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A Microsoft representative shows a Windows smartphone with Windows 10 operating system at the CeBIT trade fair in Hanover on 14 March 2015. Photo: Morris Mac Matzen/Reuters
A Microsoft representative shows a Windows smartphone with Windows 10 operating system at the CeBIT trade fair in Hanover on 14 March 2015. Photo: Morris Mac Matzen/Reuters

What you need to know about Windows 10

Microsoft has advanced the release of its next big operating system for smartphones and computers

This will be the last big release of a Windows operating system (OS) from Microsoft. After this, all the updates and upgrades will be rolled out as patches, installed silently in the background. Windows 10 couldn’t have come sooner for the Redmond, US-based company, given the rather tepid response to its Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 OSes.

Microsoft had announced on 30 September that a successor to Windows 8.1 was in the works. Unofficially, the company had insisted that the OS would be released in the second half of 2015. However, Terry Myerson, the executive vice-president of operating systems at Microsoft, has confirmed in an official blog post that “Windows 10 will be available this summer in 190 countries and 111 languages".

The exact dates will be announced over the next few weeks.

Ahead of the release, Microsoft has come out with some information on the new OS, such as the minimum requirements that a PC and phone must meet to be able to upgrade, and features such as data compression and Windows Hello. It will be offering a free upgrade for 12 months.

Cost of upgrade

Windows 10 will be free for users who are already using Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 on their PCs, if they download within 12 months from the date of release.

How to upgrade—smartphones and PCs

The Windows 10 update can be downloaded on computers already running Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 via Windows Update, and the OS installation will be upgraded automatically. Depending on the configuration of the current OS—32-bit or 64-bit—the Windows 10 installation will have the same specifications.

The other method will require users to download a set-up file from Microsoft’s website. If your computer still has Windows XP, chances are it will not be compatible with the new OS.

Since Windows 10 is basically the same OS running on the PC and the phone, Windows Phone (WP) users can also look forward to the new version on their smartphones. If your phone is running WP 8, you’ll need to update it to WP 8.1 before the device becomes eligible for Windows 10. If you already have a recent WP phone, chances are it is already running WP 8.1, which will let you directly install the new software.

System requirements

There are certain minimum hardware requirements for Windows 10 to be able to work smoothly on a computer. This is what your desktop, laptop or tablet must have.

Processor: 1 GHz or faster

RAM: 1 GB (32-bit version) or 2 GB (64-bit version)

Hard disk: 16 GB free space (32-bit version) and 20 GB (64-bit version)

Graphics card: A Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with a WDDM driver

Display resolution: A minimum of 800×600 pixels

For the smartphone variant of the OS too, Microsoft has specified certain minimum requirements.

Supported screen sizes: 3-7.99 inches

Storage: Minimum 4 GB of inbuilt storage. An SD card is required for phones with only 4 GB internal storage, so they can support updates

RAM: 512 MB for 854x480-pixel and 800x480-pixel screens; 1 GB for 960x540-pixel, 1,024x600-pixel, 1,280x720-pixel and 1,366x768-pixel screens; 2 GB for 1,920x1,080-pixel, 1,920x1,200-pixel, and 1,440x900-pixel screens; 3 GB for 2,560x1,600-pixel and 2,048x1,152-pixel screens; 4 GB for 2,560x2,048-pixel screens.

Other specifications: Power and volume up/down buttons; phones with a 800x480- pixel display need three touch-sensitive buttons—start, back, and search.

Storage compression

Windows 10 will include a bunch of new algorithms related to file compression, and make system files as small as possible without affecting performance. That can free up about 1.5 GB space on 32-bit systems and 2.6 GB hard-drive space on 64-bit systems. These benefits will be available across all the devices you use Windows 10 on—mobile, laptop and desktop.

Windows 10 will not require a separate recovery partition to reset the system to factory settings, in case there is a software glitch later. These partitions are usually pre-installed by the device manufacturers themselves, and that should free up 12 GB more of storage space.This benefit will be available on tablets, laptops and desktops, but not on phones, which don’t in any case require recovery partitions.

Good news for pirated Windows users

Till now, it was not possible to upgrade to the next version of the operating system if the existing Windows installation was not genuine. Which is why the next piece of information should delight those who haven’t spent a dime on the OS installed on their computer. Microsoft will allow users of non-genuine Windows 7 and later operating systems to upgrade to the Windows 10 experience, without any charge.

Microsoft has clarified its stand though: “With Windows 10, although non-genuine PCs may be able to upgrade to Windows 10, the upgrade will not change the genuine state of the license. Non-genuine Windows is not published by Microsoft. It is not properly licensed, or supported by Microsoft or a trusted partner. If a device was considered non-genuine or mis-licensed prior to the upgrade, that device will continue to be considered non-genuine or mis-licensed after the upgrade."

A better experience

With a bunch of new features and under-the-hood tweaks, Windows 10 will be smoother to use on a variety of devices.

Continuum: Hybrid devices (with detachable keyboards) became very popular with Windows 8, and more and more manufacturers are pushing out such computing devices. If you are using one of these, Windows 10 will automatically understand that, and make a virtual note of it. If you attach the device’s optional keyboard, Windows 10 will work in the desktop mode—the on-screen keyboard will go away and the apps will switch to the appropriate orientation. The moment the keyboard is detached, a prompt will ask if the user wants to shift to the touch-optimized tablet mode.

Windows Hello: User data security is something Microsoft has focused on considerably. Hello is the biometric authentication feature which uses not just fingerprints, but also the face or iris to allow access to data. If your laptop or computer already has a fingerprint scanner, that will work with Hello. The webcam is used for face and iris identity checks.

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