Microsoft’s next PC operating system is available from 29 July. The good and the bad stuff, before you upgrade.

Windows 8 (and Windows 8.1) will no longer be the default operating system that comes with new PCs, and anyone who is currently making do with Windows 8 can look forward to upgrading to an OS which is better in every way—Windows 10.

What does Windows 10 offer?

Faster start-up and performance: Windows 8 start-up speed was much quicker than Windows 7 because of major underlying changes in how the software loaded up when the power button was pressed. Windows 10 has improved that further. Even the speed to access general files has been boosted. So your old PC or laptop will perform much better now.

Start menu: It is back. The start menu was much missed in Windows 8. The start menu in Windows 10 is, if you look closely, a rather clever yet fully customizable mix of the menu from Windows 7, and the Live Tile interface from Windows 8. Individual programmes and folders can be “pinned" to the menu for quicker access, and the app tiles can be resized, too. This also means the familiar Windows button is back, on the bottom left side of the screen, which just puts many users at ease.

Universal apps: The big problem with Windows 8.1 was the rather jarring switch between conventional desktop apps and the ones that ran on the modern interface. It was almost like running two different operating systems on one PC, and that confused users. Windows 10 removes that sudden transition. Microsoft’s own apps such as Photos, Videos, Groove, Maps, People, Mail, and Calendar, for example, now work equally well in desktop mode, on a touchscreen or with just a mouse and keyboard.

Action centre: A lot of us have become used to how our smartphone pops up notifications for new messages and more. Apple realized that, and introduced a ‘Notification Center’ with the Mac OS X Yosemite operating system released last year. Microsoft has now done the same—the ‘Action Center’ is the one location for any new emails, system information, app notifications as well as access to toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, tablet mode, VPN etc.

Microsoft Edge browser: It may still not be very easy for Microsoft to wean back users from Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox Web browsers. But, there’s hope. In terms of features, website load speeds and compatibility in real world usage, we found Edge to be pretty much at par with Chrome and Firefox. While power users (those who use a lot of extensions and apps with their Chrome browser) may not switch just yet (Edge doesn’t have a very wide range of extensions yet), others will probably realize soon enough that Edge is a massive upgrade to the outgoing

Internet Explorer browser.

What doesn’t work?

Any PC running Windows 10 will automatically download updates and new features to the operating system, Windows apps and hardware drivers, as and when Microsoft pushes them out. And there is no option to turn it off.

Microsoft calls Windows 10 “ a service" and wants to eliminate any delay in installing new software and patches that could improve security, performance or simply add new capabilities.

In previous Windows versions, users had the ability of turning off automatic updates and instead search for them manually from time to time. Windows 10 only allows users the flexibility of selecting when to schedule a restart of the PC to complete the update installation process. Business users can relax though, because Windows 10 Enterprise Edition will still allow corporate IT departments to turn off automatic updates. Businesses don’t always install new updates instantly because they need to assess the compatibility of all their critical software and services.

This shouldn’t be a big problem if the update sizes are small enough, but anyone who doesn’t have a fast Internet connection will probably find this very annoying.

Can your PC run Windows 10?

If your PC is currently running Windows 7 (32-bit or 64-bit) or Windows 8.1 (32-bit or 64-bit), you are eligible for the Windows 10 upgrade.

Here are the minimum specifications needed to run Windows 10 on your PC: processor of 1GHz or faster, RAM of 1GB for 32-bit or 2GB for 64-bit Windows 10, hard disk space of 16GB for 32-bit or 20GB for 64-bit, graphics card (DirectX 9 or later), display of 1024x600 pixels or higher; and an Internet connection.

Where can I get it?

From 29 July onwards, Windows 10 can be downloaded on eligible PCs. For the past month, Microsoft has been pushing out the reservation update that prompted users to reserve their copy of the Windows 10 update for that particular PC. If you have done so, you’ll automatically get a notification telling you that the new OS is being downloaded. If you hadn’t reserved, you will still get a Windows Update notification, though not immediately because Windows 10 will be rolled out in phases, over the next few days.

How much will it cost?

On eligible PCs, Windows 10 can be downloaded free of cost for the next 12 months. You can also buy a Windows 10 licence—$119 for home and $199 for professional editions. Microsoft will also be providing Windows 10 on USB drives (instead of DVD discs) for installation on PCs. This will be very useful for those who may not have a fast broadband connection—$119 (home) and $199 (professional). These USB drives will be available from 30 August.