Windows 10 release date, features, devices and free upgrade: Everything you need to know about Microsoft's new OS

Operating system lets parents spy on children's online behaviour

Windows 10 at-a-glance

Windows 10 launched globally on 29 July, with Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 users, as well as Windows Insiders, all starting to receive their free upgrade to the new OS. Here's our round-up of everything you need to know about Windows 10.

  • Windows 10 started rolling out on 29 July 2015 as a phased release
  • Read our full review of Windows 10 here
  • Enterprise users can manage company-wide rollouts for Windows 10 updates
  • Microsoft Edge replaces Internet Explorer as Windows 10's default browser
  • Windows 10 is available as a free upgrade during the first year after launch for Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 consumer edition users
  • If they don't upgrade within the year, consumers will be charged from £100
  • Android and iOS apps will run on the new OS

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Windows 10 latest news

27/08/2015: Windows 10 has been installed on 75 million devices just four weeks after it was publicly released, according to Microsoft. The company's marketing chief, Yusuf Mehdi, said the operating system is being downloaded and installed faster than any previous version of the platform.

Mehdi also said that over 90,000 unique PCs and tablets had been upgraded in 192 countries, Xbox One users had streamed 122 years of gameplay to Windows 10-enabled PCs and the Windows 10 store had experienced six times as many downloads per device compared to Windows 8.

The free upgrade has been rolled out gradually to Windows 7 and Windows 8 users, although in the first 24 hours of its release, figures show 14 million PCs had been upgraded.

26/08/2015: Windows 10 automatically tells parents what their children are doing on the internet in a default weekly note.

The feature means parents can spy on their children’s online activity, leaving young users of the operating system with very little privacy concerning their online activities.

Microsoft’s weekly updates include details on which websites kids have visited, how many hours per day they have spent on their computer, and how long they have used various apps for, if customer reports are to be believed.

It has led to concerns voiced on Twitter that LGBTQ children could be outed by parents accidentally, while others said the move threatens kids’ privacy.

24/08/2015:Torrent trackers are banning Windows 10 from their communities because of fears the operating system will share people’s illegal download histories with anti-piracy organisations.

The concerns stem from a single line in Microsoft’s Service Agreement stating the company can apply configuration changes and download software updates to stop people “playing counterfeit games”, according to Torrent Freak.

The full clause said Windows 10 “may automatically check your version of the software and download software updates or configuration changes, including those that prevent you from accessing the services, playing counterfeit games, or using unauthorized hardware peripheral devices”.

But while this condition covers a multitude of Microsoft products, torrent hosts are not taking any chances, with reports of trackers including iTS banning the OS for fears it will share user data with authorities.

21/08/2015:Microsoft will no longer detail all of its Windows 10 updates, it has been reported, only offering customers information on the most important patches and fixes.

"As we have done in the past, we post KB articles relevant to most updates which we'll deliver with Windows as a service," Microsoft told The Register.

"Depending on the significance of the update and if it is bringing new functionaliity to Windows customers, we may choose to do additional promotion of new features as we deploy them."

This change was first flagged by the third cumulative Windows 10 update released last week.

21/08/2015:The growth of Windows 10 has slowed significantly over the last week, according to StatCounter. 6.6 per cent of the world was using Microsoft's newest operating system last Saturday and this slipped to 5.7 per cent by Wednesday.

However, this doesn't mean fewer people are using the operating system, but it does tell us a lot about the types of people using it. The majority of those upgrading to Windows 10 are consumers who use Winodws 10 at home during the weekend. Then, when they head to work, they use computers with older operating systems, meaning numbers decrease between Monday and Friday.

On 12 August, StatCounter's numbers showed Windows 10 adoption had increased by 55 per cent since it was launched at the end of July, indicating the move to the operating system is growing, albeit slowly.

19/08/15: Users on the Windows Insider programme can now get access to Build 10525. This is the first new build since the release of Windows 10.

The new build allows users to change colours to whatever they want. This option is off by default but users can enable this by toggling this setting (Settings > Personalization > Colors).

Another new feature is called Memory Manager, which compresses unused pages instead of writing them to disk when the machine is running low on memory. This will alow Windows 10 to maintain more applications in physical memory at a time, according to the Microsoft blog.

18/08/15:Microsoft Edge, the new browser introduced with Windows 10, is available to test in virtual machines on Windows, Mac and Linux. The release is targeted at developers in particular to allow them to test their apps and websites with the browser's new rendering engine.

Currently supported virtualisation platforms are HyperV_2012, VirtualBox on Windows, Parallels, VirtualBox and VMware on Mac, and VirtualBox on Linux.

Support for Vagrant boxes, QEMU and other platforms will be made available graduallty over the next few weeks.

17/08/15:Oracle has confirmed it will certify support for Windows 10 on its Database 12c product by October this year.

The 32-bit version of Database 12c for Windows 10 Pro, Enterprise and Education will support both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the new OS, while the 64-bit model will run on 64-bit Windows 10 only.

However, the company did caution that some enterprise server features, such as Real Application Clusters, will not be supported.

It is possible, although not confirmed, that Oracle is waiting for the release of "Threshold 2" - the first update to Windows 10 - which is expected to roll out in October as well.

14/08/15:New native apps for Windows 10 have been rolling in thick and fast in the two weeks following the operating system's official launch. Following Mozilla's announcement of Firefox for Windows 10, fitness company Fitbit has also launched a new universal app, with integrated support for Cortana and Continuum. Once Windows 10 Mobile and Xbox's new interface are officially launched later this year, the new universal app will also be available for those devices.

Another new native app for Windows 10 is Stardock. This app was first launched for Windows 8, and returns the Start menu to the classic Start menu of old.

