Windows 10 review: The best Windows OS yet
Windows 10 has a new Start Menu, Edge Browser, Cortana integration and apps, among many other new features. Here we go through Microsoft's operating system and provide you with an in-depth look at Windows 10. See also: How to upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 10.
You can also check out our How to upgrade to Windows 10 guide and quick fixes for common problems after upgrading.
Updated 14 November with pricing information and a general update; 2 November 2016: Windows 10 will soon be the only option for new PCs, with Microsoft stopping sales of Windows 7 Pro and Windows 8.1 to PC makers on 31 October. OEMs can still use up any licences they may still hold, but once they run out it will be Windows 10 or Windows 10.
Windows 10 review: Windows 10 news & updates
Since Windows 10 was released and we wrote our original review there have been several feature updates from Microsoft, with many more new features planned. The Creators Update follows the Anniversary Update as the next big update to Windows 10. Expected in Spring 2017, it will add new tools for 3D and gaming - see our dedicated article on the Creators Update.
Looking at the Anniversary Update (which was released in August 2016), certain number of new features were featured, including changes to Cortana that became a lot smarter and has a lot more added capabilities. And if you have a Surface tablet with a Surface Pen, you're able to do a whole lot more with it. As well as scribbling reminders in the sticky notes app, you can draw more easily thanks to a virtual ruler that's much like the one Apple added to its Notes app back in iOS 9.
Microsoft has also demonstrated the ability to pick two points on a map with the Pen and quickly see the distance between them, plus directions. You can also annotate maps and share them with friends. Your annotated route will "stick" to the map when you change to a 3D view.
The "ink workspace" offers a dedicated place on the desktop where you'll see a list of recent as well as suggested pen-enabled apps in the Windows Store.
And talking of the store, the Anniversary Update is also available to the Xbox One, so you'll now see just one app store across PCs and consoles, and it will bring desktop apps to the Xbox. Better still, you can play games and save game progress between Xbox and Windows 10.
(On the subject of Xbox, at Gamescom 2016, which was held a little later in August, Aaron Greenberg announced that Xbox Game Preview is coming to Windows 10 soon. The first game will be Everspace, but there will be "many more to come". It's Microsoft's answer to Steam Early Access and lets gamers on Windows 10 try out unfinished games (even buy them) and offer feedback to improve them before they're officially released. Titles including ReCore, Forza Horizon 3, We Happy Few, Cuphead, Gears of War 4, and Halo Wars 2 will also be coming to Windows 10 in the next 12 months and all were available to play on PCs at Gamescom.)
Windows Hello already lets you log into your PC with your face or your fingerprint, but Hello support has now been added to Edge, allowing you to log into websites the same way: no more remembering which email address, username or password you need for each site.
Even before the Anniversary Update we saw feature changes. On 11 May Microsoft delivered two new updates to Windows 10, which change the user experience. One is linked to Wi-Fi Sense being axed, the other to Edge browser finally receiving its much needed extensions. Also see: How to upgrade to Windows 10.
Windows 10 review: what is Windows 10?
Microsoft in late 2014 took the wraps off the Technical Preview of its next Windows operating system, and in doing so it took everyone by surprise. We expected the next generation of Windows: we just didn't expect it to be called Windows 10. None the less here is Windows 10: the next Windows OS for PCs and laptops, smartphones and tablets. And, indeed, an OS for servers and all points inbetween.
Microsoft said that Windows 10 is built from the ground up for a world in which mobile- and cloud computing are key. Execs from the company said it was committed to making Windows 10 friendly for the enterprise, ideal for keyboard and mouse users, but also optimised for touch. Oh, and Windows 10 will put the same interface on devices with displays ranging in size from 4in to 80in. 'One product family, one platform, one store,' said Microsoft.
Given the lukewarm reaction to compromised Windows 8, these seem like bold claims. They are necessary, though. Also necessary is Microsoft's decision to make Windows 10 the most beta-tested product it has ever released. Windows 10 was tested by over 4 million people around the world before its launch.
That doesn't mean it's perfect - indeed some people won't like the privacy issues (see far below) or the forced updates. Others won't like the new Start menu or the fact that there's now both a Control Panel and separate Settings app. But these won't be issues for most people - minor gripes at worst - and the improvements, new apps and new features make it well worth upgrading. For more detail on this, see: Should I upgrade to Windows 10?
In early 2016, Microsoft has announced it will acquire Xamarin. You've probably never heard of that company, but it's important because it will allow developers to more easily produce apps which will run on Windows (and Windows 10 mobile) in addition to iOS and Android. Back in 2014, Microsoft boasted of the Universal Windows Platform which meant apps would run on everything from a phone to a full-size PC (and beyond - including the Xbox One). However, that's hardly universal if you're a developer writing apps for iOS and Android.
The death knell has been sounding for Windows phone for a while now, but several Windows 10 mobile devices were launched at MWC so the platform isn't dead just yet.