Updated: February 8, 2019
The article you're about to read has two purposes. One, show you (and possibly entertain you with) my experience around the upgrade to Windows 10 Build 1809, and all that it entails. Two, review the new version of this operating system and highlight the changes and differences from the previous edition. Now, you may ask, why only now?
Well, first, you should never rush updating your system. You should wait at least a month, let others play the ignoble role of the Charge of the Light Brigade. Then, once the issues are solved, you can then update without fearing problems. I've advocated this approach forever, and turns out, the Build 1809 update proved me more than right. It was released with so many issues - the modern software thingie, right - that Microsoft actually paused the update for a while, before restoring it. Still, three months down the road, I still didn't have it. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
I've not done much testing with Windows 10 recently, mostly because I didn't feel there was value for me to actually bother with the whole endeavor. The updates would always take hours, one or two of my settings would get undone, and the whole buzz doesn't bring any practical advantage to the table. Desktops should be quiet and calm, so you can focus on actual work and not waste life maintaining or fighting your system.
With the pending retirement of Windows Phone, which still remains the best designed mobile UI of all time, the whole experiment feels ever sadder than before. All this noise about apps and convergence, to no glorious end. Then, Edge going Chromium engine thingie, even worse. We shall all pay dearly for this one day. Remember, you should always cheer the underdog, and that's Linux on the desktop, and that was Microsoft in the mobile space. In ten years, you will wish you've heeded my advice.
But I did decide to see what gives with Build 1809 after all, and check if there are any good changes. After all, one day, I might have to migrate to this operating system, so I need to be prepared in advance against any surprises that limit my freedom or insult my intelligence. Or both.
Anyway, I powered the Windows 10 system, let it update, and meanwhile checked some of the settings and options. To my great surprise, the update was relatively quick. Only about 15 minutes. Well, Microsoft did promise they were working on making their updates fast (again), so maybe this was that?
No. This proved to be just an ordinary set of patches. I still wasn't being offered the 1809 release, and we're talking end of January, three months later. At this point, I decided to grab the Media Creator tool and run it in-vivo. Well, the tool complained it couldn't run under a standard account (even if you elevate privileges), so I had to log into the Administrator account and do everything fresh. Twenty minutes of life wasted - the time it takes to complete the entire update cycle in Windows 7/8. And here, we haven't even started.
Before we talk about the process, let me tell you a few brief things about my pre-upgrade experience. You should start with reading my Build 1804 review. Now, I typically remove most of the so-called modern apps from Windows 10, because I don't use them, and with their touchy design, they are inferior to desktop tools in every way. There isn't a single mobile application in the entire universe, no matter who wrote it, that is somehow, in some way, superior to their classic desktop counterparts - on the desktop.
But even the monthly cumulative patch thingie was annoying enough that it restored these modern apps after I've deleted them. This is such a pesty behavior. Like having a rash, y' know. I mean, this is desperation first class. Then, as I mentioned earlier, my settings WERE CHANGED. Like Contacts. This is just sad.
Apps wise, Windows 10 also warned me about opening an executable that has not originated from the store. Well, you can easily disable that in the settings. But then, this wouldn't be a problem if the store actually had all the software I need. Or not needed using the online account to use it. Kind of a cyclic issue here.
Then I tried to open a PDF file and got this:
What? Since when is a browser a PDF tool? And why would you retire your own tool? Ah well.
Moreover, Windows Update Medic was on, and so was the WU service, so I disabled them nice and good again, but this is another example where things are being done to the user's system against their explicit choice. If only there was a word, some sort of IT security industry phrase, to describe a piece of code that makes changes to the user's machine against their choice, hm. Oh, that's right, it's all in the EULA, so it's fine. All your kidney are belong to us.
I signed into the Administrator account. And almost destroyed my laptop from anger. For the first ten or so minutes, the system was almost unusable. It had all sorts of "modern" stuff running, slowing things down and ruining the experience. As I slowly killed processes and services, things went back to semi-normal, but it was still a slow and frustrating session. I installed IrfanView as my image viewer, and Windows 10 reset the file associations back to Photos. Because. This crap behavior is still ongoing in 2019.
No, I won't use Photos. EVER. EEEEEEEEVEEEEER. Once you make a light, fast app that equals IrfanView in its capabilities, I might. Or then again, I won't, because I will forever remember and resent this little game of permissions you did there, so I won't ever bother trying your modern apps on my desktop. Ever.
I sorted this nonsense through the App defaults, deleted every single modern app I could - you have to do this separately for each user it seems, disabled even more unnecessary services, and started the upgrade. This will give me a chance to see how many of my choices are "respected" after the upgrade.
It took 27 minutes for Windows 10 from Media Creator launch to actual update. 27 minutes. Still, nothing has really happened. Just noise. This is progress, ladies and gentlemen, this is the future, not just of Microsoft but every single software company out there, and in twenty years, you will truly and deeply wish the computer was never invented.
Then I left the machine be and went to write this thing. Glanced at the screen. 74% progress after 45 minutes. So ignoring the monthly updates and the inability to run the Creator tool under the standard account, which cost me another 35-40 minutes, I was 1 hour and 15 minutes into the upgrade process, only three quarters done, and I'm guessing there will be a few reboots and post-upgrade configurations, too. So much wasted time.
The waiting game
Eventually, the full 100% mark happened 15 minutes later. After that, there were two reboots, with a total amount of 36 minutes spent performing the upgrade. So this is faster than Build 1804, but it's still an awful lot of time. Then, after logging in, I waited another five minutes for the user-specific setup to complete. All in all, this is more than two hours to get the upgrade done. Two hours.
