Like a new scientific principle, the Windows 10 Experience Variable is a subject that is hard to identify the causal factors behind it.
As I have watched the progress of Windows 10 on the desktop and on mobile over the last 11 months it is amazing to see the breadth of experiences from users who are running the same build of the operating system and apps.
Some users report solid performance and very few issues while others feel forced to revert to their previous version of the OS in order to gain back core functionality. On the mobile side there are users who are on the same build, same hardware and same firmware yet they have widely different experiences. Windows 10 Mobile is still pre-release software so I am not going to include it under the Windows 10 Experience Variable right now. For desktop users it gets even more convoluted because of the wide range of hardware out there but that version of the OS has been released so it is no longer labelled pre-release.
Now as I look at the Windows 10 Experience Variable I am not talking about features that we wish were in Windows 10. This is more about the basic operating system and app performance.
Lately, I have been asking myself why there is such a wide disparity in these experiences.
This article is an attempt to lay out what might be behind it but let me say this ahead of time – it is a very hard thing to nail down and it could feasibly be a combination of any of these factors.
As I mentioned earlier, this applies to desktop/tablet hardware and is the biggest variable for end users of Windows 10. Last month, when Microsoft announced their latest official momentum numbers, they indicated there were 90,000 different PC/tablet models that had upgraded to Windows 10 in the first 30 days. That number alone validates the hardware aspect of the Windows 10 Experience Variable.
Drivers then become the second aspect of this element of the Windows 10 Experience Variable because it is a strong possibility that with all those configurations there are also multiple driver options. Some drivers will be included in the box with Windows 10 and are typically generic in nature to provide basic functionality. Other manufacturers will host and update their own batch of drivers even if generic ones are available from Windows Update. This introduces another variation that is possible for users on the same hardware/systems from OEMs.
Some OEMs like HP have made a concerted effort to only provide their Windows 10 drivers through Windows Update in order to streamline their availability. As a side effect it reduces the variation in the drivers which can be accessed and installed by end users and this is a good thing to reduce the effect of the Windows 10 Experience Variable.
This is probably the most controversial aspect of the Windows 10 Experience Variable because it is also very personal. Some users understand their limitations when it comes to maintaining their systems and others just dive in no matter their skill or knowledge level.
The range of Windows users run the gamut from those who turn on their devices and expect them to work just like an appliance and then there are the enthusiasts and IT Pros who incessantly tweak system settings, startup apps and other aspects of their OS to maximize performance.
Windows 10 introduced mandatory updates which should help those everyday users maintain consistent performance but we have all read about the patch related issues that have occurred in the past so that can impact those user’s performance and experience.
Of course, tweaking your system and making to changes to default settings is not an automatic recipe for device/OS issues but it needs to be well managed and documented. That way if an issue occurs after a change it can be reversed and return the system to its previous state.
We have offered several registry tweaks here on the site and have had readers report back to us that they were missing those same registry entries on their Windows 10 systems.
Other users have very different experiences using the same integrated apps that are provided on all Windows 10 system installs such as the Mail app. For some they are running great and work without concern while other users have seen email accounts missing after a reboot or inconsistent email receipt and delivery.
Windows Store has also resulted in a wide variety of experiences for users. These issues include failed, slow or repetitively offered updates and random crashes when opening some apps and the Store itself.
What causes the corruption in the first place? Connectivity, hardware and read/write errors are likely behind these but in an upgrade scenario data is also imported during the process and could introduce a lot of variation in what one system has compared to another based on the previous OS.
Although I was having some fun in coining the phrase the Windows 10 Experience Variable and referring to it like a scientific term – there is nothing scientific about the variation in the experiences we are seeing users have. There is no one easy way to diagnose what causes problems for one user and not another.
That in turn means that the range of fixes that are out there to be found in search engines will result in varying results for users because of the Windows 10 Experience Variables mentioned above. What works for one person might not work for everyone seeing the same issue.
Microsoft banked on the upgrade process to move folks to Windows 10 but I am now finding that my devices, all of which were upgraded then clean installed with Windows 10, are performing well and I am not experiencing issues on those devices.
Did Microsoft push Windows 10 out too early? Based on the wide range of experiences we are seeing on the version of Windows 10 that was released on 29 July it sure seems more like a preview version of the operating system instead of a final release.
The first major update to Windows 10, Threshold 2, is expected later this year and hopefully it will deliver more stability to the OS and help to reduce the impact of the Windows 10 Experience Variable.