 10 Pro, you would then have to pay for an upgrade, from Win10 Home to Pro.

Fact: No product key is required to upgrade a “genuine” copy of Win7 SP1 or Win8.1 Update
According to Microsoft, if you upgrade a “genuine” copy of Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 Update, come July 29 or later, Windows 10 won’t require a product key. Instead, keep Home and Pro versions separate — upgrade Home to Home, Pro to Pro. If you upgrade and perform a Reset (Start, Settings, Update & Security, Recovery, Reset this PC) you get a clean install of Windows 10 — again, per Microsoft. It’ll take a few months to be absolutely certain that a Reset performs an absolutely clean install, but at this point, it certainly looks that way.

Fiction: Windows 10 requires a Microsoft account to install, use, or manage

Another common misconception is that Microsoft requires users have a Microsoft account to install, use, or manage Windows 10. In fact, local accounts will work for any normal Windows 10 activity, although you need to provide a Microsoft account in the obvious places (for example, to get mail), with Cortana, and to sync Edge.

Fact: If your tablet runs Windows RT, you’re screwed

Microsoft has announced it will release a new version of Windows RT, called Windows RT 3, in September. If anybody’s expecting it to look anything like Windows 10, you’re sorely mistaken. If you bought the original Surface or Surface RT, you’re out of luck. Microsoft sold folks an obsolete bucket of bolts that, sad to say, deserves to die. Compare that with the Chromebook, which is still chugging along.

Fiction: Microsoft pulled Windows Media Player from Windows 10

One word here seems to be tripping up folks. What Microsoft has pulled is Windows Media Center, which is a horse of a completely different color. If you’re thinking of upgrading your Windows Media Center machine to Windows 10, you’re better off retiring it and buying something that actually works like a media center. WMP is still there, although I wonder why anybody would use it, with great free alternatives like VLC readily available.

Fiction: Windows 10 is a buggy mess
In my experience, Windows 10 build 10240 (and thus, presumably, the final version) is quite stable and reasonably fast, and it works very well. There are anomalies — taskbar icons disappear, some characters don’t show up, you can’t change the picture for the Lock Screen, lots of settings are undocumented — and entire waves of features aren’t built yet. But for day-to-day operation, Win10 works fine.

Fact: The current crop of “universal” apps is an electronic wasteland
Microsoft has built some outstanding universal apps on the WinRT foundation, including the Office trilogy, Edge, Cortana, and several lesser apps, such as the Mail/Calendar twins, Solitaire, OneNote, and the Store. But other software developers have, by and large, ignored the WinRT/universal shtick. You have to wonder why Microsoft itself wasn’t able to get a universal OneDrive or Skype app going in time for July 29. Even Rovio has given a pass on Angry Birds 2 for the universal platform. Some games are coming (such as Rise of the Tomb Raider), but don’t expect a big crop of apps for the universal side of Windows 10 (and, presumably, Windows 10 Mobile) any time soon.

Fiction: Microsoft wants to control us by forcing us to go to Windows 10
I hear variations on this theme all the time, and it’s tinfoil-hat hooey. Microsoft is shifting to a different way of making money with Windows. Along the way, it’s trying out a lot of moves to reinvigorate the aging cash cow. Total world domination isn’t one of the options. And, no, the company isn’t going to charge you rent for Windows 10, though it took seven months to say so, in writing.

Fiction: Windows 7 and Windows 8 machines will upgrade directly to Windows 10

Win7 and Win8 machines won’t quite upgrade directly to Win10. You need Windows 7 Service Pack 1, or Windows 8.1 Update 1, in order to perform the upgrade. If you don’t have Windows 7 SP1, Microsoft has official instructions that’ll get you there from Windows 7. If you’re still using Windows 8, follow these official instructions to get to Windows 8.1 Update. Technically, there’s a middle step on your way to Win10.

Fact: We have no idea what will happen when Microsoft releases a really bad patch for Windows 10

If there’s an Achilles’ heel in the grand Windows 10 scheme, it’s forced updates for Windows 10 Home users and Pro users not attached to update servers. As long as Microsoft rolls out good-enough-quality patches — as it’s done for the past three months — there’s little to fear. But if a real stinker ever gets pushed out, heaven only knows how, and how well, Microsoft will handle it.

