Clearly there are any number of under-the-hood changes in Windows 10, but you don’t have to look far to see strong evidence of a Windows 7 and 8 foundation, and that’s also apparent in games’ compatibility and performance. DirectX 12 is now part of the Insider builds (available to all Win 7 or 8 users), but without any DirectX 12 games there’s nothing I can tell you. I can load up DXDIAG and see that it says DirectX 12 there and then feel vaguely pleased with myself, but that’s it for now. As for performance, I haven’t run benchmarks, primarily because 10 is now the only OS on my PC, but any DirectX 9/10/11 game I’ve tried runs to all intents and purposes at the same speed as it did on Windows 8. It may well be that a few frames are missing here and there, but if they are I can’t notice a slowdown with the bare eye.
As for compatibility, I’m afraid you can shelve any hopes of restored native support for all DOS games, but attempts to run games of multiple ages were otherwise entirely successful. Quake III, Far Cry, Deus Ex, The Witcher 3, Her Story, Chaos Reborn, DOSbox-powered X-COM and Ultimate Doom – all these things and more ran without a hitch. The sole exception was Batman: Arkham Knight, which threw up a long list of frightening error messages whenever I try to launch it, and a reinstall didn’t help. Eventually I established that its savegame folder had for some reason been rendered admin-access only as part of the Windows 10 upgrade process, which I suspect is more a Microsfot issue than a Warner one. In any event Arkham Knight is, of course, something of a special case, so I’m not going to worry about that too much right now, though given it was billed as being one of the first made-for-Windows-10 games, it’s yet more egg on Bats’ already albumen-drenched face. It’s working now, anyway, though I wasted a bunch of time, and discovered that Windows’ file/folder ownership settings haven’t become any less opaque in this move to fancy whizzbang.
Also in there is the Xbox app. I don’t have an Xbone to test the streaming-console-games-to-your-PC stuff, but in selected modern games – so far just Arkham Knight and Witcher 3 – it’s popping up options to record footage and bother Xbox Live friends. I haven’t gone deep into that stuff because I don’t need it, but frankly having one more overlay on top of Steam’s isn’t ideal, and I suspect it’s going to suffer for that.
I suspect Steam will introduce recording before too long too, rendering Windows’ own stuff almost entirely redundant to non-Xboners. It doesn’t help matters that it looks like a third operating system is in the mix now too, but it doesn’t look ugly and it has a bunch of options, so don’t fear that it’s suddenly making Windows look all Xboxy, at least.
The much-vaunted Cortana search assistant – which can use words or voice – I’ve yet to find at all useful. It’s clearly there just to try and reduce our reliance on Google for both search and notifications, but Cortana and Bing just aren’t remarkable enough to interrupt my inertia there. Edge, the replacement for Internet Explorer, seems a whole lot neater and faster, but similarly doesn’t do anything which makes me want to stop using Chrome – particularly because, at present, it doesn’t support plugins. Expect pop-up hell any time you try to ramble beyond the internet’s safest terrain. Given Edge has launched in such a bareboned state, I suspect ships have sailed by this point and I’m unlikely to relocate to it from Chrome. If I do want a change, though, Edge does mercifully seem to lack the fundamental Internet Exploreriness of Internet Explorer, and I wouldn’t actually object to it. I also note that it taxes the CPU on my laptop less, so I have used it on occasion when notice battery life is getting short.
Now for a few bugbears. A new Windows wouldn’t be a news Windows without at least a few hilariously counter-intuitive changes, and 10 is no exception. Take, for instance, that key controls for screen brightness, wifi and tablet mode are accessed under a button on the taskbar marked ‘Notifications’, which looks like a text message icon. Or that screen brightness (on a laptop or all-in-one) can only be changed in 25% increments, with the bedtime reading-essential 0% not an option from this ‘quick’ control, and the full slider not available unless you go Start – Settings – System – Display. Or that half your settings are in the Modern-styled Settings app and half of them in Control Panel, which still looks like Control Panel has forever. Or these two very similar icons on the Start Screen:
One brings up all your applications, the other Windows’ own selection of them, plus Settings and Power icons. It’s less of an issue on desktop unless you specifically choose to have the Start Screen instead of Start Menu, and admittedly I’m quite stupid, but on my Surface I keep forgetting which one’s which and growling when I have to back out to find my applications or the settings icon or whatever. Why do the two icons have to be so damned similar? How did that get OKed? It’s like the Notifications button containing things which are not, in fact, Notifications: it’s like they just gave up on logical presentation at some point.
Additionally, even when you do hit All Apps (on either the Start Screen or Start Menu) it chokes them into this maddeningly tiny column on the left hand side of the screen, because it does not want you to stop looking at all those purposeless Live Tiles for even a moment. There are various small d’ohs like this scattered around, signs of the too many cooks mentality which seems to have handicapped Windows time and again, but it’s less overt than in 8 or Vista.
I’ve also been experiencing enormous problems with OneDrive, Microsoft’s rival to Google Drive and iCloud. Now entirely integrated into the OS, it grants you a small chunk of cloud storage which you can access from any device. Windows takes any opportunity it can find to try and save files into OneDrive by default, which is an irritation – but more than that, I don’t trust OneDrive. I’ve had it fail to sync any number of times, and on my main PC there’s some issue where folder ownership of both my OneDrive directory and My Documents keeps being taken away from me.
This, in hindsight, is almost certainly what caused the aforementioned Arkham Knight issue – I’ve had other games throw a wobbly because they can’t save, as a result of Windows locking up My Documents. For a time I’d have to manually click on My Documents (and My Pictures too) every time the PC started, which popped up a little prompt offering access and leading to a short wait as Windows rewrote permissions.
OneDrive, meanwhile, needed reconfiguring and a full resync every boot because it couldn’t get into its own folders. Useless. It was only when I gave up on OneDrive entirely, leaving it permanently signed out, did I notice that there were no more problems with My Documents. I’ve seen others report similar issues and missing files, so I’m staying the hell away until I hear news of a major fix. Truth be told I don’t need OneDrive though, so it’s annoyance rather than loss at this stage.
The controversial WiFi Sense feature, which shares your wifi passwords with Skype, Facebook and Outlook contacts and can lead to said passwords being passed onto the PCs of folk you don’t know if you don’t keep tabs on it, also strikes me as Windows 10 getting a bit of ahead itself. We’ll see how that shakes out over time, however.
Next page: Conclusions, and how to update to Windows 10