But perhaps the biggest news is Apple's roll out of Boot Camp support for Windows 10. The software supports upgrading from Window 7 and 8.1, meaning dual-boot users should be able to take advantage of Microsoft's free upgrade offer. A clean installation can also be performed, but you will need an ISO and key.

Full instructions on how to install Windows 10 on a Mac, as well as a list of compatible devices, are available here.

12/08/15:Mozilla's Firefox Browser has received a new update and facelift for Windows 10. The new look, announced in a blog post, includes interface adjustments to give the browser "a streamlined feel", along with more window space.

The company has also created documentation detailing how to switch your deault browser to Firefox, after chief executive Chris Beard slammed Microsoft's decision to include its Edge software as the de facto option.

Fans of third-party add-ons will also be pleased by this development. As opposed to Edge, which has blocked add-ons entirely for security reasons, Firefox has instead chosen to make them safer whilst still permitting them.

The company has announced a forthcoming certification process to give people informed guidance about which add-ons have been deemed safe, but until then, warnings will appear next to unsigned plug-ins.

"In future releases of Firefox," the company says, "any third-party add-on that has not been certified will be disabled by default."

03/08/15:Mozilla's chief executive Chris Beard has criticised Microsoft for making its own Edge software the default browser on Windows 10.

In a letter to Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella, Beard said he is disappointed by the decision, claiming Microsoft won't let customers choose the browser they want to use.

"These changes aren’t unsettling to us because we’re the organisation that makes Firefox. They are unsettling because there are millions of users who love Windows and who are having their choices ignored, and because of the increased complexity put into everyone’s way," Beard said.

"We strongly urge you to reconsider your business tactic here and again respect people’s right to choice and control of their online experience."

29/07/15: Windows 10 has started rolling out to consumers across 190 countries today, with registered Windows 10 insiders receiving the update first. Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 users who have pre-registered for the upgrade will also receive the update within the coming days and weeks. Those who have not opted to upgrade yet can still do so now by clicking the alert button in the bottom right-hand side of the tool bar, however during the initial roll-out period they may still have to wait for their upgrade to become available to download.

Windows 10 release date

Windows 10 started to roll out to consumers on 29 July 2015, as Microsoft announced at the beginning of June.

The news of a July release came as little surprise to Microsoft watchers. The company had stated the release would come this summer, and AMD's CEO Lisa Su tipped the world off to a July launch thanks to a a slip of the tongue during an earnings call in April.

The RTM build was delivered to OEM partners to image new devices on 15 July, and another build is being delivered to retailers to upgrade unsold devices currently running Windows 8.1.

The first end users to get the finished version of the product were the five million Windows 10 Insiders using the operating system in preview. Following that, Redmond began offering the upgrade to Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 users.

Volume licensing customers are able to download Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education from the Volume Licensing Service Center (VLSC).

System requirements for Windows 10 can be found here.

Fast and slow track releases

Windows Insider Program subscribers can sign up to either the Fast Ring or Slow Ring of releases. As the names indicate, the Fast Ring receives builds as soon as they become available. This has the benefit of allowing users to get their hands on the latest build straight away, but the disadvantage of having more bugs.

Those on the Slow Ring will not receive builds for a while after they become available to the Fast Ring, but they will be more polished with fewer performance issues or potential vulnerabilities. It is also possible to move between the two if you find Fast Ring too buggy or Slow Ring too slow.

Windows 10 different versions

As with its predecessors, Windows 10 is available in various different versions: Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Mobile, Windows 10 Pro, Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 10 Education and Windows 10 Mobile Enterprise.

Windows 10 Home is the standard edition of Windows for consumer PCs, tablets and hybrids such as the Surface 3 and upcoming Surface Pro 4. This version of the OS features personal assistant Cortana, Edge browser, Continuum and Windows Hello facial recognition, as well as standard Universal Apps like Mail, Calendar, Photos and Maps..

Windows 10 Mobile, which had until now been known as Windows 10 for Phones, "is designed to deliver the best user experience on ... smartphones and small tablets", according to Microsoft. It will have many of the same features as Windows 10 Home, although Continuum will only be available on large mobile devices.

Windows 10 Pro is aimed at small businesses, and includes all the features of Windows 10 Home plus device and app management, data protection services, and support for remote and mobile working.

Windows 10 Home, Mobile and Pro are eligible for a free upgrade for Windows 7 and 8.1, and Windows Phone 10 will be made available to Windows Phone 8 users with the appropriate hardware within the first year after launch.

Windows 10 Enterprise

Microsoft is doing everything it can to ensure that Windows 10 retains its core market of enterprise users.

One of the major shake-ups that Windows 10 will bring to the standard Windows formula is the system of regular, incremental updates, rather than large periodic overhauls.

However, a constant series of rolling upgrades can be a huge headache for IT departments. In order to combat this, Microsoft has introduced Update for Business, which allows IT managers to fine-tune which devices and systems in their company receive Windows updates at which time.

The tool, which was announced at Microsoft's Ignite conference in early May, allows the specification of maintenance windows in business environments, which can be used to designate when and when not to apply updates. This ensures that systems will be available at critical times, and that machines can be unobtrusively kept up to date.

Microsoft has also addressed potential compatibility queries, stating that the new tools will fully integrate with existing management software like System Center and Enterprise Mobility Suite. This will include support for Azure Rights Management in Office Mobile "with the Windows 10 Enterprise release in the fourth quarter of 2015".

Additionally, Windows 10 will let users apply software updates and app downloads by utilising a network of other Windows 10 users, essentially peer-to-peer updates.

However, the P2P model could raise security issues, with users potentially downloading updates from PCs whose safety hasn't been verified by Microsoft, so there will also be the usual model of having Windows Update servers spit out upgrades straight to your device.

Windows 10 Enterprise will be available for bulk order from 1 August.