What is Windows 10?

Lynn Wright / 02 September 2015

Microsoft Windows 10 is here. We tell you all about Microsoft's latest operating system, its new features and whether you should upgrade or not.

What is Windows 10?

In July Microsoft released Windows 10, the latest generation of its Windows operating system, which is designed to work on PCs, laptops, tablets and mobile phones.

The previous version – Windows 8 – was unpopular with many users. With its tile-based Start screen and full screen apps, Windows 8’s focus was on touch-screen tablets and mobile phones. 

As a result, Microsoft faced criticism from unhappy PC desktop users, which it has tried to address with Windows 10.

Related: Six free Microsoft Office alternatives

How much does Windows 10 cost?

Windows 10 is a free upgrade if you have Windows 7, Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 – as long as you install it before July 2016. 

If you’re running an older version of Windows, such as Vista, you’ll need to buy Windows 10. 

Currently only available as a free upgrade, Microsoft has said that Windows 10 will cost from around £99 when it is eventually sold separately.

How do I upgrade to Windows 10?

You can reserve your free upgrade to Windows 10 via Windows Update or by clicking the Window icon in the lower-right side of your taskbar. 

Once reserved, Microsoft will download it to your computer and notify you when it’s ready to install. 

Windows 10 installs over the top of Windows 7 or 8.1 without altering your programs and files.

What’s new in Windows 10?

Windows 10 comes with plenty of new features and the Windows Start button has been returned to its familiar spot in the bottom-left corner of the screen. 

A new Start menu shows a scrolling column of items next to a panel of Windows 8-style live tiles. The Start menu can be personalized, resized or even set to full screen.

Windows 10 includes a voice-activated virtual assistant called Cortana. You can speak directly to it through your computer’s microphone or type a query in the search box next to the Start button.

Fast and useful, Cortana can help you find things on your PC or online, set reminders and manage your calendar, set alarms and launch apps.

Windows 10’s new web browser Edge has some cool features. It lets you annotate webpages – highlighting and adding notes before sharing them with others – and has a distraction-free reading mode that strips away webpage items so you can focus on the text and images.

Snapping windows is easier in Windows 10, with the ability to snap up to four apps at once. 

Apps can be snapped to fill either the whole screen or the left- or right-hand sides. You can also create different virtual desktop views and flick between them.

A helpful Action Centre has been added, providing quick-action buttons for common tasks such as turning on Bluetooth. It stores notifications, such as new email or other alerts, for you to review.

Is Windows 10 secure?

With built-in safeguards against malware and identity theft, Microsoft claims Windows 10 is the most secure version to date. 

Security features include Hello, a biometric alternative to a password for the login to your biometric-enabled devices. 

Both Edge and SmartScreen help protect you from phishing sites looking to steal personal information, while Windows 10 family safety keeps your children and grandchildren safer online

Related: 10 sure-fire signs your computer has a computer virus

Should I upgrade to Windows 10?

The free update is available for a year, so there’s no rush. 

The good news is that if you don’t like Windows 10, Microsoft has made it simple to roll back to your previous version of Windows within 30 days of upgrading. 

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.