Fact: You’d have to be stone-cold crazy to install Windows 10 on a production machine on July 29
There isn’t one, single killer app that you desperately need on July 29. Those in the know have mountains of questions, some of which won’t be answered until we see how Win10 really works and what Microsoft does to support it. If you want to play with Windows 10 on a test machine, knock yourself out. I will, too. But only a certified masochist would entrust a working PC to Windows 10, until it’s been pushed and shoved and taken round several blocks, multiple times.

You have until July 29, 2016, to take advantage of the free upgrade. There’s no rush. Microsoft won’t run out of bits.

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A Linux user tries out Windows 10

by admin ·

I did the unthinkable – left Linux behind and lived in the Windows 10 technical preview as my primary computing environment. Here’s what I learned.

Every now and then, it’s nice to break out of your bubble, to really get outside your comfort zone and see how things are “on the other side of the fence.”

I love Chinese food. Could eat Chinese food every day of the week. But, once in a while, it’s a good idea to mix things up. You know. And order a pizza.

This is that time for me. Only instead of Chinese food, it’s Linux. Instead of pizza, Windows 10 (Technical Preview). That’s right. I’m a full time Linux user, and I just spent a few days trying to live in the preview edition of Windows 10.

One thing should be emphasized right off the bat: this is not a review of Windows 10, and it is not a list of every feature of the system (there are other articles for that). This is a Linux advocate taking some time out to see how things work in the upcoming major release of Windows and seeing what he can learn from that experience. Are there things Windows 10 does better than Linux, which we in the Linux world should take some cues from? (Every system has advantages, right?)

It should also be noted that I am focusing entirely on desktop functionality. I tested the Windows 10 Technical Preview on a Dell M3800 (which was previously running Linux) and a VirtualBox virtual machine (with 8GB of RAM dedicated to it).

In other words: no tablets were harmed in the making of this article.

Really, I’m asking (myself) two questions here:
Is there anything awesome in Windows 10 that Linux can learn from?
Are there enough awesome things in Windows 10 that I, as a Linux user, am missing out on by not running it as my primary operating system?

Let’s dive in to the areas I think are most noteworthy for helping to answer those questions. If I leave a feature out, it’s likely because it was just not relevant to those two questions.

Windows playing catch up
There are two noteworthy new features in Windows 10 that many Linux desktop environments have possessed for years (nay… decades): Virtual Desktops, and effective, tiled window management.

I mention this because it shows that Microsoft is paying attention and implementing some excellent features found in competing systems. Sure, in the case of Virtual Desktops, Microsoft is a good four decades behind its competition… but better late than never, right?

The implementation of this feature in Windows 10 is completely, absolutely, 100% adequate. You start out with a single “desktop” and can add new desktops one at a time. Application windows can be moved between desktops, desktops can be removed… everything that you would expect. It doesn’t feel quite as polished and smooth as the implementation in, say, GNOME Shell. But it’s an acceptable first attempt at catching up with the Linux world.

Likewise, the improvements to window layout and management are nice. Called “Quadrant Snap,” it’s basically the ability to “snap” open windows to a “quadrant” of the screen. It’s been updated in Windows 10 to be a bit more flexible – for example, one window can take up the whole left half of the screen, with the right half containing three windows stacked vertically, each taking an equal amount of vertical space. It’s similar in many ways to the functionality of many of the tiling window managers out there, such as xmonad or awesome.

Nothing mind-blowing here, but good features that we’ve been enjoying on Linux since before the first episode of Friends was a gleam in Jennifer Aniston’s eye.

Windows taking the lead
Perhaps that should read “Taking the lead… with caveats.”

There are two areas where I feel Windows 10 is doing things that are better (or at least in a more ambitious way) than what we’re doing on Linux. Unfortunately for Microsoft… they’re not really nailing these features as well as they need to.

The first is “Cortana.” This is to Microsoft what Siri and Google Now are to Apple and, well, Google – a sort of personal information search service with some support for natural language input and voice recognition.

In Windows 10, this functionality is interfaced with a little search box that sits right next to the Start menu (more on that below). Voice dictation is an excellent feature of any system. As is voice synthesis. And, heck, having a central spot to see things like your to-do list for the day, weather, traffic, etc… that’s all quite handy.

