10 reasons you shouldn't upgrade to Windows 10

You may be better off sticking with Win7 or Win8.1, given a wide range of Win10 trade-offs and shortcomings

Why it might be wise to stick with Win7 or Win8.1
Why it might be wise to stick with Win7 or Win8.1

Back when Windows 10 officially launched, I ran down 10 reasons you should upgrade to the latest incarnation of Windows. Win10 may not yet offer any killer apps, but it provides a compelling combination of features that may tempt you to take the plunge -- the greatly improved navigation for mousers, new browser, facial recognition, and Cortana all rate as significant improvements over what you are currently getting from Win7 and Win8.

[ See InfoWorld's "Windows 10 review: Hold off if you use Windows 7." | Stay up to date on the industry with the InfoWorld Daily newsletter. ]

But yes, there are "but"s. As I noted in my full review of Windows 10, it may have a few too many rough edges to tempt you, especially if you’re comfortable with what you have. “Better the Devil ye ken, than the Devil ye don't” -- those are wise words, born of much pain.

In this slideshow, I step you through the main reasons why you may, legitimately and without a tinfoil hat, want to stick with Windows 7 or Windows 8. There are powerful arguments in the direction of staying put.

10. Ongoing privacy concerns
10. Ongoing privacy concerns

While you may reasonably argue that Microsoft needs access to all kinds of data to give you the services you demand -- Cortana has to be able to look inside your email and calendar, for example -- the trade-offs between privacy and features is not a simple black-and-white decision.

Microsoft, to its credit, makes no bones about the information it’s collecting in Win10. (Did you know that Windows 8 has an “Advertising ID” that follows you around?) Read my discussion of the pros and cons of the privacy problem and decide for yourself if you’re willing to give and, if so, how much.

Of course, if you’ve been using Google search, Gmail, or Google Drive on a free account, or Chrome, you’ve already been examined 10 ways from Tuesday. Microsoft is entering the Google league, and if you decide to take the plunge, you should do so with your eyes open. Is “Moogled” a word?

9. OneDrive regression
9. OneDrive regression

This concern applies only if you use OneDrive in Windows 8.1, and if you put a lot of stuff in OneDrive. For those of you using OneDrive in Windows 7 (and Windows 8), there’s no change in behavior with Win10. But if you’re accustomed to seeing all of your OneDrive files in Windows 8.1’s File Explorer, you’ll be in for a bit of a shock.

Windows 10 makes you choose which OneDrive folders you want to be able to see in File Explorer. Once you’ve made that choice, the other folders aren’t accessible in File Explorer -- or nearly about anywhere else in Win10, including, say, the Word File Open dialog. The only way to see what files you have in OneDrive is by venturing to the OneDrive website.

That can lead to difficult situations like the one in this screenshot, where you’ve unwittingly created a folder in File Explorer that duplicates one in OneDrive, and it all turns into a can of worms. It can also lead to situations where you can’t find a file you really want. It’s a huge mess. Microsoft promises it’ll fix the problem one of these days.

8. Missing Media Center and DVD player
8. Missing Media Center and DVD player

I know there are 10 of you who really want to run Windows Media Center on your new Windows 10 PC. Sorry, it ain’t gonna happen. If you try to upgrade a system with Windows Media Center, the Win10 installer won’t bring it over. If you try to install WMC on a Win10 machine, you won’t get anywhere. If you install Win10 on a Win7 machine that has WMC, then roll back to Win7 (which you can do within 30 days), WMC doesn’t come back.

Of course, Microsoft wants you to use an Xbox. But there are zillions of options around. I, personally, use a Roku with Plex Media Server. For recording TV, every cable company has video recorders available these days, and some fancy new stuff (a television from Apple, finally?) is on the horizon.

In addition, Windows 10 doesn’t have any native ability to play DVDs. Which is silly because VLC -- one of my top 25 picks for Windows desktop applications -- works fine, and it’s free.

