My Windows 10 update story

Yes, even I have one. My Windows 10 update story is long, boring and mostly consists of spending hours downloading install media and waiting for post-install updates, so I’ll be as brief as possible.

tl;dr: it’s nice enough. Would upgrade again if it were not for the anachronism and annoyance that product keys entail.

I was on the Insiders program, so I had a VM running for a few unremarkable weeks and have little (if anything) to say about the OS itself besides THANK $DIVINITY NO MORE TILES.

The only other thing I was really looking forward to was Edge, but that turned out to be rather less exciting than I expected – it is nice, but surfing the web without an ad blocker is nigh on impossible these days, so until it supports extensions of some sort Chrome and uBlock effectively removed any need I might have for it besides testing, and that’s it.

There are a few sore points regarding typography1 and profoundly ancient legacy stuff that is still lurking beneath the new UI, but they’re largely offset by the entire experience actually being cohesive for a change. It’s a nice enough desktop. I can move windows about (just like I do on all my other machines and OSes) using sane hotkeys. It serves its main purpose, which is to get out of the way and let me use the applications I need (mostly remote) with as little attrition as possible, and that’s pretty much it.

So far I’ve upgraded 3 machines: My office Dell, which is where I ran Visual Studio (I nuked and paved, so there’ll be plenty more to set up later), an ancient Samsung NC10 (which I keep around at home for re-flashing phones and other sundry stuff) and an Aspire E11 that we got for the kids to use last Xmas2.

That last one was hell on toast. First off, since it comes with a recovery partition that takes up 10GB out of 32 and the disk was too full, the upgrade failed in various interesting ways. Then I couldn’t nuke and pave it because it shipped with Windows 8 pre-activated and without a printed product key in the packaging – so unlike my other machines there was no way to install everything from scratch in one go.

I had to factory restore the machine and remove all the Acer crapware to free up enough disk space for the upgrade to run once, extract the post-upgrade product key using a third-party utility and then reinstall everything again to get rid of the recovery partition – which, altogether, took most of last Saturday.

The product key bit was the really annoying part. I’ve always hated the entire notion of product keys – as a consumer, I feel like I’m being treated as a criminal for legitimately upgrading a product I own, and decades of Mac use (and paying for software that is licensed in saner ways) have eroded away any regard I had for copy protection schemes.

Performance-wise, there’s nothing to report. Everything is about as zippy as it used to be (even on the NC10, which I used to generate the various USB boot disks required for upgrading the E11), and most of the cognitive overload that came with having two entirely different environments in Windows 8 is thankfully gone – in comparison, the Modern-style settings windows are a vast improvement, even if they still don’t fully replace all the legacy UI that’s lurking just underneath.

  1. Yes, font rendering is still awkward. After decades of spotless, nearly perfect kerning and rendering on other systems, it’s hard to look at a standard resolution Windows screen and not notice all the little spacing and hinting glitches. Maybe it looks better on HIDPI displays, but it’s strange to open a web page on Edge and Chrome side by side and feel them both slightly off in different ways. ↩︎

  2. Please keep the “think of the children!” jokes to yourselves. It was not an easy decision to make given the amount of havoc kids can dispense even to a relatively locked-down system (disk quotas and as much policy enforcement as is feasible on the Home edition), but it was a learning experience worth pursuing. ↩︎