If you like the idea of trying out the next version of Windows before it is officially launched, Microsoft has made the Windows 10 Technical Preview available for everyone to use. There are various ways to get the preview installed on your computer, but since the release of build 9926, it is possible to upgrade your current Windows 7 or Windows 8 installation to Windows 10 using Windows Update.
This is a much simpler option than downloading the ISO image, but it is an upgrade route that almost encourages people to install the preview build on their everyday computer -- don’t forget that this is not a finished product! We've already looked at how to install Windows 10 in a virtual machine, but if you have a spare machine running Windows 7 or 8, using it as a test bed for Windows 10 just got a whole lot easier.
Earlier in the week, Google managed to raise the ire of Microsoft by publishing details of a vulnerability in Windows before a patch had been published. Now the same thing has happened again, but this time it's a double whammy. Google Security Research has revealed two more security holes that Microsoft is yet to fix.
Just as was the case a few days ago, Microsoft had been warned about the security problems and Google agreed to keep details private for a period of 90 days. Now the three months is up, details of the security issues have been automatically published, running the risk that users could be targeted.
Windows 7 is by far and away the most popular operating system, and likely to remain so for many years to come. Windows 8.1 did nothing to dent the older OS’s popularity -- in fact, it helped propel it to even greater heights -- and Windows 10 will have its work cut out to unseat Windows 7 from the top of the pile.
Every Microsoft operating system comes with five years of mainstream support in which the software giant provides security and non-security updates and complimentary online and telephone support, and today, Windows 7 Service Pack 1’s mainstream support comes to an end. So what does that mean for the legions of Windows 7 users?
Last month Windows 8.x's usage share did something very surprising -- it went up. Massively, according to figures from web analytics firm NetMarketShare. The tiled OS had been losing share for months, but in October it suddenly took off like a rocket, packing on 4.54 percentage points share in a single month, mostly at the expense of Windows XP.
It wouldn’t have been a total surprise to see Windows 8.x's growth stop, or go back into reverse gear in November, but actually, both Windows 8 and 8.1 showed positive gains once again.
Hands up if you saw that coming? We’ve been so used to Windows 8 and 8.1 losing usage share month on month, that any kind of move in the right direction -- i.e. growth -- seems almost an anomaly. And when Windows 8.x does gain usage share, it’s usually pretty minimal.
Not in October. According to the latest usage share figures from web analytics firm NetMarketShare, Windows 8 use grew in that month, and Windows 8.1 (finally) took off like a rocket. In fact, Windows 8.1’s growth in that month is so impressive you’ve got to imagine the number crunchers at NetMarketShare spent a long time checking and re-checking their findings to make sure there wasn’t a mistake at their end.
Windows 10 really can’t come soon enough for Microsoft as its predecessor is continuing to tank. In August the tiled OS actually gained usage share -- according to web analytics firm NetMarketShare -- which was unusual as 8.x had lost users in the previous two months. But any suggestions of a recovery are swiftly crushed looking at September’s figures. Both Windows 8 and 8.x lost a load of usage share last month, while Windows 7 reached an all-time high. It’s Windows 7 users Microsoft really needs to be aiming for with Windows 10 (and if it can tempt XP users too, so much the better). In August, Windows 8 managed a 6.28 percent share of the desktop operating system market, but lost 0.69 percent in September. Windows 8.1, an OS which really should be growing, went from an all-time high of 7.09 percent to 6.67 percent, a drop of 0.42 percent. In total, Windows 8.x lost 1.11 percent share. Windows 7 on the other hand went from 51.21 percent in August to 52.71 percent in September, a gain of 1.5 percent. That’s its highest point ever. Windows XP, which should be losing share, dropped just 0.02 percent, going from 23.89 percent to 23.87 percent. So September was another dreadful month for Windows 8.x. It’s no wonder Microsoft decided to skip ahead to Windows 10 in an attempt to really distance its future OS from the current one.
Most of us have hopefully managed to get off the sinking ship that was Windows XP. As much of a recent memory as that has become, a new end of life is rearing its head, and it's approaching fervently for those who haven't started planning for it. Microsoft's Windows Server 2003, a solid server operating system that's now about eleven and a half years old, is heading for complete extinction in just under 300 days. Microsoft has a fashionable countdown timer already ticking.
Seeing as we just finished our second server migration in a single week (a personal record so far), sharing some of the finer aspects of how we are streamlining these transitions seems like a timely fit. This braindump of sorts is a collection of best practices that we are routinely following for our own customers, and they seem to be serving us well so far.