7. Not much in the way of Universal apps
7. Not much in the way of Universal apps

If you’ve fallen for the marketing fluff about all of those wonderful Universal apps -- programs that run on Windows 10, whether it’s on a desktop, notebook, phone, Raspberry Pi, or Frigidaire -- you’re in for a rude awakening.

The Windows Store is still, by and large, a wasteland, with crap apps galore. There’s a reason why Microsoft takes up room in its prestigious Windows blog to promote such illustrious new apps as a USA Today scraper and PicCollage. The folks in Redmond want to convince you that the Windows Universal App situation isn’t as dire as it appears. My colleague Paul Krill says Microsoft’s plans keep changing, and the future of universal apps is cloudy at best.

Someday the Windows Store may come close to the competition. I won’t hold my breath.

6. Key apps, including Mail and Edge, aren’t ready yet
6. Key apps, including Mail and Edge, aren’t ready yet

Some of Windows 10’s key apps simply aren’t baked. Mail, for example, shown in this slide, has a nasty habit of putting notifications in the upper-left corner and leaving them hanging forever. There’s no combined Inbox, so if you have multiple accounts you have to jump from Inbox to Inbox. And it crashes hard -- for a lot of people.

Edge, the new browser, similarly has all sorts of rough edges. There are no extensions yet, thus no AdBlocker -- it shows every stupid ad on every stupid page -- and no LastPass, which is a showstopper for me. Changing the search engine is tortuous. Moving tabs onto the desktop and back again doesn’t work, and you can’t pin tabs.

I talked about the sorry state of the Microsoft-supplied Universal apps in my Windows 10 review. Microsoft pulled the Skype Universal app. Photos isn’t in the same universe as Google Photos.

5. Win10’s Tablet Mode may not appeal to you
5. Win10’s Tablet Mode may not appeal to you

If you’re running Windows 8.1 and use it primarily as a touch-first device, you may not like the way Windows 10 has moved the cheese.

First, there’s the hamburger menu on the left that tucks away the entries on the left side of the Start menu. It collapses fine, but when it’s collapsed it rarely shows any more tiles than when it’s not collapsed. What’s the point, eh?

Universal app windows have that pesky taskbar permanently tacked on the bottom, while the window bar at the top autohides. Edge, when running full screen, doesn’t support any of the old Metro IE swipe commands. You can’t swipe through running apps. The apps themselves? Office on the iPad is better than Office on Windows 10.

Before you jump from touch-first on Windows 8.1 to Windows 10, go to your favorite local computer store and try Windows 10 in Tablet Mode. See if you like it -- or tolerate it.

4. The installer may not be ready for you yet
4. The installer may not be ready for you yet

If you keep getting notifications that your upgrade isn’t quite ready yet (in Win7 or Win8.1, right-click the Windows Update icon in the system tray and choose Check Status of Update), there’s a reason. Microsoft got a whole lot of requests to upgrade to Windows 10. Contrary to what you might expect, those requests are not being satisfied first-in-first-out.

Instead, the Windows 10 installer takes a look at your system and, based on the hardware and software it finds, assigns your request to a bucket of similar upgrade requests. The folks running the (massive) upgrade effort prioritize your request based on their assessment of how likely your system is to bomb out on an upgrade. As more systems get upgraded, more of the kinks get ironed out, and the more likely your system will float to the top of the heap.

You can upgrade manually -- I wrote about how to perform a manual upgrade last week. But unless you’ve made the request the usual way and waited until your turn comes up in line, you’re tempting the Wingods.

3. Forced updates
3. Forced updates

Patching remains Windows 10’s Achilles’ heel. Whether you like it or not, all Windows 10 Home machines, and Windows 10 Pro machines that aren’t hiding behind an update server (such as WSUS or WUB) will get all patches applied according to Microsoft’s time scale.

There once was a time when that “feature” alone would’ve driven me to scream bloody murder. In the past four months, though, Microsoft has shown it’s far, far more capable of providing good updates than at any time in the past decade -- two decades, for that matter.

