On July 29, Microsoft will release its newest operating system, Windows 10 (what happened to Windows 9?). To persuade people to upgrade, Microsoft is offering Windows 10 as a free upgrade if you have a computer running Windows 7 or 8.1. Windows 8.0 users will need to upgrade to 8.1 first, but that's also free.
That free upgrade, plus Windows 10's promised fixes to the problems of Windows 8, has already persuaded some people to take the plunge. But plenty more are wondering if upgrading to Windows 10 is a smart move, and I don't blame them after the disasters of Windows 8 and Vista. Let's take a look at a few scenarios where you should and shouldn't upgrade.
DO upgrade if you hate Windows 8
OK, I know I'm starting this off with a negative one, but there are a lot of people who can't stand Windows 8. From the lack of a Start button to the confusing way apps work, it's a mess.
Windows 10 fixes those problems with the return of the Start button and Start menu. Apps are going to run in "windowed" mode like regular programs. Control options are going to adjust automatically depending if you're on a computer or a tablet. Learn more about Windows 10's features that make it better than Windows 8.
DON'T upgrade if your computer is running Vista
If your computer is running Vista, then it's probably more than 5 years old. While Windows 10 will run faster than Vista on the same hardware, Windows 10 is really designed to take advantage of newer computer parts like motherboards with UEFI and solid-state hard drives.
Also, Vista users don't get the free upgrade, so you'll be spending $100 or so for the Windows 10 upgrade. You're better off putting that money toward buying a new computer.
DO upgrade if you want better performance
Because Windows 8's interface was so off-putting, most people overlooked the fact that under the hood it's actually a fantastic operating system. It's faster, cleaner, more secure and has better support for newer hardware than even Windows 7.
Windows 10 takes that up another level with even more security and performance optimizations, so it should run better than 7 or 8 on whatever computer you put it on. It also has a newer, faster and more secure browser called Microsoft Edge to replace Internet Explorer, and DirectX 12 for a better gaming experience.
DON'T upgrade if you need features Windows 10 doesn't have
Windows 10 has some nice new features, but it's also going to drop some you might consider essential. For example, if your home entertainment uses Microsoft's Media Center program, then you won't want to upgrade. Here are six more features Windows 10 users will have to live without. Most of these features aren't deal-breakers for the average user, but you should know what they are, just in case.
DO upgrade if you're buying a new computer
If your computer is more than 5 years old and you've been thinking about upgrading, you have a choice to make: You can buy one of the few remaining Windows 7 machines on the market; you can grit your teeth and grab one with Windows 8.1 and suffer with it for a few weeks; or you can wait and buy a system with Windows 10 pre-installed.
While Windows 7 is a great operating system, a Windows 7 machine isn't going to have the latest hardware options. Even if you upgrade to Windows 10 later, you won't see all the benefits it can provide.
And you don't want to buy a Windows 8.1 computer and struggle through the interface for a few weeks until Windows 10 arrives with another new interface to learn. Save yourself some hassle and learn just one new operating system at a time.
DON'T upgrade if your computer has old peripherals
Every time Microsoft releases a new version of Windows, a lot of older hardware doesn't make the cut. Older scanners, printers, digital cameras and other add-ons might not get updated drivers.
Thanks to USB connections and universal drivers, this isn't such a worry for anything you bought within the last five years. But if you have something that's 10 years old, then it's a risk. Go online and see if anyone using your model has tried it on newer systems. That can tell you if there's going to be a problem before you upgrade.
This might be a situation where you want to buy a new computer with Windows 10 and keep your old computer around to work with your older hardware. On the other hand, most of the older hardware you have can probably be replaced by new, inexpensive models that work just as well.
One word of caution
I know there are plenty of people who are going to want to upgrade to Windows 10 the second it arrives. But for most computer users, I recommend waiting a few months.
While reports from people in the Windows 10 Preview program are generally positive, there are bound to be some kinks for Microsoft to work out. There are always upgrade problems and features that don't work quite right.
Fortunately, the free upgrade offer is good for a year after Windows 10 comes out. There's time to let Microsoft release some updates and smooth out some wrinkles before you take the plunge.
On the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show, Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.