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Windows 10 is one of the most anticipated and critical operating systems in Microsoft's history. To put it bluntly, Microsoft has struggled to keep up with changing user needs over the past few years, having released a series of operating systems which have contained a number of gross missteps. Windows 10 promises to address those challenges. But does it meet those promises?

As the resident technical expert here at Cracked, I had to find out, and after using the industry contacts I've built up over a lengthy career writing jokes about dongs, I managed to get a sneak preview. Here's what I found.

It's Free!

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The first thing to mention about Windows 10 is that it will quite possibly be a free upgrade for you, provided you already have a license for Windows 7, 8, or 9. This is a pretty bold move by Microsoft, and should help quickly increase the adoption rate of Windows 10 and reduce the amount of fragmentation they have in their install base. It's also, quite frankly, a bid to mollify some of their customers and make up for the lengthy list of faults that recent generations of Windows shat on its customers, causing them to wonder if Microsoft was angry at them.

Although Windows 7 was universally admired, later versions haven't been nearly as well received -- and in fact were considered by several world governments to be the sole cause of over 274 full-scale riots. Windows 8 has been one of the most widely derided pieces of software in recent history, mainly due to Microsoft's decision to force its Metro interface, designed primarily for touchscreens, on users without touchscreens. And the less said about the debacle that was Windows 9, the better.

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Most people don't even like talking about Windows 9.

The Start Menu Is Back


Probably the most exciting feature about Windows 10 is the return of the beloved Start menu. Invented by the cast of Friends in the mid '90s ...


... the Start menu made an unwelcome disappearance in Windows 8. With its emphasis on touch-capable interfaces, Windows 8 didn't fit well with the small icons and labels of the traditional Start menu, and rather than finding a way to make it work, it was just axed entirely. Because the idea of people using a mouse and keyboard to do actual work on an actual PC was unfathomable to the designers. Although I personally find the Start menu to be a little overrated (the taskbar and application search works faster for me), many users feel otherwise, and for them the return of the Start menu will be a welcome feature.


The new Start menu is a bit of a hybrid, and it contains much of the look and feel of the Metro interface. It remains to be seen whether consumers adapt to the changes. Still, it's an upgrade on what was present in Windows 8, to say nothing of the bizarre application launcher in Windows 9, where the Start icon opened a command prompt demanding the user answer three riddles to start a specific program.

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Cortana Virtual Assistant


One of the most interesting new features of Windows 10 is the personal assistant called Cortana, named after the character from the hit game series Halo.

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"OK, seriously, do we make anything that people still like? How can we leverage that?"

At first glance, I don't see much here to get that excited about. Cortana works a lot like Apple's Siri or the Google Now app, both of which still struggle with speed and accuracy issues. Microsoft promises that Cortana will feature advanced natural language processing, which is I guess an interesting-sounding collection of words. In practice, these systems always struggle with context issues and are easily confused. You might recall the experimental personal assistant in Windows 9 that had a habit of continuously shrieking the date of your death.

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I'll admit to being relieved that Windows 10 returns to voice commands, which I find vastly preferable to the direct brain interface introduced in Windows 9, universally panned for the searing headaches it gave users. I seem to recall Microsoft being accused of using this technology to erase people's memories of Windows 9, but now I'm not so sure.

Improved Desktop


Barring the glaring omission of the Start menu, the basic desktop experience for Windows hasn't changed much in the past decade, and that's probably a good thing. Windows 10 will feature a few incremental improvements to the desktop, but nothing here should get in the way of anything. The most notable improvement is that Metro apps, which previously could be displayed only fullscreen, can now be pushed into resizable windows.

Don't worry; you'll still have the option of never, ever opening these garbage turds as well.

Additionally, Windows 10 will finally introduce the concept of multiple desktops to the great unwashed. A feature on Linux and Apple computers for years, multiple desktops will allow you to keep a number of different virtual desktops with different applications open for different tasks. You could have your financial apps and spreadsheets open on one desktop, web browsing on another, and your collection of desktop strippers on a third. Excitingly, Windows 10 will also allow users to select their own wallpapers again, a marked change from the Windows 9 experience, with its unending slideshow of depictions of human suffering.

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Internet Explorer Is Finally Dead


Although Internet Explorer's functionality and user experience have reportedly improved substantially since the plague-filled days of IE 6, no one knows for sure, because no one has actually used it in 10 years.

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Except your mom.

Microsoft is hoping to change that attitude with their new browser, Edge, which had previously been called Project Spartan.

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"Is there seriously only the one thing?"

At the very minimum it will be a different type of terrible than Internet Explorer. And possibly even better: With its entirely new rendering engine, Edge promises to let you download other browsers even faster than before. Another feature Microsoft has been trumpeting heavily is its ability to annotate and share websites, which surely someone, somewhere has been clamoring for.

But if this sounds kind of familiar, there's a reason. This isn't the first replacement for Internet Explorer, Microsoft having introduced Project Red Rum in Windows 9. Although few records survive from this time (known as the Harrowing), it appears that Red Rum used the browsing habits of its users against them, flooding them with targeted advertisements and powerful electromagnetic waves that wreaked havoc with not only our minds but all the world's IT infrastructure. For example, although I have distinct, clear memories of the year 2017, today all the calendars read 2015. Did the world lose two years? What has Microsoft wrought?

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I had a family once, I'm sure of it. And yet they no longer appear in any pictures.

Inescapable Children's Songs

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The most polarizing feature of Windows 10 will almost certainly be its soundtrack, an unceasing medley of children singing playground songs, as if from a great distance. The music comes from no speakers, headphones, or other equipment, and even lingers for several seconds after the computer is shut off. Experts suggest that these songs are an echo of another plane of reality, a beautiful place now lost to us. We now live in an abomination, these experts report, a perverted realm filled with vicious murder and touch-centric interfaces.

"... ing a.ound the osy ... a ocket ull of osy ..."

More troubling is that, even in preview builds, it appears that there is no possibility of uninstalling Windows 10 and trying to recover the innocence we've now lost. When I asked a Microsoft rep if this was an oversight or deliberate design choice, her head exploded into a cloud of spiders, so your guess is as good as mine.

Windows 10 is available for download on July 29.

Chris Bucholz is a Cracked columnist and the last sane man on Earth. His first novel, Severance, is incredible and available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Apex Books. Join him on Facebook or Twitter.

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For more from Bucholz, check out 21 Warning Signs Of Your Imminent Death and 5 Pros And Cons Of Leaving Your Child In The Wilderness.

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