Except ... yep, you guessed it. All three of the first Cumulative Update patches have had problems with reboot cycles. KB 3081424 on Aug. 5, KB 3081436 on Aug. 12, and KB 3081438 on Aug. 14 all crash a fairly small number of Windows 10 systems. The installer stops mid-installation, flashes an error message, rolls back, and reboots. Then -- you guessed it -- the forced installer kicks in and crashes Windows again. Rinse, lather, repeat. Getting out of the mess involves editing the registry.

I’m convinced Microsoft will give us some sort of tool to stop this kind of endless cycle. But there’s no indication when (or if) we’ll see it.

2. Ain’t broke, don’t fix
Credit: Thinkstock
2. Ain’t broke, don’t fix

The old adage comes from painful experience -- and it’s as applicable now as it ever was.

If you’re using Windows 7, and it’s properly patched up and working for you, and you’ve stopped using Internet Explorer, you really have to consider whether it’s worth the effort to upgrade to Windows 10.

Few programs will run on Windows 10, but not Windows 7. The only major ones I can think of, aside from a small handful of touch-centric programs, are Cortana and Edge, both of which come baked into Windows 10. If you’re using Windows 8.1 with a mouse and you’re OK with the interface (there must be a dozen of you), Windows 10 may be more trouble than it’s worth.

In either case, carefully consider whether the warning signs listed here outweigh the benefits in "10 reasons you should upgrade to Windows 10," for you, in your situation. It’s entirely reasonable to hold off until you get a new machine, with a camera that can run Windows Hello, and a touchscreen.

1. Questions, questions, questions
1. Questions, questions, questions

I’m still troubled by how many unanswered questions are floating around. For example, although we haven’t received official confirmation of the fact, it now appears as if the validation sequence goes like this: When you upgrade a “genuine” Win7 or Win8.1 machine to Win10 and run the upgrade in place, Microsoft apparently records a hardware ID that says, “this machine has valid licenses for Win7 and Win10.” At that point, you can install either Win7 or Win10 on that machine, and your license will be validated. We didn’t know that a week ago. Ed Bott wrote about it on ZDNet, but there’s still no official confirmation.

Another example of something we don’t know: How does Windows Update for Business patching really work? Nobody’s seen a WUB server. We also don’t know what the Windows Update advanced option marked “Defer upgrades” really does.

We haven’t yet seen how Microsoft will recover from a really bad update -- although the experience to date with the three Cumulative Updates does not instill confidence. We don’t know if Microsoft will start documenting its patches again. We don’t know if much effort will be directed at fixing and improving the Microsoft-supplied Universal apps.

Most disconcerting of all are the privacy questions. Peter Bright at Ars Technica has a disturbing revelation that, even with all of the Win10 security settings on Off, Win10 still sends some data to the Microsoft Mothership. The simple fact is that Microsoft hasn’t told us what data it’s collecting -- there’s a short note at the end of Bright’s article -- although the EULA says it can do nearly anything with the data it collects. Stack Exchange has an insightful thread on the topic.

All of these are key questions, and we really don’t know the answers.

But don’t be put off
But don’t be put off

Those are the best reasons I know to defer -- or completely avoid -- Windows 10.

But I’d be less than honest with you if I said they led me to wait. They didn’t. The screenshot you see here is my working, production machine, and yes, I’m running Windows 10 Pro -- happily, I might add.

The two major forlorn “features” in Win10 -- forced updating and privacy invasion -- haven’t kept me from using Win10 in general, and Cortana in particular, all day, every day. Why? I’m convinced there’s enough pressure on Microsoft to make its updating work better than it has in two decades. And I don’t mind trading some of my privacy for some useful features, like the ones in Cortana. To my mind, it’s a modern quid pro quo.

Your conclusions may vary. Mostly, it’s important for you to know the trade-offs before you take the plunge.