It’s been a week since The Boys from Redmond (Microsoft) unleashed their Windows 10 operating system on the computing public. I’ve, purposely, waited to give my opinion of Windows 10 until the dust has settled and the Windows naysayers have unleashed their tirades on forums and websites providing blanket coverage of the event.

Admittedly, I’m an addicted “Microsoftie,” and – – – as a Windows Insider – – – I’ve been playing with Windows 10 from its inception to its release. Bias aside, this is a significant – – – and needed – – – upgrade from Windows 8.1.

The “Start Menu” has returned, which combines what we were used to in Windows 7 and a few carry-overs from Windows 8. Simply put, it combines the listings from the older versions and active tiles from Windows 8, giving it a sleek new look. The tiles can also be modified to be used as quick links to your favorite programs, apps of websites with a simple drag and drop.

The much-maligned Charms Bar of Windows 8 has been banished, although many of its features can be found by clicking on the Actions Menu icon sitting on the bottom left of your screen. This is a vast improvement for desktop users, but its demise may be mourned for those of us using Windows tablets or phones.

The Desktop has the old, familiar “feel” of Windows 7 and is easily customized.

The Windows Media Center is gone, replaced by a Groove Music app and other video viewing apps. You also have the ability to set your default to iTunes or any other digital music player installed on your computer.

Internet Explorer has been replaced by Microsoft Edge, which is a trimmed down, cleaner version of the older web browser. One of the main complaints I’ve seen – – – especially from Firefox users – – – is that Windows 10 defaults to Edge. This problem is easily solved by setting your favorite browser as the default using the Settings app.

For those of you that wished for a computer digital assistant similar to the woman featured in the movie Her, can now carry on endless conversations using Cortana, which has been ported over to the desktop form Windows Phones. This is Microsoft’s challenge to Apple’s Siri and Google Now. Having used all of them, Cortana seems to more accurate, responsive and snarkier than its competitors. This can be seen as beneficial or hazardous, depending on your need for digital companionship.

Those of us that are security conscious (possibly paranoid) can use Passport with Windows Hello, which uses facial recognition or fingerprints to give users access to their computers. Unfortunately very few computers are equipped with the hardware to use this feature, but can be upgraded to use Intel’s RealSense camera or a fingerprint scanner.

But the big news is that Windows 10 is free for the first year for anyone that upgrades from Windows 7, 8 or 8.1. Other users will have to pay $119 for Windows 10 Home or $199 for Windows Pro. Windows 10 Home users will be able to upgrade to Windows Pro for $99. This seems like a no-brainer for users of the older Windows operating systems. But, one of this big criticisms is that, because it’s free, your computer may be bombarded with tons of upgrades – – – some of which you may not want.

The automatic installation of these upgrades are turned on by default when you install the operating system, but can be turned off using the settings menu. You’ll still be getting upgrade notifications, but this leaves you with the option of accepting or rejecting it. Be aware though that many of these upgrades will probably be bug fixes or enhancements as The Boys from Redmond refine the operating system.

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