Windows 10 Is Here (Finally) & It’s Free (For Now) — How To Sign Up & Leap In

July 2015: The Start menu is back, it’s super fast, it has a new browser called Microsoft Edge and millions of people have already been testing it out — Windows 10 arrives on July 29. And while it’s more about fixes than features, it’s as anticipated as a cool summer rain.

Here’s how (and why) to reserve your upgrade, find out if your favorite apps are compatible and determine if you should upgrade right away or wait for the first round of bug fixes:

• Why should you reserve your copy of Windows 10?
Microsoft is using a reservation system to manage the upgrade process. Even the most powerful servers in the world couldn’t handle everyone downloading new operating system (OS) software at the same time. So you need to queue up using the Get Windows 10 app that appears as a Windows icon in your system tray (provided you have Windows Update enabled). Once you’re signed up, Microsoft will download the files to your computer when it’s your turn and let you know you can begin the upgrade process.

Your reward for making a reservation? Free Windows 10! And free forever on that device as long as you complete your upgrade by July 29, 2016. After that, it will cost $119 for the Home version and $199 for Pro.

• Are your favorite apps are compatible?
Don’t find out your apps won’t work on Windows 10 after you upgrade — find out before. Click “Check your PC” when you reserve your upgrade in the Get Windows 10 app. The app will scan your computer and your apps and report back. Regardless of your device, you need to be running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 to upgrade.

If an app is listed as incompatible, it could be that Microsoft doesn’t have compatibility information on that particular app or that the upgrade is in progress. Check the app’s website for information about Windows 10 upgrades. Or you can keep checking by the Windows Compatibility Center once Windows 10 officially launches. See the complete Windows 10 specifications for the pre-released version but be aware they may change for the final version. Also, be aware that some Windows 10 features may not work on some devices even if the device is compatible.

• Should you upgrade right away or wait for the first round of bug fixes?
When to upgrade depends on which edition you’re using:

  • Windows 10 Home, the version for most consumers — upgrade away! It’s safe to upgrade whenever you’re ready. Just make a backup first. The upgrade process should take about 20-60 minutes to complete, depending on your device (the newer, the faster).
  • Windows 10 Pro, the version for small businesses and PC enthusiasts — Do a proof of concept first even though it’s not a whole new OS, and watch it closely for 90 days. Not only do you want to ensure application compatibility, you want to confirm that the computers in your network can talk to each other before going all in. Plus you need to update your automated PC-build procedures for Windows 10.
  • Windows 10 Mobile for Windows tablets and phones — Make sure your favorite mobile and tablet apps are compatible.  Then perform a backup before upgrading.

Upgrading to Windows 10 Enterprise for medium-sized and large businesses is a complex and lengthy process, but not as complex as if it were an entirely new OS.

Find out more from Microsoft’s thorough Windows 10 Q&A and CNET’s entire website section about all things Windows 10. Also, check out PC Advisor’s side-by-side comparison with Windows 7 and How-To Geek’s comparison with Windows 8.

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