windows 10If you feel competent technically, you can try Windows 10 before it’s in stores. But we found a safe and easy way, using a Mac and the new “Parallels” software. “Parallels Windows Desktop 10 for Mac” creates a virtual Windows environment on your Mac but doesn’t affect anything else on the computer.

That’s important, because if you try to install the Windows 10 Preview version on a Windows machine, Microsoft fills the screen with dire warnings: You could lose all your files, your printer and keyboard may stop working, and your computer could become a doorstop. Windows Desktop 10 for Mac, on the other hand, is free for 14 days and easy to use.

Desktop 10 for Mac was as easy as clicking yes, until we ran out of storage space. Then we had to uninstall a few Mac programs, which involved dragging them to the virtual trash can. (One time we missed and dragged a thousand or more icons onto the screen. It may be better to use “delete” from the file menu.) Once we had Windows 10 installed, we installed the free, which is just like Microsoft Office. Finally, we installed our favorite anti-virus program, Bullguard, though the free Avast is also good.

Here’s why we like Windows 10: You get a better “start” button. The Windows 8.1 “start” gave you a screen full of colorful squares which are hard to read at a glance. In Windows 10, you get an actual list of programs and apps. At the top of the list is “File Explorer.” This makes it easy to find any file on your machine. (In Windows XP, 7, and 8, you can get something similar by right-clicking the start button and choosing File Explorer, Windows Explorer or Explore.)

Windows 10 has a search box next to the start button. We typed “Cortana.” Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s “Siri, a digital assistant that can talk to you when searching for information. Cortana is, let us say, a work in progress. For simple requests, it worked fine. When we asked for “Mexican restaurants,” it knew what city to search in. But if we just said “Mexican food,” as in: we’re thinking of going out for Mexican food, we got recipes. For more complicated questions, it usually asked us to try again later.

Beyond simple searches it can give you reminders, take notes, set alarms and play music. It also makes predictions. We read about a guy who made money letting Cortana predict the results of English soccer games. It also makes predictions for the NFL. If you want Windows Desktop 10 for the Mac after the free trial, it’s $80, or $40 if you are upgrading from an earlier version of Parallels. When it’s finally ready for the PC, it may or may not be free – unknown.

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