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Windows 10: Take the plunge while it’s still free

Written By | Jul 8, 2016

MONTGOMERY VILLAGE, Md., July 7, 2016 — In July 2015, Microsoft released a free upgrade of their newest operating system, Windows 10. Anyone using Windows 7 (W7) or Windows 8 (W8) is entitled to update to the new version for free.

As expected, the initial upgrade was a little buggy; however, upgrading became easier and was at last a relative success. In October 2015, Microsoft changed its policy to allow anyone with a valid license to update or do a clean install and verify the installation with the valid W7 or W8 key.

This policy change allows those that want to renew their Windows installation to wipe out the hard drive and install W10 as if doing it to a new computer.

As with any new operating system, especially when it is offered for free, there are those that believe Microsoft may have a nefarious goal with its actions. There are those who hate change or are satisfied with W7 and don’t want to update. And finally there are those who feel that Microsoft is trying to change their computers against their will and resent it.

Let me make a modest attempt to answer some questions that may alleviate some fears and help users make a logical decision about updating.

It is up to you to decide to upgrade. Microsoft will support W7 until 2020, so there is no hurry. However, once the free upgrade period is over (July 29, 2016), you will have to shell out $100+ to upgrade. As time goes by, new applications will start targeting the new operating system and may not work well or at all in your W7 computer.

Many who continue using Windows will upgrade their hardware (buy a new computer) before 2020. Chances are that this computer will have W10 installed and that there could be very few options. So most likely W10 is in your future.

If you decide to upgrade, it is a good idea to retrieve the existing Windows version key. While the installation process usually does this for you, it is safer to know it. This key is in the back of the computer on a Microsoft sticker and is 25 characters long, with characters in groups of five.

If you can’t find it, this script will retrieve it for you. Go the link. In the link, scroll down the page until you find a box below “Copy and paste the following into a Notepad window:” Copy the script in the box and paste it into a notepad document. Save As the document as All Files with the name WindowsKey.vbs to your desktop. When you click it twice, it will provide your Windows key.

This is a really neat Visual Basic Script that will execute in Windows. It retrieves the binary information from the Windows Registry that contains the Windows key and converts it to alpha-numeric characters. You can also google for instructions to get your Microsoft Office key before you upgrade to W10.

Ways to upgrade

  1. Most of us that have been using one of the operating systems eligible for upgrade have received a notification to upgrade. This is usually in the form of an icon on the lower right hand quadrant of the computer. This may be followed by a notification when there are updates. These notifications come in the form of optional updates. This process has become easier since the original upgrade was released. Usually all it takes is for the user to click the upgrade icon in the lower right quadrant of the computer and after a few input windows, the upgrade is performed. This takes anywhere from one hour to two;
  2. Another way is to download the self-install W10 in a flash (USB) drive from Microsoft. This appeals to the person that may want to control/know the process. One has to make sure the computer can boot from the USB drive. This is accomplished by going to the Setup process that opens the BIOS settings (Google for your particular computer). Check the boot up tab and make sure the USB boots up before the hard drive. This method offers the options of keeping your data or doing a clean install.

Security blanket

It is normal to feel a little lost when starting to use a new operating system. The icons are not there, the familiar configuration of the desktop is not the same, you have to do something different to log in and mostly, there are too many options.

A few hot key combinations, most of them have been around in past versions of Windows, could dampen the change vertigo.

The big kahuna is Windows key-x (press both keys simultaneously). This will give you just about every option that you can think of.

Windows-e will give you File Explorer, Windows-s will open a search box (Cortana in W10), Windows-r will open a run box so that you can run any program. These combinations will hopefully empower your W10 experience.

Of course clicking on the lower left side will be the same as Start in W7, with a little flare from W8. Clicking on All Apps will then open all installed programs in alphabetical order.

If you don’t find a way to close a program, usually clicking on it and then pressing Alt-F4 will close it.

So, YES, take the plunge. Windows 10 is better than its predecessors and after July 29, will no longer be free.

Mario Salazar is an avid technophile. He is in Twitter (@chibcharus), Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook (Mario Salazar).

Mario Salazar

Mario Salazar is a combat infantry Vietnam Vet, world traveler, renaissance reconnaissance man, pacifist, metal smith, glass artisan, computer programmer and he has a Master of Science in Civil/Environmental Engineering. Now retired from the Environmental Protection Agency and living in Montgomery County, Mario will share with you his life, his thoughts, his musing on living in yet another century of change. He will also try to convey his joy of being old.