You’ve probably seen the announcements about the release of Windows 10 slated for July 29, 2015. (No you’re not crazy, there was no Windows 9; Microsoft is moving straight to 10. Why skip 9? They haven’t really said, but several theories are explored here.)

If you’re currently running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 you have probably also seen an icon in your system tray that prompts you to reserve your free Windows 10 upgrade. The big question is should you upgrade.

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Many Windows 8 users are wary about jumping into a brand new Windows release on day one– and with good reason. Microsoft’s Windows 8 release was not well received, nor was it without many inconveniences and less than optimal changes (especially for desktop users).

Keeping your small business running smoothly is a priority. If your current Windows version is doing the job, then why risk a potential disruption? This time, there are several good reasons to seriously consider registering for, and actually implementing, the upgrade.

Windows 7 & Windows 8.1 Users Get the Windows 10 Upgrade for Free

To help drive adoption of the new OS, Microsoft is offering a free-for-life Windows 10 upgrade to all eligible Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users. If you currently use Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, or Home Premium or Windows 8.1 you’ll get a free upgrade to Windows 10 Home. If you use Windows 7 Professional or Ultimate or Windows 8.1 Pro you’ll get Windows 10 Pro. For those of you using Windows Phone 8.1 on a mobile device, you’ll get Windows 10 mobile. (The free upgrade is not available for any version of Windows Enterprise.)

Users with these operating systems should see an icon in their system tray bar that launces the upgrade reservation.

Click it, enter your email address, and you’ll be registered to receive the upgrade when it is released on July 29, 2015. Note that you are not forced to install the upgrade the day it is released. You can do that at any convenient time. You can also cancel your reservation at any time, so there is truly no obligation.

However, in order to get the upgrade for free, and to continue to get updates to it for free, you will need to complete the upgrade process within one year of release. (That’s July 29, 2016 if everything stays on schedule.)

For more information about how to reserve your upgrade, and how to install it on or after release day, read the Microsoft Upgrade How To post.

Note that you’ll need to have at least Windows 7 with SP1 installed, or Windows 8.1 in order to be offered the upgrade reservation. If you don’t, you’ll need to install the latest version of your OS. (This means upgrading to 8.1 if you’re running Windows 8, or installing SP1 for Windows 7.) If you still don’t see the upgrade offer, this post outlines steps you can take to enable the upgrade invitation.

Free Windows 10 for Any Computer

Microsoft recently announced that it will provide free-for-life production versions of Windows 10 to anyone who joins its Windows Insider Program and tests the beta version of Windows 10. (Note that to join Windows Insider you’ll need a Microsoft account– Hotmail, Outlook, or Xbox—which you can get for free.) Why Windows 10 Is Now Free For Everyone, a recent Forbes post, outlines how you can join the program and get the beta, how you can get lifetime free upgrades, and why Microsoft benefits from making this offer. Though this post explains that the license for the beta-upgrade (as opposed to upgrades to Windows 7 and 8.1) is not quite an official license, and might not pass muster for a software audit. It does note that for home users or small volume companies, the difference doesn’t really matter.

This is a great opportunity for those of you who are still using older versions of Windows that are no longer supported such as Windows XP, or that will soon be orphaned such as Vista, to upgrade to the new Windows 10 for free. (See my security post from last year about the dangers of continuing to use Windows XP with PaySimple and other systems that touch sensitive data such as financial account numbers.)

Of course, if you do install the beta you won’t be able to go back to your old OS—so be sure to take that into consideration. You’ll want to be sure that your computer is capable of running Windows 10—which at a minimum means a 1 GHz or faster 32-bit or 64-bit processor; 1 GB RAM and 16 GB of free hard drive space for the 32-bit version or 2 GB RAM and 20 GB or free hard drive space for the 64-bit version; a DirectX 9 or later graphics card with a WDDM 1.0 driver; and a display of at least 800 x 600. See the full Windows 10 Specification page here. For a step-by-step guide to installing the beta, see this Forbes post. You can sign up for the Windows Insider Program here.

You might also want to use the Microsoft Windows Compatibility Checker on your older machine before joining the beta program. If the tool shows that your computer, or certain hardware or software you’re using, is not compatible with Windows 8.1, it won’t be compatible with Windows 10 either.

New Features in Windows 10

Microsoft touts Windows 10 as “the Windows you know, only better.” The features page highlights new features such as the return of the Start Menu, Cortana for desktops (read this Tip post for more info on this singing virtual assistant), and the new Microsoft Edge browser.

A recent CNN Money post, Upgrading from Windows 7 or 8? You’ll love Windows 10, provides detailed information about benefits you’ll get from upgrading. The post includes a short video demonstrating the new “continuum” feature, a mechanism by which the OS adjusts based on whether you are using it with a desktop or laptop with a keyboard and mouse, or whether you are using it with a tablet/touch screen. It moves seamlessly from one to the other if you have a Windows tablet with a detachable keyboard. The post also provides screen captures and details on other new features such as the integrated Windows Store, new folder icons, and the new taskbar.

For a view from across the pond, see this UK based Tech Advisor post, Windows 10 review: hands on with the preview version of Windows 10 and the new Start menu, Edge browser, new apps and Cortana.

Is Windows 10 The Smart Choice for Your Small Business?

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Just because you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free, doesn’t mean you should. But, so far the beta is getting positive reviews. (Of course it is still a beta, so take that for what it is worth.) The Top 7 Reasons to Upgrade to Windows 10 from Maximum PC recommends the new OS, this Hands on: Windows 10 review from calls it “the new Windows 7,” and the CNET preview says 10 may just be everything that Windows 8 should have been.

There are very few all negative reviews, but Microsoft explains what you’ll lose by upgrading to Windows 10 from The Verge notes that Windows 10 Home Users will no longer be able to control their own updates, that the Windows Media Center will disappear, as will Windows Gadgets, and the Hearts card game.

So, expert consensus is that you should at least reserve your copy now if you’re eligible, though installing on day one might not be the best idea. As long as you install before the year is out, you’ll still get Windows 10 for free. Running a small business has enough costs, if a no-obligation reservation can save you the cost of an OS upgrade, there is very little reason not to do it.

But, if after careful consideration you don’t want to reserve the upgrade, and you want to stop seeing the Microsoft invitation/reminder/nag, this post provides instructions for hiding it.

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Lisa Hephner

Lisa Hephner

My name is Lisa, and I'm the Vice President of Knowledge, responsible for the management of corporate, product, competitor, marketplace, legal, and regulatory knowledge, and creation and dissemination of knowledge tools using these assets to PaySimple prospects, customers, employees, and partners.

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