Windows 10 may not reach you on its July 29 launch date

With much riding on the new version of its marquee software, Microsoft opts for caution and says the Windows 10 rollout will come "in waves, slowly."

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
4 min read

Don't wait all day on July 29 for your Windows 10 upgrade. It may not show up. Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Those of you who expect to get Windows 10 at the end of this month may be disappointed.

At the start of June, Microsoft said Windows 10 would officially launch on July 29. But as it turns out, that doesn't mean everyone will get the new operating system on that date.

The first to get the high-stakes update to the company's marquee software will be those who have been helping Microsoft get the kinks out of Windows 10, working through the Windows Insider program that went into effect last October.

"Starting on July 29, we will start rolling out Windows 10 to our Windows Insiders," Terry Myerson, Microsoft's executive vice president of operating systems, said in a blog post published Thursday. "From there, we will start notifying reserved systems in waves, slowly scaling up after July 29th."

Microsoft is counting on the new version of Windows to bring back some of the appeal and audience it lost with Windows 8, which arrived three years ago with much fanfare, only to sputter out of the gate, and ever since, over its unloved design. It was only last month that Windows 8.1, with its modest course corrections, managed to edge ahead of the 13-year-old Windows XP on desktops around the world, according to Web tracker Net Applications. Windows 7 remains the most popular version of the software.

With Windows 10, Microsoft aims to get back on track with the operating system that still powers a majority of personal computers and serves as the backbone of many of the world's businesses. Some of the key changes Microsoft has made range from revamping the Start button to jettisoning the unpopular tablet-focused interface of Windows 8. There's also a new browser, Edge, to replace the decades-old Internet Explorer, as well as a more robust version of Cortana, Microsoft's voice-enabled digital software assistant.

And the ambitions stretch beyond traditional PCs. Microsoft is betting that Windows 10 can weave its influence across all manner of devices, from desktops to tablets, smartphones and even ATMs.

Microsoft is offering Windows 10 as a free upgrade to users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 in hopes of getting it into the hands of as many people as possible. Those people have been able to reserve a copy of Windows 10, but some will have to wait for their reservation to be filled.

"Each day of the rollout, we will listen, learn and update the experience for all Windows 10 users," Myerson said in the blog post. "If you reserved your copy of Windows 10, we will notify you once our compatibility work confirms you will have a great experience, and Windows 10 has been downloaded on your system."

It seems, then, that Microsoft is hoping to continue fine-tuning Windows 10 as it gets out to the wider world, sticking initially to the safer embrace of the Windows Insiders who have been combing through and helping to spruce up each new test version.

Just how far past July 29 will the rollout run? Days? Weeks? Myerson didn't point to any specific timeline, and Microsoft didn't respond to a request for comment.

Those who have to wait indefinitely to get Windows 10 may not be thrilled if they were hoping to have it by July 29. It's kind of like not being able to open a Christmas present until after Christmas. But Microsoft's cautious approach may end up serving the company well.

Despite all the internal and external testing that's been done on Windows 10, the new operating system is still just that -- new. And though Myerson said that Microsoft has seen "full compatibility today with the vast majority of Windows 8x and Windows 7x systems," there are still likely to be glitches and incompatibilities with some systems out there. Doing the rollout in stages gives Microsoft time to resolve those issues so the versions of Windows 10 launched after July 29 are more rock-solid.

Further, Microsoft knows that trying to download Windows 10 on July 29 to everyone who wants it would be difficult. Such an effort would certainly put a strain on the company's back-end systems to try to keep up with the heavy load. Pushing out the software in stages ensures that the downloads go more quickly and smoothly.

And what about hardware vendors aiming to introduce new PCs and tablets with Windows 10?

Myerson said Microsoft will soon deliver a build of Windows 10 to its hardware partners so they can start installing the operating system on their devices. Soon after that, Microsoft will distribute a build of Windows 10 to retailers so they can help consumers who may only just have gotten around to using Windows 8.1 upgrade to Windows 10.

So though you may have to wait beyond July 29 to get your copy of Windows 10, Microsoft's staged rollout aims to ensure that the copy you install is as stable and as compatible as possible.

"We've been really pleased with the strong response to Windows 10 since we kicked off reservations in early June, with millions of reservations," Myerson said. "We want to make sure all of you have a great upgrade experience, so we'll roll out Windows 10 in phases to help manage the demand."