A moving experience

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With Microsoft recently making Windows 10 a ‘recommended’ update for Windows 7 and 8, Rob Jamieson shares his experiences of moving to the free operating system

SolidWorks 2016
features scalable icons, which is great for 4K displays

One of the downsides of being in tech is that once your friends cotton on to this, there’ll be an endless stream of support questions. Forget politics and religion; in the Jamieson household, dinner party conversations soon lead to the serious topic of IT.

Recently, I found myself talking to a friend who had upgraded her laptop to Windows 10 but found it was now running really slow. Like so many Windows 10 users before her (200 million and counting), she’d been enticed by the free upgrade to Microsoft’s new operating system. Of course, I said I’d take a look.

The machine was a reasonable spec from a few years back, but it only had 4GB of memory and a spinning hard disk. The migration from Windows 8.1 had done a good job of moving over her software, but it was so jammed full of applications on startup that it was taking ages to boot (in Windows 10, you can look at this in task manager which is really cool!) I fixed another software issue she was having by reinstalling an application, but when I checked online, the laptop manufacturer stated it did not support Windows 10 on her machine. Gulp.

Digging into things further, I found there was limited support for storage device drivers as the native ones from Microsoft are a little slower. If the manufacturer had supported Windows 10, I presume it would provide these. I didn’t have enough time to see if I could find one that worked, but I imagine this could speed things up a bit.


I also did a BIOS update that had fixes for Windows 8.1 that helped with the ‘suspend and resume’ on Windows 10. On the whole, she was pretty pleased with my efforts.

A home PC that runs slow may be a source of frustration, but for professional CAD users, this could have serious repercussions for your business. So, before you succumb to the lure of the ‘free upgrade’ (which, incidentally, is due to end in July 2016), it pays to do a little homework.

The obvious first step is to check if your workstation or laptop manufacturer supports Windows 10, or that you can get the necessary drivers (and then download these in advance.)

You also need to check if your CAD software developer supports Windows 10. You earn a living out of making the software work for you, so make sure everything you use is supported and that you have the necessary service packs.

Don’t aim for the minimum spec. Make sure you have enough memory and, preferably, an SSD. You’ll need both to get the most out of Windows 10. Once you’ve ticked those boxes, then I’d strongly recommend a clean install.

While a Windows 7 or 8 to Windows 10 upgrade is incredibly easy, it probably won’t save you time in the long run. Moving to a new operating system is a great opportunity to wipe the slate clean and get rid of applications you don’t really need. Clean installs of Windows always run faster.

In order to do a clean install and still get the free update, you used to have to go through the upgrade process first. I did this on another system and could tell immediately on bootup it was a lot faster than the updated version. I have since heard that it’s possible to use a licence key directly from any eligible copy of Windows 7 or Windows 8 (Home or Professional editions), but have not tried this yet.

Of course, you also need to ask yourself what exactly you’ll get from the upgrade. For CAD, which relies on pinpoint accuracy, one of the most interesting features is how Windows 10 works with 4K displays. For many people, 4K just means a very high-res display with very small icons. Windows 10 handles this better, but you’ll need the CAD software to catch up.

The good news is that Windows 10 will be the catalyst for this. SolidWorks 2016, for example, has icons that scale with resolution, others will follow.

For day-to-day use, I like that you can right click on the start menu and get straight to advanced tasks without having to go through the ‘right click, click, click’ process required to find something in Windows 7. I’m even getting used to using the touch capabilities, but Windows 10 is also more mouse-friendly than Windows 8.

Of course, Windows 10 has higher hardware requirements to run DX12 or the newer 3D graphics APIs, which is important for 3D design and good news for graphics card manufacturers! I’m not saying it has big overheads, but you do really need something decent and an SSD or hybrid SSD/Hard Drive to get the most from it.

So what’s the verdict? In short, I like Windows 10. I have it running on a touchscreen laptop that’s become my preferred machine for web browsing and research. For CAD, though, I’m still on Windows 7.

As for the dinner party small talk, I actually don’t mind helping out my friends with their IT issues. I’m just glad I’m not a doctor. The consequences of getting things wrong (which I have done) would be rather more serious.
Rob Jamieson is industry alliance manager for workstation graphics at AMD. He used to be a regular DEVELOP3D contributor, but becoming a father and a spate of dinner parties have kept him rather busy. The opinions expressed in this article are not those of AMD.

Rob Jamieson shares his experiences of moving to Windows 10 for CAD

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