What has changed?
Before I had a working session, I was asked to choose whether to enable the voice service, text and ink service, advertising ID, and a few other online-ish options. The kind of thing a new user would set up. Why am I being asked these questions on an upgraded system that uses a local account? Is this an attempt to get me somehow to "approve" of these different online-ad-happy things? Who came up with the idea that aggressive marketing will actually endear users or be effective in the long run?
Then, a lot of services I had disabled were back on running, including Windows Defender, Telemetry, Xbox, and Windows Update itself. Without repeating myself, this is simply disrespectful to the end user. No other word.
App wise, seems like most of the items were back. Now, mind, not all of them - so this is an improvement, but again, I still find it puzzling why Microsoft keeps insisting on installing its touch-optimized software on the desktop, especially when people use the local account plus considering the fact they are retiring the phone. Moreover, these apps don't really offer the same value as many third-party software. Finally, some of the software cannot be removed through the settings menu, although you can Powershell them out of existence.
Using Build 1809
Now, I started actually testing the new build and what it offers. At first glance, there does not seem to be any difference, which is good, then again, I just spent two hours not being able to use my machine, so what's the point.
The logins are relatively slow. There's a whole bunch of stuff happening, like indexing and such, the disk is quite busy. Not sure why - but this is still infinitely better than what I observed under the Admin account, which hasn't undergone as much rinsing as this one. I also noticed the process named Cortana in the task manager, but I have it disabled. This is sort of a spurious one, because the search is coupled with the AI thingie, and even if you have the second part not running, you'll still see it.
There's a lot of stuff, to be frank. But most of it does not make much sense to most people. I don't mind the new features, but not when they come at the expanse of stability and performance. All these colorful extras, like Game bar, VR, casting and such could all be offered as downloadable modules for people who want to enhance their experience. Hell, even offer it through the store!
Instead, one-size-fits-all simply creates unnecessary noise. If I look at Windows 7 or 8, they don't really lack anything for modern-day computing - except hardware drivers, which is fine. I don't mind the improvements on that front at all. My reasoning for the switch from XP to 7 was indeed that, much better 64-bit support. But there wasn't and isn't really anything on the application side of things.
A revamped security center. I find the naming convention change confusing, although the new overview layout is easier to understand than in the past. However, there are too many Windows Defender components, most of which aren't related to one another. Exploit protection sits under Apps control, and it's a bit harder to locate than before. But that's the killer feature you want to focus on if you are really keen on security. The rest creates a sense of urgency and activity, but doesn't cardinally contribute to anything. Even so, all that said, I think Microsoft's approach to security is better than what you typically get from third-party software.
Search & regedit
The menu search looks nicer, more functional than before. You get more details, you can fine-tune your search, and if you use the online recommendations, you get ever more information, provided you're comfortable with this mode of use. But even the offline side has been refined quite nicely. Regedit also comes with hive path auto-complete, so this helps navigate the registry faster.
I've praised Plasma for having a smart and sophisticated clipboard. Windows 10 has finally gotten one, but you do need to explicitly allow it. This one also comes with online integration. Now here's something that might actually be useful. I do appreciate the fact this one isn't running by default, and you need to turn it on. Why this isn't the case with three dozen other apps, beats me.
Some options are missing for me
Not sure if this is a Home/Pro thing or if not having an online account limits or changes things, but I didn't see some of the options mentioned in the release notes. For instance, I had no option to start a Linux shell anywhere, even though I'm running WSL, and I didn't see all the different security settings that ought to be available (like Application Guard). I don't mind, I just wonder what factor leads to the divergence in the final product for different users.
Kiosk, biometrics, dark theme - some people may find this quite useful. Personally, I don't like dark themes, except on the phone (Windows Phone was perfect like that), so this might be a nod toward developers and alike. I also tried the Storage Sense cleanup - manually - and it was fast and did a good job.
Beyond that, this remains the same operating system. It took a lot of effort taming it back to the baseline I expect, and once it's in that state, it behaves reliably and predictably, with solid performance, good battery life, and solid-ish ergonomics. Shame about all that wasted energy trying to make me into a low-IQ person for no good reason. It's not hard. Check if the user is running an online account, for instance. Or maybe ask the user if they are interested in changes. Now that would be revolutionary.
Build 1803 was the first Windows update ever where I had big glitches and errors. Then, Build 1809 came, went, came back, and I never actually got it. A sign of clear deterioration in quality. Microsoft's software used to be the stuff of legends. Rock solid. I guess another old truth got eroded, another scar to my soul added.
The aggressive push to use the online stuff is just sad. And it doesn't even make sense anymore. While Windows Phone still existed, bless my Lumia, the cross-platform connectivity was actually something worth exploring. It didn't quite work out, but it had its place. There was logic to it. Now, this is practically desktop-only stuff, and there's really no value in any of these things. The only real outcome is an outcry of resentment. Techies are feeling deeply antagonized by these changes, and the perception of intrusive wrongness is starting to resonate even with the ordinary users. I know that Microsoft's future is entirely in the cloud, services and office, but eroding the thirty years of desktop is wrong.
Once again, after you're done stripping away the low-IQ noise, under all that unnecessary glamor, Windows 10 isn't bad after all. It doesn't have any cardinal advantages over Windows 7/8, but it works reasonably well. The big problem is the knowledge that if you do update your system, you will have to waste time re-fixing things. That's an exercise of despair and futility. And it would seem that is our future. All in all, Build 1809 ain't bad, but it ain't special either. Just ... average. Take care.