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Windows 10 review: It's familiar, it's powerful, but the Edge browser falls short

Mark Hachman | July 27, 2015
We may as well refer to Windows 10 as a date, or an hour, as much as an operating system. It's a moment in time. A month from now, it will have changed, evolved, improved. But right now? Microsoft has shipped an operating system that was meticulously planned and executed with panache, but whose coat of fresh paint hides some sticks and baling wire.

Which Windows 10? Home vs. Professional

The first two questions you should ask yourself are this: Which version of Windows 10 is available for my computer? And which do I need?

The first question is relatively easy to answer: if you're upgrading from Windows 7 Home or the basic version of Windows 8, you'll receive a free upgrade to Windows 10 Home (officially priced at $119). If you own a Surface Pro or a business PC, chances are you'll upgrade to Windows 10 Professional ($199). I tested both flavors of Windows 10, using a Microsoft Surface Pro 2 with a version of Windows 10 Professional installed on it, as well as an HP Spectre x360 with the consumer version of Windows 10.

Microsoft's professional version of Windows 10 differs from the consumer version in many ways, but three really matter: BitLocker encryption, Remote Access, and the ability to run Hyper-V virtualization on your PC. BitLocker encrypts entire storage volumes with your hard drive and a password, with the option to print or save a recovery key to your OneDrive folder in case you forget it or are eaten by a grue. Remote Access allows you to take control of other PCs--such as those owned by relatives seeking tech support, for example--with the appropriate permissions and passwords. Hyper-V lets you create virtual partitions to test out future builds of Windows 10 (or other software), without the risk of borking your system.

Next: Hello lets you log in with your face, and the new-old Start menu

Hello: The new way to log in to Windows 10

Microsoft began insisting on a login password with Windows 8, as an additional safeguard against losing your data. With Windows 10, Microsoft is raising the bar.

During the installation process, you'll be asked for your Microsoft username and password, the key that unlocks your data within Microsoft's ecosystem. But instead of using that password to log in every session, Microsoft will encourage you to use a 4-digit PIN--treating your PC, essentially, as a credit card. You'll still have the option to use a password, but a PIN is a much simpler option.

A second option, Microsoft Hello, promises to be simpler and more secure. Using biometric security--either a fingerprint or your face--Hello will log you in, automatically. Fingerprint readers are fairly rare outside corporate machines, but the depth cameras needed for face recognition are rarer still, found only in new PCs.

Still, Microsoft's making Hello one of the features of their first Windows 10 ads, and it's not hard to see why. Windows Hello asks you to put your face in its camera range for a few seconds to train it, with your glasses on and off if necessary. After that, logging in is as simple as approaching the PC with the camera active. If the camera can see your face (with a Surface docking station, you may need to lean down a bit) you'll be launched into Windows 10, literally without pushing a button. 

 

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