I installed Windows 10 as an upgrade to my Windows 7 machine over the weekend. I wasn’t expecting to do that. Even though I had not reserved a copy, I discovered Windows Update began downloading the program, all three Gbs of it. This was one of several contradictions to stories I had read up to now. Microsoft was sending out copies in waves in that people who had reserved a copy would get the free download at different times. Oh well.
The upgrade went smoothly. The new operating system booted for the first time and allowed me to custom configure how Windows would perform. Customizing the system is not recommended as Microsoft has designed Windows to be as cloud centric as possible. I think I should take a moment here and state that while I appreciate the value and convenience of cloud computing I would like to have as much control over it as possible. In other words, I prefer managing the experience instead of allowing Microsoft to do it for me. In that regard, I encountered several more contradictions.
I had read that Microsoft would override defaults on the target system forcing users to reconfigure their machines after the fact. Mozilla chief Chris Beard had written an angry letter to Microsoft for making the new Edge browser the system default despite the pre-upgrade settings. I don’t use Firefox and have Google Chrome as my default. It was acknowledged and accepted as the Windows 10 default browser without any hassle. Several other programs I used for media remained the defaults despite modern apps from Microsoft that managed this material. I could still use the venerable MS Media Player to play back WMV/A files by default. The player, by the way, is now nothing more than that – a player. The libraries for media are now managed by the photo, movie, and music apps. These will scan the local drive and automatically add what they find.
It does not appear possible to stop this collection unless one manipulates the search locations in the app settings to a location where there is no media. Media in the app library can be removed, though unlike the old Media Player library, it is also removed from the drive to the recycle bin. There doesn’t appear to be an option to delete content from the app lists only. It’s also possible to remove the apps from the start menu by right clicking on the tile and selecting the appropriate option. Built in apps cannot be deleted from the system, only disabled.
Logging into Windows 10 is easy. There are multiple options. My default in Windows 7 was a simple boot to the desktop with no password. I’m the only one who uses the machine in any event and I find that convenient for my use. Windows 10 can preserve that though it really does not want to. Anyone who logs into the Microsoft store with a Microsoft account will find that Windows will require that account to log into the system. That can be changed back to a local account by digging into the system settings and changing it back. Microsoft even then will want to associate a local account with a password with no apparent option to change that. There is a way to eliminate the password requirement by running a command line entry. The instructions are here if anyone wants to do that.
Search in Windows 10 is a bit different. Microsoft has brought the Cortana personal assistant to the desktop. Cortana can be disabled through settings accessed from the Start Page. I did this as I do not have a camera or microphone attached to my desktop. It’s possible to use Cortana by typing in the search box located in the taskbar. There are a few settings worth mentioning. Cortana is designed to improve by learning about an individual over time. That information is stored in the Cloud which is one reason why a Microsoft account is preferred. There are options settings that can clear that information and stop the collection if one wants to do that. Microsoft will tell you that this is not recommended for obvious reasons. Nonetheless, these settings can be changed.
Cortana as well as system search and built in apps is powered by Bing. The default here is to search the machine and the web simultaneously. Using Bing cannot be changed, but as with other settings, it can be turned off. There are options in settings to turn off web search when doing a system search. Microsoft prefers that you not do that.
One pleasant feature of the upgrade is that all of my desktop shortcuts were preserved. That was nice as I like to go straight to the desktop and click on an icon and start working. I know this makes me sound as if I haven’t progressed since XP was released. Far from it. I can appreciate what Microsoft is doing. It’s a connected world out there where people stay in touch with each other and share news, photos, video and the like, all in real time. I think that’s great. I’m not into it at all, but that’s me. What I appreciate the most about Windows 10 is that I can still configure it so I don’t have to use these features. It may be a little bit of work to do that as Microsoft really really wants everyone to be online and constantly connected and tracked to make Windows customized for a better computing experience. I’ll turn all of those features back on if I ever needed that kind of connectivity.
One last thought, Solitaire on Windows 10 is terrible. It’s bare bones as local game. Similar features to the game in Windows 7 are only unlocked through a Microsoft account:
“Sign in with a Microsoft account to get achievements, leaderboards, and have your progress stored in the cloud!”
Oh yay. Not everything needs to be social. I guess I’ll be sticking with the game as it appears on my Android tablet.
UPDATE: Windows Media Player does indeed have a library associated with it. I was wrong about that. I discovered it last night after I played a video with Media Player. It doesn’t appear to sync up with the other media apps in one shared library. That may be because Microsoft really wants people to use a Microsoft account to sync up their media libraries. It’s either that or I managed to turn off all known syncing options (finally!). I even managed to delete OneDrive out of the File Explorer windows. I want to say again that I’m not paranoid about being tracked online. I do have a Google account after all, and Google is the Supreme Emperor of tracking. My goal is to have as much control of my system as possible. If you want paranoia, especially healthy paranoia, this article from RPS puts Microsoft’s tracking of consumers via Windows 10 into perspective.