What Is Windows 10?

The what, when, and why of Microsoft's newest PC operating system

Microsoft's Windows 10 succeeds Windows 8 and is currently the most recent version of Windows available.

It introduces an updated Start Menu, new login methods, a better taskbar, a notification center, support for virtual desktops, the Edge browser, and a host of other usability updates. Cortana, Microsoft's mobile personal assistant, is now part of Windows 10, even on desktop computers.

Windows 10 welcome screen.
© Microsoft

You may have noticed that Microsoft went right from Windows 8 to Windows 10. Curious as to why? See What Happened to Windows 9.

Windows 10 Features

Rather than continuing with the Windows 8-style "tiles" menu, which wasn't well-received, Microsoft has reverted back to a Windows 7-style menu in Windows 10. It does include tiles, but they're smaller and more contained.

Another new feature in Windows 10 is the ability to pin an app to all your virtual desktops. This technique is useful for apps you know you want easy access to in each one.

Windows 10 also makes it simple to quickly see your calendar tasks by just clicking or tapping on the time and date on the taskbar. It's directly integrated with the main Calendar app in Windows 10.

There's also a central notification center in Windows 10, similar to those common on mobile devices and other operating systems like macOS and Ubuntu.

There are tons of apps that support Windows 10. Be sure to check out our list of the best ones we've found.

Windows 10 Release Date

Windows 10 was first released as a preview on October 1, 2014, and the final version was released to the public on July 29, 2015. Windows 10 was famously a free upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8 owners but that only lasted for one year, through July 29, 2016.

Windows 10 Editions

Windows 10 can be purchased directly from Microsoft or via retailers like Amazon.com. Two versions of Windows 10 are available, Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Home.

Several other editions of Windows 10 are also available but not directly to consumers. They include Windows 10 Mobile, Windows 10 Enterprise, Windows 10 Enterprise Mobile, and Windows 10 Education.

Unless otherwise marked, all versions of Windows 10 include both 32-bit and 64-bit editions.

Windows 10 System Requirements

The minimum hardware required to run Windows 10 is similar to what was required for other recent versions of Windows:

  • CPU: 1 GHz with NX, PAE, and SSE2 support (CMPXCHG16b, PrefetchW, and LAHF/SAHF support for 64-bit versions)
  • RAM: 1 GB (2 GB for 64-bit versions)
  • Hard Drive: 16 GB free space (20 GB free for 64-bit versions)
  • Graphics: A GPU that supports at least DirectX 9 with a WDDM driver

If you're upgrading from Windows 7 or Windows 8, make sure to use Windows Update to apply all the updates available for that version before starting the upgrade.