As far as I’m concerned, there is almost never a reason to not upgrade Windows. Sure, upgrading is sometimes annoying. There’s always that awkward transition period when you’re trying to figure out where the new things are. Then you get to the point when you start to wonder why someone bothered changing the way something has worked for years. After that – if the upgrade is a decent one – you learn to appreciate the upgrades for what they are and what they bring to the table. It happened with Windows Vista, it happened with Windows 7 and at some point it happened to a lot of Windows 8 users.
If you’re a normal every day user, you should absolutely upgrade to the latest versions of Windows when it is affordable and convenient to do so. By affordable, I mean free. By convenient, I mean easy. Going from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1, for example, is absolutely the right thing to do. That update includes tons of fixes, is free and shouldn’t break anything. Microsoft can, does and will tailor support for machines based on the updates that are installed. It did that with Windows 8, which was why upgrading to Windows 8.1 was important.
That’s the position I made in Don’t Avoid Upgrading from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1. I stand by that idea; and as it was written specifically with the Windows 8.1 upgrade in mind, it’s still true. That being said, There are times when upgrading Windows just isn’t the right move to make.
When You Are Dependent on Hardware
A lot of people make it through the day with just two devices: their smartphone and their Windows PC. These people don’t use a lot of accessories. Specialty hardware isn’t a thing for these people. They don’t have scanners that need specific drivers. They don’t have poster-size printers that they need to worry about. These people should get the latest updates.
Windows users who are dependent on hardware should think before upgrading Windows. Drivers are little bits of code that tell Windows how to interact with hardware. Major Windows upgrades sometimes make changes to driver models. This then requires the hardware maker to upgrade the software they include with their devices. If you’ve ever upgraded a major version of Windows and your printer or scanner suddenly stopped working, this is why. To be clear, this is something you should consider when you’re upgrading from say, Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows Vista to Windows 8. The best thing you can do is to make sure you have the latest drivers before you upgrade. Incremental releases like, Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 shouldn’t give you any issues.
When You Are Dependent on Software
Before you upgrade major versions of Windows, think long and hard about the software you use. Major pieces of every day software – iTunes and Microsoft Office are two examples – are regularly updates and aren’t broken between major releases.
That being said, sometimes there is software that you depend on that may not be compatible with operating system upgrades. For me, this has happened with a few games. Sim City 4 worked fine on older releases of Windows, but is a bit finicky in Windows 8.1. If I’d have known that, I’d have still upgraded to Windows 8, but there are some people who wouldn’t have. Check to make sure that no one is having compatibility issues with the apps you love before you upgrade between any major operating systems. Again, this isn’t for incremental upgrades like Windows 8 to Windows 8.1. Think Windows XP to Windows 8.1 or Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 possibly.
Luckily, this isn’t that hard. The Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant is an app that you download to your PC to check compatibility before upgrading. Microsoft makes a new version of the program every time it releases a major update to Windows. As such, it’s reasonable to expect that there will be one for every major release of Windows in the future. That includes Windows 10.
Read: What is Windows 10
When Your Machine Doesn’t Support It
Finally, you shouldn’t bother trying to upgrade to the latest version of Windows if your device won’t run it well. Again, this is what the Upgrade Assistant apps are for. Installing that and running it on your PC will let you know if upgrading to the next major version of Windows is right for you and your machine. It is worth noting that hardware requires for Windows hasn’t changed significantly since Windows Vista, so chances are that if your machine can run that operating system really well, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10 should do just fine too. Hardware requirements don’t change between incremental Windows updates.
If your PC for some reason doesn’t qualify for an update, it’s almost always a better idea to upgrade your machine than it is to try and upgrade a machine’s internals.
Again, it all comes down to your unique situation. There are times when upgrading to a new major release of Windows is a bad idea. Fortunately, the same isn’t true for small releases and security fixes. Keep your machine updated.