Windows 10 is here!

With the arrival of Windows 10 we present here the top ten "things you should know".

1. Revised Start menu

As you are possibly aware, the most noticeable change is the new Start Menu, which looks somewhat like the old start menu from Windows XP and Windows 7.

The dominant Start screen of Windows 8 has shrunk down to become a Start menu in Windows 10. This tries to combine the best of both options - you get a scrolling Start menu that's just a single column, with jump lists and fly out menus for extra options. These are divided into frequently used and recently installed programs, with the option to switch to a scrolling view of all your applications, sorted alphabetically.

But you also get an extra pane where you can pin Windows 8-style tiles, complete with animated rotating live tiles. You can drag the Start menu to be a larger size and even set it to fill the screen.

2. Snap Assist helps you snap windows

It is now easier to arrange several windows on your screen. A new Snap Assist feature helps users work out the best arrangement. You can snap windows into new screens and tile Windows - just as you've been able to since the earliest days of Windows (version 3.1).

Modern Apps no longer run in their own windowless space, so this means that the split screen view of Windows 8.1 doesn't work any more. Instead, all apps and programs now run in windows on the desktop, and you drag windows into the corners of the screen to "Snap" or arrange them. You can use all four corners of your screen if you want each window to take up a quarter of the screen (instead of half), and the space  shows thumbnails of your other windows to make it easier to snap the next one into place.

3. Windows 10 is free for most users

Yes, that's right: Windows 10 is a free upgrade for the first year, for users with Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1. Once you upgrade, Microsoft promises free version upgrades for the life of the computer or device.

If you get your copy of Windows through a volume licence for business, you'll carry on paying for it. If you have Windows 7, 8 or 8.1 – even the Pro versions, as long as you bought them some other way than through a volume licence – you'll get a free upgrade to Windows 10 in the first year (i.e. at least until July 2016)

4. Universal apps now float on the Desktop

We have previously called them "modern apps" but these now work on the desktop and 'float' in their own Windows. Microsoft wants to abolish the distinction and confusion that reigned between the Modern User Interface and the traditional Desktop.
These 'modern' apps on the desktop now have a  ...  icon for more options - replacing the commands that used to be in the Charms bar on the right-hand side of the screen.
Windows 10 gets a new Windows Store, where you can download desktop programs as well as modern Windows apps. Many of those apps will be universal apps that will function equally well on a PC, a Windows phone or an Xbox One. For example, the Office apps Word and Excel are universal apps, as are the Outlook Mail and Calendar apps.

5. File History

File History can be configured to automatically backup your most important files to a separate disk drive or network location. But it’s better than a basic backup: File History also lets you retrieve earlier versions of a file, so that if you make a change to a document or other file, you can “go back in time” and return to any earlier versions. This new Windows 10 version backs up more locations automatically, and is operated primarily from the Settings app, rather than the old Control Panel.

6. New browser - Edge

To catch up with fast-moving browsers like Chrome and Firefox, Microsoft took its browser back to basics and developed a lean, fast browser.

It's new and unproven but it has some interesting new features. For example, you can scribble notes on a web page to send to a friend (if you're trying to decide what hotel to stay in on holiday, for example) and Edge has Cortana built in to pull useful information out of web pages, like the phone number of a restaurant, or the opening hours.

Websites that didn't work properly with IE should look better and have more features in Edge.

7. System image backup

In Windows 10, the full Windows Backup facility has been restored, and you can now create a full system image backup — and restore your entire PC from it — but also begin a backup regime that will keep your PC backed up over time. Additionally, you can use this facility to access the files in any backups you previously made in Windows 7 or 8.

8. Charms

Charms still work in Windows 10. If you have modern tile apps that need charms functionality, it's still available but it has moved to a drop-down menu at the top left. So, for example, to Share - instead of swiping from the right and tapping "Share", you swipe from the top, tap the menu symbol (see no. 4 above), and then tap "Share". Everything after that remains the same.
In place of the original Charms area is a Notification Centre that you can drag down from the top of the screen. Windows 10 has that on the right of the screen, with notifications from various apps at the top and your choice of various settings buttons at the bottom.

9. Windows Recovery Environment

Windows 10 lets you optionally boot the PC into a Windows Recovery Environment that can be used to perform various troubleshooting and system restore activities using advanced recovery tools. This environment hasn’t changed since Windows 8, and it can be very useful if something goes wrong with your PC. It provides access to tools like System Restore, System Image Recovery, Startup Repair, a command prompt, and selective startup.

10. Home view

The new 'Home' view in Explorer shows you a Quick Access list of useful locations and folders you visit frequently, with a list of recently opened files underneath it, which is faster than having to go to the Recent Places link in older versions of Windows. The Share tab on the ribbon gets a makeover too – if you used to use the Share charm in Windows 8, this is where you'll find it.

Windows 10 Upgrade advice

To assess the suitability of your system, and view the upgrade options, please take a look at this article  Is Your Computer Compatible with Windows 10

If you are technically minded, there is a detailed specification on Microsoft's Upgrade Page.

For further help, guidance and tuition, please look at our Windows 10 tuition page, and learn how to get the best from this modern new system.  Ideal for beginners and intermediates.