It wasn’t because Windows 7 ate 9 that Windows 10 was given its name, it was because this next version of Windows is no mere incremental upgrade, but an OS that Microsoft hopes will usher in a new era of computing. For the first time, Windows 10 will run on multiple devices of different form factors, and to make that happen, Microsoft needed to make Windows 10 as compact as possible, leaving a minimal storage footprint on the devices it runs on.
By the time Windows 10 is ready, Microsoft would have made numerous improvements to the way the OS reduces its storage footprint, and one of the most common methods of doing so is by compression. Windows 10 will use a new compression algorithm to compress its system files once installed. This would result in freeing up about 1.5GB of storage space on 32-bit systems and up to 2.6GB on 64-bit machines. Windows 10 for phones will also utilize the same compression algorithm, and given current storage capacities on phones, the storage savings should be more noticeable and appreciated. This compression will also extend to apps installed from the Windows Store.
However, Windows 10 will only compress files if the OS determines that the device it's running on is capable of staying responsive when compressing and decompressing them. Should the device not have enough RAM or CPU power to run the decompression algorithm without slowing the device to a crawl, then the OS will not compress files to begin with. Because of the large diversity of Windows devices out there today, Windows 10 will run a compression “suitability assessment” during the upgrade path.
Another method of freeing up storage space is reassessing how the Windows Refresh and Reset functions work. Currently, those functions require a separate recovery image to read from. These recovery images are usually preinstalled by OEMs and can take up to 12GB of storage space. On Windows 10, a separate recovery image will not be needed as the Refresh/Reset functions will instead rebuild Windows 10 using runtime system files. You will still be able to use recovery images to restore the OS and preinstalled drivers and software should you decide to do so.
Microsoft regards Windows 10’s compactness as an evolution of its Windows Image Boot (WIMBOOT) technology. Introduced as part of the Windows 8.1 Update, WIMBOOT allowed for devices with small storage capacity (think devices with 16GB eMMC storage) to run the full Windows 8.1 OS with plenty of room to spare for to apps and content. However, upgrading from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 is still a challenge that Microsoft needs to address as the upgrade process will require the Windows 8.1 OS, the download image, and the Windows 10 OS. All three are necessary should something unexpected happen during the process and a rollback is needed.
There’s still a lot of work left to be done with Windows 10, and while we may agree and disagree about how beautiful/ugly the icons are, we can at least accept that more storage space and a smaller footprint will benefit everyone.