A couple of weeks ago it looked as though Microsoft was lifting the 2GB file size limit for OneDrive users. Although no announcement was made, some users of the cloud storage service found that they were able to sync files larger than 2GB. Now, the increase in supported file size is official. OneDrive users can now upload files up to 10GB in size, bringing Microsoft's service in line with Dropbox and Google Drive. This is the latest example of Microsoft responding directly to user feedback, specifically a UserVoice thread in which users called for the 2GB file size limit to be banished.
Today Jason Moore, Group Program Manager of OneDrive, responded to the demands with a simple message: "We're proud to announce OneDrive now supports up to 10 GB files". While this is not quite the unlimited file size some people were looking for, it is a big improvement and something that will be widely welcomed. Considering the free version of OneDrive offers 15GB of storage, it is now possible to fill up your account with just two files. If you're an Office 365 customer with access to 1TB of space, you'll need to upload at least 100 files.
Although Windows XP’s end of life date was set in 2007, many firms failed to completely remove all trace of the aging OS by the time the deadline arrived. In fact, it’s claimed that around 53 percent of businesses still have XP running somewhere in their organizations.
End of support for Windows 7 is set for January 2020 (some way off still, and Microsoft may push it back further), but Gartner says firms need to start planning for it now if they want to avoid finding themselves in a similar situation as many did with XP.
Windows 9 can’t come soon enough for Microsoft, as Windows 8.x continues to lose market share, according to the latest usage data from Net Applications.
Last month I reported that in June Windows 8.x had gone into reverse gear, losing market share for the first time, and posed this question -- "Statistical anomaly or downward trend?" It’s too early to call it a "trend" but anyone who expected the tiled OS to make a recovery in July will be disappointed by the latest set of figures. There’s a striking difference this time around too -- both Windows 8 and 8.1 show drops in July. Ouch.
I’ll be honest, although Windows 8.x losing market share is a shocking state of affairs -- and a new low for an operating system which has struggled since launch -- it’s something that’s been coming for a while. Windows 8 has been dropping share since Windows 8.1 arrived, and Windows 8.1 has been growing at such a glacial pace it was only a matter of time before the losses outweighed the gains, and that’s exactly what happened in June according to NetMarketShare.
In a month where Windows 7 and Windows XP -- the OS that refuses to die -- both gained market share, "new Windows" shifted into reverse gear and began shedding users.
Around 50 percent of PC users are on Windows 7, while just 12 percent are running Windows 8.x, yet Microsoft is leaving the more popular OS vulnerable to zero day attacks by choosing to only patch the newest Windows version. That’s the findings of two security researchers who built a tool to compare 900 libraries in Windows 8 with their Windows 7 counterparts.
"If Microsoft added a safe function in Windows 8, why does it not exist in Windows 7? The answer is simple, it’s money -- Microsoft does not want to waste development time on older operating systems. They want people to move to higher operating systems," security researcher Moti Joseph claimed in a presentation at the Troopers14 conference in Heidelberg, Germany.
Windows XP users might be able to (sort of) cheat the aging operating system’s end of life, but ultimately the only real way to stay safe is, as Microsoft says, by upgrading to a newer, more modern version of Windows. NetMarketShare’s monthly snapshot of the desktop OS share trend shows users are continuing to slowly migrate away from XP. The OS’s share dropped 1.02 percent from 26.29 percent in April to 25.27 percent in May.
So the question is, where are XP users moving to? I think you probably know the answer to that by now.
Once a month I report on the desktop operating system market share using data from NetMarketShare. The changes in fortune between the different flavors of Windows is usually fairly minimal -- a percentage point gained here, a percentage point lost there. And usually the rise or fall is a lot less than one percent, although as a month is quite a small time scale to measure market share changes over, and we’re talking about millions and millions of Windows users, that’s to be expected.
I decided, out of curiosity, to take a look at what a year’s worth of market share variations would look like, using StatCounter’s Global Stats, and the results were less than thrilling, with the different operating systems showing very little change. In May 2013, Windows 7 had 56.27 percent. 12 months later it is on 55.03 percent. A drop of just 1.24 percent. Windows XP fell 6.73 percent, while Windows 8.x grew 8.16 percent. The pattern is clear -- Windows 8.x sales look to be coming from upgrades (mainly XP) but people are mostly sticking with their older operating systems. Open up the time scale however, and a more dramatic -- and damning -- picture emerges.
I say "shocker", but with all the cards stacked in its favor -- XP users forced to look for a new OS, Windows 7 being pretty hard to get hold of, and an update designed to make Windows 8.1 more appealing to keyboard and mouse users -- if Windows 8.1 hadn’t grown market share in April then it would have been pretty much game over for the tiled OS.
Even with all that in its favor, according to NetMarketShare’s monthly Desktop OS sampling, Windows 8.x still had some stiff competition from Windows 7 which also packed on market share, taking the shine off the new OS’s achievements.