Not quite perfect
Shout it from the rooftops: Windows 10 kicks butt! Microsoft’s new operating system deftly mixes the best aspects of its predecessors while simultaneously shedding the worst baggage from the reviled Windows 8. Simply put, this is what Windows 8 should have been.
But it’s still not perfect.
Some niggling issues have been hindering Microsoft’s operating system for years, and Windows 10 adds a few new irritating quirks of its own. Don’t let these (predominantly minor) complaints sour you to the OS overall, but these are the problems Windows 10 doesn’t fix.
No love for physical media
Windows 8 ditched default DVD playback support, though you could buy Windows Media Center as an optional add-on if you still needed it. Windows 10 nukes even that: WMC won’t be carried over to the new operating system whatsoever, even if you upgrade from an existing Windows version that already has it installed.
Call me grumpy, but home theater PCs and simply slapping DVDs into a laptop to keep a kid entertained on a long drive are merely two still-valid use cases for computers—even if Netflix and other streaming services are on the rise. You can work around the DVD playback issue, but you shouldn’t have to.
No one-stop settings shop
Windows 8’s Jekyll-and-Hyde interfaces ruined the day-to-day experience of the operating system, and that awful experience was crystallized by the OS’s disjointed approach to system settings. Some crucial system settings resided in the desktop control panel; others were buried inside the interface-formerly-known-as-Metro PC Settings app, hidden in the Charms bar. It was an utter mess.
Windows 8.1 brought more settings into the PC Settings app, and even more are now found in Windows 10’s overhauled Settings app—but it’s still not perfect. You’ll still need to visit the Control Panel for some old-school settings options, and the Settings app for some cutting-edge stuff. The lack of a one-stop settings shop is still a bummer.
The Wi-Fi Sense debacle
Microsoft’s Wi-Fi Sense made its debut in Windows Phone 8.1, and it’s actually surprisingly handy, allowing you to automatically sign into open Wi-Fi hotspots and the home networks of your contacts, with no password-handling required. Microsoft’s encrypted servers do all the dirty work.
Wi-Fi Sense’s inclusion in Windows 10 sparked a furor over security concerns, however. More egregiously, the ultimate way to remove your own network from Wi-Fi Sense’s database is to slap “_optout” at the end of your network’s name. (For example, “HomeNetwork_optout”.) Deciding to skip the password-sharing shouldn’t be so difficult. Here's how to disable Wi-Fi Sense completely.
Mandatory Windows Updates
Speaking of benefits that aren’t always benefits, the consumer version of Windows 10—Windows 10 Home—takes security so seriously that it, uh, won’t let you opt out of automatic Windows Updates.
The browser situation
One big complaint we had about Windows 8 was its inconsistent approach to the browsing experience. The Metro and desktop versions of Internet Explorer were two different entities completely, and you couldn’t even use the Metro version if IE wasn’t your default desktop. Ugh.
Windows 10’s mix of the new Edge browser and the ability to run Windows Store apps inside desktop windows negates some of the woes, but not completely. Internet Explorer still lingers, for use with legacy websites, so Windows 10 still ships with multiple browsers preinstalled. Making matters worse, Edge simply isn’t that great yet, as my colleague Mark Hachman noted in his Windows 10 review. It’s just so grey and bland, many of its killer features aren’t working great yet, and the browser can tax your hardware worse than Chrome in some scenarios. Edge may be great someday, but not today.
Windows 8.1 introduced a unique feature with its OneDrive implementation: Placeholders. Basically, you could opt to have your OneDrive-stored files appear as though they were on your PC, but the files themselves weren’t actually downloaded until you tried to open them. The idea was to save space on Windows tablets and other storage-constrained devices—you know, like the ones Microsoft’s pushing so hard right now.
But alas, placeholders are being retired in Windows 10, as the great idea proved to be somewhat buggy and confusing in practice. At least you’ll still be able to selectively sync which folders to sync to which devices.
Windows Defender's ho-hum defending
Props to Microsoft for including Windows Defender by default with Windows 8 and 10, providing every Windows user with a baseline level of security. But boooo for only carrying through with the protection halfway.
Windows Defender drastically lags behind the big-name antivirus solutions out there in most independent tests. Microsoft also allows PC makers to disable it in order to stuff computers with limited-time antivirus trialware, leaving users unprotected once the trial ends—though Windows 10 will intelligently start working again if you uninstall the other AV software on your system. I get why Microsoft may not want to upset the entire AV industry, but focusing on making Windows Defender more useful would make the entire computing world a better place.
Where's my Word Flow?
You know what rocks? Windows Phone’s killer “Word Flow” gesture keyboard. You know what sucks? Windows 10’s lackluster on-screen keyboard. That Microsoft failed to integrate Word Flow into Windows 10 is utterly flabbergasting.
The Windows Store
The Windows Store has lagged behind its Android and Apple counterparts since inception, struggling to woo developers and big-name apps to Microsoft’s platform. And the growing horde of deceptive, spammy apps calling Windows Store home became so overwhelming that we worried it could tarnish Windows 10’s big launch. It hasn’t been pretty.
Fortunately, Microsoft started cracking down on crap-apps in recent months, and Windows 10 provided the Windows Store itself with a spit-shine. The app selection hasn’t tremendously improved, but the company’s banking hard on universal Windows apps—that work on PCs, on phones, on tablets, on Xbox, and heck, even on augmented reality headsets and giant wall-sized office equipment—spurring the ecosystem in ways that never came to fruition with Windows 8. Whether that actually happens remains to be seen.
The heart of it all
Finally, while Windows 10 fixes Windows 8’s most damaging interface flaws and surges with ambition, the operating system’s overhauled interface does nothing to change the root philosophies of Windows 8: Growing the Windows Store and pushing Microsoft services (like OneDrive, Xbox Live, and Office 365) to transform customers from one-time Windows buyers into regular long-term subscribers.
That might not be a problem, depending on your perspective. But if the ideas of a walled Windows Store garden, and a Windows itself infused with online services, trouble you more than Windows 8’s window dressing, nothing in Windows 10 will change your mind.
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