Microsoft plans to launch Windows 10 in mid-2015, but you can download a preview of the company’s next operating system today.

Just sign up for the free Windows Insider Program and Microsoft will provide you with a license and a choice of 32-bit or 64-bit download links. Burn the ISO to a DVD and you can use it to install Windows on your computer.

windows 10_01

Keep in mind, this is an early build of Windows 10 and there may be some unpolished or buggy features. Microsoft plans to roll out a number of updates to members of the Insider Program and hopes that testers will provide feedback which will help the company improve the operating system before it launches to the public next year.

That’s not the way Microsoft usually does things. While the company has offered previews of some recent versions of Windows, it doesn’t tend to provide regular updates.

At this point Windows 10 looks like a mix between Windows 7 and Windows 8. It has a desktop with a Start Menu — but that menu borrows Live Tiles from the Windows 8 Start Screen.

win10 start_01

These can show calendar details, news updates, and other information at a glance. You can resize or unpin any tiles you don’t want to see.

Add as many tiles as you’d like, and the Start Menu will expand to accommodate them. And if you don’t want to see any tiles at all, just unpin everything until you have a single-column menu that looks a lot like the Windows 7 Start Menu.

w10 start only

The menu to the left of those tiles looks a lot like the Windows 7 Start Menu, with your username at the top, followed by locations and then apps. There’s also a universal search box at the bottom which searches not only your computer, but also the internet.

Don’t like how much vertical space the Start Menu takes up? Just grab the top of the menu and pull down so that it becomes wider, but less tall.

w10 start 3

There’s also a dedicated icon for the Search app in the taskbar. Tap it and you can see recent searches and trending topics from the web.

Or you can just start typing a new search query. The search window takes up a small corner of your screen when you first tap it, but once you enter a search term and hit enter the full Windows search app will open.

w10 search

If you use the operating system on a tablet or other touchscreen device instead of a notebook, you’ll still be able to see a full-screen Start Screen, but desktop users will get a user interface that’s more keyboard and mouse friendly.

You can also choose to use the Start Screen on a notebook or desktop. Just click the Start Button, type “navigation properties” and then choose the Start Menu tab. Click the box that says “Use the Start menu instead of the Start screen” and you can pretend you’re using Windows 8.1.

w10 navigation

Windows 10 should be able to run most software that works with Windows 8 or earlier, and I had no problems installing the Google Chrome web browser or Irfanview image editor, for instance. But it can also run free and paid apps from the Windows Store.

w10 app settings_02

While Store apps run exclusively in full-screen mode on Windows 8, you can run these apps in windowed mode on Windows 10. This lets you resize and move apps, and you can minimize or close apps using a toolbar at the top of the window.

In other words, Windows Store apps act more like traditional desktop apps. They just happen to be distributed through the Windows Store, and most seem to have bright colors and big touch-friendly user interfaces. That might not be all that important if you’re using a desktop or notebook PC, but it means the apps will play nicely with tablets, touchscreen notebooks, or 2-in-1 devices.

w10 snap

If you snap an app to the side of the screen, Windows 10 will also show you a list of other apps that are currently running in case you want to snap them to another portion of the display.

w10 app settings

There’s also a new settings icon for Windows Store apps. Tape the … button to bring up app commands, sharing options, and other settings.

Microsoft has also given you more options for arranging apps on your screen and for moving between apps.

There’s a Task View icon in the taskbar that shows you thumbnails for all of your currently running apps. You’ll also notice a new “Add a desktop” button at the bottom of the screen.

w10 task view

You can use this to create a new virtual workspace so that you can arrange some apps or document son one screen and others on another — as if you were using multiple monitors. Then you can flip between these screens from the Task View interface.

Virtual desktops are new to Windows, but they’ve been available to Linux users for years. Still, they’re a welcome addition — especially for users of devices with small or low-resolution displays.

You can also use the Alt+Tab keyboard shortcut to see thumbnails for your apps — but you won’t see which desktop they’re on in this view.

w10 feedback

One of the key reasons Microsoft is making the Windows 10 preview available to the public is to gather feedback. There’s a new Windows Feedback tool which you can find in the Start Menu.

It’s designed to make it easy to send notes about your experience to Microsoft and offers a huge range of categories to choose from so you can submit feedback about apps, hardware, files, storage, updates, networking, or other areas where you’re having problems.

Overall, Windows 10 seems to be off to a pretty strong start. The installation process was pretty quick and painless, and the operating system boots in about 10 seconds on my 5-year old Asus UL20A notebook with an Intel Core 2 Duo ULV processor. I’ve replaced the hard drive on that notebook with a solid state disk, but Windows 7 certainly didn’t boot as quickly.

It’s probably a good idea to install the Windows 10 preview on a spare computer if you’ve got one rather than using it as your primary operating system. Microsoft isn’t guaranteeing that everything will work, and even if the operating system does run smoothly today something might break the next time there’s a software update. The free license will also probably stop working April 15th, 2015, so you’d best hope Microsoft has something you can upgrade to by then.

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15 replies on “First look: Windows 10 technical preview”

  1. Read the EULA before using. The program contains a keylogger and collects evey bit of information that is contained on the system as it is used. You agree to that when you download and install it. Understandable but a no go for real life testing.

  2. The best coverage I’ve seen on an OS on this site!!!
    🙁 Too bad it was not about a Linux distro!!!

  3. Looks like the OS Hegelian synthesis is starting to happen with the start menu, I hope this is a sign of increased sanity at MS . . . also curious to see if early feedback actually leads to any changes or new features!

  4. Does W10 still support local accounts? I really don’t want copies of my app settings/recents sitting on MS servers considering I am a pretty shady criminal type 😉

  5. I’ll be interested in an option to completely turn off WinRT and the Metro tiles and get back the normal “column two” items that a Start Menu should have. Not holding my breath though.

    1. You can get that on Win8/Win8.1 right now with things like ClassicShell or Start8, there is no reason to believe these won’t be made fully compatible with Win10 when it is released.

  6. Guys please come back with first impressions as soon as you can. I have a desktop which is a few years old but fairly powerful currently on Win 7 which I intend to upgrade. Don’t have time today so it will be tomorrow. Even so your first thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Keep in mind this is the preview for the Enterprise version… The general consumer preview won’t be released until some time in early 2015…

      Also, they’re imposing monthly update cycle that can potentially bring about as much changes as you could expect from a incremental OS update (like W8 to W8.1, for example) for each month and given it may take longer than April 2015 before they’re done that a lot can still change before the final release…

  7. It looks really ready to go. Can’t wait to update my windows 8 pcs to this.

  8. Hi I am downloading the new version and I would like to know about the clean Install. Is there any problem with booting from USB and ‘FORMATTING’ the older version and installing in the C drive???

      1. Same installation steps like in Windows 8 right? Any unusual steps or questions during Installation? Just to make sure everything before installing

        1. It’s been a while since I’ve installed Win8, so I can’t recall for certain — but the Win10 installer was probably the easiest, fastest Windows installer I’ve ever used.

          That’s probably at least partly because I did a clean install. There is an option to upgrade from a previous version of Windows, but I didn’t try that.

          1. Ok thanks. I dont want to upgrade that’s y asked. Gonna install it. Good day!

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