OK, I actually *like* Windows 10

When Windows 10 came out, I really didn’t want to like it. In fact, my mission was to hate it. From the telemetry to Cortana and the way it seemed Microsoft was trending towards the Apple ideology of “we say so”, I absolutely did not want to use it, let alone like it. But you know something, I like it.

In the timeline of my PC ownership, the OS I used the longest was Windows XP. Sure, I used 95 and 98, but by 2002 all of my computers were running Windows XP. Not that I didn’t try other versions; Windows NT 4, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows Home Server 2003; none of them ever became a daily driver for more than a month or so as a novelty or experiment. While XP wasn’t perfect, it gradually became a good solid OS, especially after the service packs rolled out. I didn’t like Vista all that much. I had a laptop that ran it, but I installed XP on it as well. The first time I saw Windows 7 I wasn’t sure if I’d like the OS, but I decided to play around with the beta. I was impressed, really impressed. It ran much better on my Vista laptop than Vista, and it had no issue going between what gaming I could do on that machine and normal OS stuff. In fact, I used the beta as a daily driver for about the six months that laptop physically worked.

When I bought a gaming laptop in early 2010 during the post-Christmas inventory dump; it came with Windows 7 and the final version really impressed me. It was the most stable I’d ever seen a copy of Windows run. I ran the same install for close to 4 years with little to no issues before I decided to just “clean house” and reinstall anyway. When 8 came out, I hated it (like everyone else). The few times I had to do something with it, it was just infuriating. I didn’t like that hybrid PC/tablet bullshit with the focus on the tablet. Sure, mods made it behave more like traditional Windows; but I still didn’t like it. I wanted 7, it was mature, it was stable, it was a desktop OS.

I wanted to like Windows 10, in fact, when I tried it ran ok. I apparently didn’t really run it for too long, because there’s hardly anything in the user directory from the install (yes, I actually still have the hard drive); and it was just the “TechnicalPreview”, so there were probably things that caused issues for me. But the more I started to hear about its telemetry, the rumors of a keylogger, and the fact you couldn’t disable all this stuff made me actively not want it. In fact, the more they seemed to change the less I wanted to do with it.

Then back in October, my computer “died”. I had noticed some *major* slowdowns when my computer was accessing certain things, and things hit the breaking point one day when the entire thing locked up and Windows wouldn’t really boot. I tried all the usual tricks, but I had all sorts of issues getting anything going. This same computer had suffered a similar odd error after a while with its previous owner, and all I did was use the factory restore on the hard drive and start using it again. I assumed the previous problem was random file corruption or PEBKAC; but I was realizing there may have been other problems with that drive. Either way, I couldn’t get Windows to boot, and I couldn’t get anything to read the drive; it was looking like a physical failure.

It was at this point I realized I was going to have to start from scratch with an OS, so I jumped on to eBay to see if there were any Windows 7 keys available. There were, but I also found a very reasonable price on a Windows 10 Pro key. I figured it was maybe time to swallow my words and sell out to MS, after following some things I found online on disabling more of the telemetry by force. I then went through the headache of trying to write a bootable Win 10 USB stick from within Linux, but I got it done and proceeded to install Windows 10. I was somewhat impressed from the start; installer actually had drivers for the GigE PCI-E card in my machine and was able to do whatever it does with Updates during install. It was after it installed and I got to my desktop that I was very impressed.

Normally I have to take a while to accept the fact I’m going to be spending most of my evening/night reinstalling drivers. Being an off-the-shelf HP that I’ve modified, this usually means tracking down all those shitty “SoftPaq” installers; and being an old Windows 7 machine, this probably meant trying to track down Windows 10 versions of drivers “on my own”. But here was the first bit of jaw-dropping I encountered, I didn’t have to do any of that. Everything I could possibly have needed a driver for, it already had one; and it seemed to be the manufacturer’s driver. I had seen Windows install graphics drivers in the past, but it installed the proper NVidia software for my 760; none of that Generic crap! My cheapo USB3 controller had its manufacturer’s driver installed, my XMOS based DAC had it’s driver (it didn’t have the DFU but I don’t think that prevents operation), even my CH340/1 based USB->Serial dongle had its driver! Naturally, a lot of the junk support software was missing. It didn’t install the “NVidia Experience” or whatever that stuff is that constantly annoys you about driver updates and will “optimize” your games, but the NVidia Control Panel is present. I had to install the Logitech ControlPoint software to make the non-standard buttons on my mouse work. But where I expected to spend 2 or 3 hours finding, downloading, and installing all of that; I didn’t have to.

There was a learning curve, for example, I kept getting stuck doing things in “Settings” until I found the good classic Control Panel was there. I had to make various other UI tweaks, ultimately disabling the search bar when it started turning white and realizing I could still “Find” things by just typing when the start menu was up. The Start Menu was a drastic switch. I hated it for the first few days. I did slowly get adjusted to having “All Programs” over on the left and not having pinned applications there, and once I figured out how much I could customize the right portion of the menu and that I didn’t need all those “Live” tiles…I came to love it. There were also some additional configuration options I wound up making over the course of a few weeks as I got adjusted. From a stability standpoint, it seemed to be about the same as Win 7; maybe with less “hanging up” when pushing things in and out of VRAM (becuase I only have 6 gigs). I gave it the usual gaming test and it passed.

So here I am about two months in with it. While I thought I would wind up running back to Windows 7; I haven’t. This thing runs about as stable as it ever has, doubly so since all my Win7 machines over the last two years just lock up when doing anything with Update. I’ve had to reboot it about as many times as I ever rebooted Win 7 prior to the disk failure; Windows has reboot itself for updates more than I’ve told it to. Just about every USB device I’ve plugged up has worked without issue. I’ve been using it, I’ve been happy, I’ve been impressed. I didn’t want to be. I wanted to hate this OS.

But, we still need to remember, “every OS sucks.”