Unfortunately, in my testing, Cortana was just not fun to use. And I’m not bashing it for lack of functionality (this is still a “Technical Preview” of Windows 10, after all) or bugginess (though it was plenty buggy). My issue with this feature is that using it to do just about anything was significantly slower than using a mouse, keyboard, or touchscreen to accomplish the same tasks.

Benchmark scores show performance gap between Surface 3 and Surface Pro 3,…

For a great demonstration of how maddeningly inefficient Cortana can be, see this video from the WinBeta folks. Take note of how long it takes him to set a simple reminder alarm. This experience seems to be the norm.

You see? It has amazing potential… but if it’s no fun to use, it doesn’t much matter.

The second feature that is almost fantastic (emphasis on “almost”) is the Windows Store.

It is exactly what the name implies. It’s a software store, in much the same vein as the Google Play store or the Ubuntu Software Center. The design is fine – easy enough to search and navigate (many similarities to Google Play here).

But, and this is a big “but”… there’s simply not a lot of software available, as it’s limited to “Metro” style applications (read: not classic Windows software). This takes what could be an amazing feature and makes it rather…meh.

Right about now you may be wondering why I included this feature as an area where Windows 10 is “taking the lead” over Linux. And that is because the majority of Linux distributions lack a solid software “store” experience. Even the Ubuntu Software Center leaves a lot to be desired. It’s rather slow, has a very limited selection of software for purchase, and what’s there isn’t overly easy to discover.

If Microsoft were to open up the “Windows Store” to applications built for classic “Windows”…this would be a very handy feature. And I see no reason why they couldn’t do exactly that. Though, as it stands, I’ll stick to my declaration of “meh.”

Windows not doing as much as I thought

Which brings me to two features that were simply underwhelming, the ones that had been outed rather heavily and which I expected to be the shining examples of the quality and innovation of Windows 10: the new Start Menu and support for ultra-high resolution displays.

First, let’s talk about the new Start Menu.

In Windows 8, Microsoft killed the Start Menu – that simple, nested menu that let you find and launch applications (a paradigm used in operating systems since the days of the Pharaohs). Microsoft opted instead for a full-screen display of animated tiles, which, as every four-year-old can tell you, was both annoying and stupid.

In Windows 10, the Start Menu is back… kind of. There’s no more full screen of animated tiles (Windows users dodged a bullet, there). But what Windows 10 has now isn’t all that much better. Other than the fact that it’s not, technically, full screen.

The new Start Menu bears little resemblance to what you might remember. On the left side of the Start Menu is a list of all of the software on your PC. In alphabetical order. With no categories. Have a lot of applications installed? Too bad for you, because that list is going to get crazy long.

On the right side of the Start Menu you’ll find the grid of animated squares that you had hoped were burned alive. No. That’s not fair. This is an improvement. In Windows 8 you had a full screen of squares that accomplished nothing… in Windows 10 the Start Menu is simply filled with those squares – and is, hence, annoyingly larger and stupider-looking than it should be.

Luckily, the good folks at Microsoft provide a “full screen” button that makes this new Start Menu take up the entire screen. For those moments, I suppose, when you feel you could be more annoyed by the Start Menu… if only it took up your entire field of view.

The second feature to let me down, HiDPI support, really let me down in a big way.

I used the Dell M3800’s 4k screen (3840×2160) and, based on the noise Microsoft has been making about support for upwards of 8k screens (!!!), I expected the experience to be awesome right out of the gate.

It wasn’t. (It’s not the fault of the M3800’s screen…which is gorgeous.)

In order to make most applications usable – on that high of a resolution on a smaller screen, text and buttons can quickly become unusably small – I had to set the DPI scaling in the control panel fairly high. And even then, things weren’t all roses and candy bars. (Is that an actual saying? “Roses and candy bars”? Probably, right? Hell with it, I’m sticking to it.)

Toolbars in some applications became distorted and unusable. Text in other applications became jagged and funky-looking. Other times, things simply became pixelated and ugly. (To be completely fair, sometimes the DPI scaling worked excellently well. But only sometimes.)

Windows 10 isn’t alone in having issues with HiDPI screens.

