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Windows 10’s free upgrade expires very soon and you really ought to download it

As of this writing, Windows 10’s free upgrade period ends in just a few hours — and with that time ticking away, I’d formally recommend taking advantage of it with the above link. That might seem surprising, given our own coverage of Windows 10’s privacy issues, its telemetry gathering, and the fact that many people — including our Editor-In-Chief, Jamie Lendino — upgraded to the software and then found himself wondering why he bothered.

I upgraded my own system last Sunday and have been largely satisfied with the end result after a rough start — the update refused to install until I manually started and stopped the Windows Update service twice, and I had to manually start Explorer when I first booted the system (apparently some Adobe Reader conflict actually caused the boot process to pause before loading the desktop). Past that, things have been fine.

It’s true, Microsoft continues to push changes in the Windows Anniversary Update that lock down systems and limit control. It’s true that they’re making further changes to make Windows 10 less palatable. It’s true that some people — those who like Media Center, for example, or who have drivers and hardware that isn’t Windows 10-compatible — shouldn’t actually upgrade. But most people should at least register their Windows license as being upgraded, either by installing the OS to a different hard drive (and continuing to use your existing OS installation) or even by installing it to a virtual machine. You don’t have to start using Windows 10 today. You can just grab the license upgrade and then install it when and if you choose.

Windows 10 desktop

If you’re not a gamer, you can sit on Windows 7 until 2020 or Windows 8.1 until 2023. Nothing wrong with either option — but you’ll miss the chance to get a free license for Windows that you don’t even have to use right now. If you are a gamer, DirectX 12 is going to be more and more important in years to come, and Vulkan is extremely unlikely to make much of a dent by comparison. The vast majority of Windows development takes place in DirectX, which means programmers are already used to it. There will be some Vulkan development, since developers who favor cross-platform play will want to support it, but Apple’s decision not to back the standard probably hurt its long-term chances of adoption. Apple wants devs to use Metal, not Vulkan or OpenGL, which means the best case scenario for Vulkan adoption is Vulkan under Linux, Metal for macOS and DirectX 12 for Windows. Put simply, I wouldn’t hold my breath for a strong Vulkan presence.

You might download Windows 10 and never use it. You might decide that your current software does what you want and eight years from now, you won’t feel any differently. At that point, you’ll have the option to upgrade to whatever OS Microsoft is pushing (supposedly it’ll still be Windows 10, in reality I suspect the company’s marketing division won’t be willing to give up on the power of larger numbers). It may or may not come with a free upgrade for Windows 7 or 8 users. Historically, Microsoft has a mixed record on supporting updates from older operating systems.

You probably already know if Windows 10 is a bridge too far for you or not. If it is — if it really, truly is — then you still might as well grab your free license anyway, just in case you ever need it for compatibility reasons. Then grab yourself a copy of Ubuntu, Mint, or macOS and use those instead.

There are reasons not to use Windows 10 depending on your objective situation and/or how you feel about Microsoft’s recent practices, but there aren’t many reasons not to take the free copy Microsoft is handing out. I may not love Windows, but I recognize its utility, and having a legal copy of the OS hanging around is never going to be a bad thing.

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