An early version of Microsoft’s next operating system is now available free from the company, but most PC users should think twice before downloading it.
The “technical preview” of Windows 10 is available through a new program called Windows Insider, which gives companies and enthusiasts early access to software in progress. It’s located at http://preview.windows.com.
Lots of people are looking forward to Windows 10 — which includes a traditional start menu and Windows 8-style “tiles” — but the technical preview is intended for advanced users and could cause headaches for novices.
The software is incomplete, may have serious crashes and shouldn’t be relied on for critical work or storing important files.
At the gateway to download Windows 10, Microsoft explicitly warns users about these risks. They’re called out on the web pages, and not just buried in the fine print of the licensing agreement.
The company advises users to not install preview software on their primary computer and warns that “you might experience crashes, security vulnerabilities, data loss, or damage to your device.”
It’s also not completely free. In return for early access to the software, users will be asked to provide feedback to Microsoft.
“Windows Insiders” must also give up privacy options and let Microsoft examine their computing activity. Under the licensing agreement required to get the software, users consent to Microsoft automatically collecting data from devices and services affiliated with their Microsoft account. The information gathered may be used by Microsoft and its partners to develop products.
All that said, it’s a treat for the Windows faithful and enthusiasts who have a spare machine available.
System requirements are basically the same as Windows 8.1: at least a 1 gigahertz processor, 1 gigabyte of RAM on 32-bit systems or 2 gigs on a 64-bit system, 16 gigs of free disk space and Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics with WDDM driver. Also needed are Internet access and a Microsoft account.
The preview is intended for systems with a mouse and keyboard. It works with touchscreen systems “but some things will be rough and unfinished,” according to Microsoft. It does not run on Windows RT systems.
When upgrading from Windows 7 or 8 you can save settings, files and most apps. Upgrading from Vista requires a “clean install” on a wiped system.
In case things don’t work out, be sure that you’ve got a way to recover or reinstall your current operating system before installing Windows 10. The technical preview will expire on April 15, after which you’ll need to install a newer version of the software or another OS.