MacOS X, last time I used it, had similar problems with many applications. Admittedly, this was several years ago, so that may have changed. I tend to not use Apple products. I respect myself too much for that.

And many Linux desktop environments encounter similar difficulties. GNOME Shell and Ubuntu’s Unity, for example, both handle scaling to those ultra-high resolutions fairly gracefully… until you start using software that isn’t bundled with the environment itself. Then all hell can break loose – buttons too small to click, mismatched text sizing within a single application, all sorts of shenanigans.

The fact that Microsoft is touting this HiDPI functionality so highly, yet not really providing anything more interesting than what Linux has had for a few years, is rather – what’s the word I’m looking for – meh-worthy.

“Meh” seems to be a running theme in Windows 10. Which is quite the opposite of “awesome.”

Did I answer my own questions?

Having a good-looking software store is pretty critical. And that’s something still lacking in non-Android Linux-based systems right now. Even Ubuntu could use some serious improvements in its software store experience.

Am I missing out on anything by not running Windows 10 as my primary operating system?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: Are you kidding me? I couldn’t repartition that drive fast enough and re-install Linux.

But I’m glad I spent the time in Windows 10 Technical Preview. Maybe when the final version of Windows 10 ships, I’ll take it for another spin to see what they’ve improved. The reality is that, for being a “Technical Preview,” this was fairly stable and quite peppy. Not Linux-levels of peppy, mind you. But not bad, either. Not “awesome,” but not bad.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go hide in my bunker and hope that the steel-reinforced doors can keep the Windows fans at bay.

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5 top tips and secrets for Windows 10

by admin ·

Become master of the Windows 10 universe.
Trying out Windows 10 and want to get more out of it? Try out these top five tips and secrets for the new operating system.

Tell Cortana to keep her hands off your data
Cortana can be an exceptionally useful personal assistant — but she can only be helpful if she has access to your data. And you may prefer less help from Cortana and more privacy.

To tell Cortana to keep her hands off of some of your data, click in the search bar in the taskbar, and then click the menu button at the top left of the screen that appears — it looks like three horizontal lines. Select Settings and look for the setting “Delete tracking info such as flights and packages, in emails on my device.” Move the slider to On.

Become a command line master of the universe
Remember the command line, that bare C: against a black, empty screen? If you’re were willing to delve into its mysteries, it gives you quite a bit of power.

Windows 10 gives the command line new powers. But you’ll need to turn them on. To do it, type cmd in the search bar, then click its icon that appears. That launches the command line. Now right-click its title bar and select Properties–>Experimental. You’ll find all kinds of new tools, such as being able to copy and paste inside it with the usual Windows keyboard shortcuts Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V. You can do other things as well. Try them out.

Use the new keyboard shortcuts
Some people hate keyboard shortcuts, some people love them. I’m a big fan. If you are too, you’ll be pleased to hear that Windows 10 has several new ones. To snap a window to the left or right of the screen, or re-center it if it’s on the side of the screen, use the Windows Key-Left Arrow shortcut combo or Windows Key-Right Arrow shortcut combo. The Windows Key-Tab opens us Task View to show all of your running windows. There are also shortcuts for controlling virtual desktops. For a list of all the new ones, go to Brandon LeBlanc’s Blogging Windows post. (Note: It’s an official Microsoft blog.)

Move programs between virtual desktops
Virtual desktops are among my favorite new Windows 10 features. If you like them as well, you’ll also like this tip: You can move programs between one virtual desktop and another. To do it, when you’re running multiple desktops, go to Task View by pressing the Windows Key-Tab combo. Right-click the app that you want to move from one virtual desktop to another, select Move To, then move it to the desktop where you want it to go.

Turn off interactive feedback prompts
As you use Windows 10, every once in a while a prompt will appear, asking you to provide feedback about a feature you’ve been using. Microsoft uses this feedback from the more than 2 million people using the Windows 10 Technical Preview to determine what to change in future Windows 10 versions.

Don’t like those prompts? You can turn them off completely, or have them bother you less frequently. To do it, select Settings from the Start menu, then select Privacy –> Feedback. Click the down button underneath “Microsoft should ask for my feedback” and select Never to turn feedback off completely, or choose another selection to change the frequency with which it asks you questions.

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