Windows 10 Mobile on older hardware: how is it?

When Windows 10 Mobile launched, Microsoft controversially decided not to include support for older Windows Phone devices because of how CPU intensive Windows 10 Mobile was. Throughout the preview program, users using older Windows Phones had constant complaints with slowness, laggyness and general bugs that were not helped by the aging Snapdragon S4 processors.

Microsoft has done a lot to improve overall performance of Windows 10 Mobile with the Anniversary Update however, so we thought it'd be a good idea to force the Anniversary Update onto our "flagship" Windows Phone 8.0 devices (a Lumia 920 and a Samsung ATIV S) and see how Windows 10 Mobile performs.

First and foremost, Microsoft offers no official way of installing the Windows 10 Mobile Anniversary Update on unsupported devices. There is a way of forcing the update, but that requires interop unlocking your device, and several other tweaks and hacks that many of you may not be comfortable performing. XDA Developers have a good tutorial on how to force the update if you're interested, however Windows Central is not responsible for any mishaps you may come across throughout the process. You've been warned.

Let's get the biggest talking point out of the way. Performance is immediately going to be worse than what if was on Windows Phone 8.1. That was the case with every Windows Phone, including those that are supported officially. However, we're pleased to say the experience isn't as bad as it was when the Insider Program concluded with build 10586. That build had many performance issues, which is why it made sense for Microsoft to pull support for WP8.0 devices.

Running build 14393 on a Lumia 920 (925/1010) or Samsung ATIV S is bearable. I wouldn't say amazing, but it's definitely something I would be happy to get by with if it were my only phone. The Lumia 920 doesn't seem to suffer from any driver issues, unlike the ATIV S which will no longer vibrate when pressing keys after being upgraded to Windows 10 Mobile.

Update We've had some reports from a few users using the ATIV S with the Anniversary Update, saying they've experienced far worse driver issues, such as cellular data not working and other issues. Threshold 2 (build 10586) works much better on the ATIV S in this respect. Keep that in mind.

What about on devices with lower end specs, such as the Lumia 820 and 720? I'd not recommend forcing Windows 10 Mobile on these devices. Performance is just about bearable on the Lumia 920 — at its time a powerful flagship Windows Phone — meaning it's significantly worse on lesser hardware. I found that a lot of apps would simply give up trying to load on the Lumia 820, crashing back to the Start Screen more often than not. This isn't an issue I've seen with the Lumia 920.

In regards to the HTX 8X, in theory the device should perform similarly to the Lumia 920, but there are more issues at play when it comes to this device. Drivers are a big issues here, resulting in the 8X simply not booting a lot of the time. So I don't recommend trying to force Windows 10 Mobile onto the HTX 8s or 8X. Microsoft already officially supports the HTC M8 with Windows 10 via the Windows Insider Program, so that device is good to go anyway.

Outside of the performance, there's one thing I'd recommend you keep an eye on, and that's battery life. It's no secret that Windows 10 Mobile is significantly more power hungry than Windows Phone 8.1, meaning even when in sleep, your device is going to drain more battery faster. I noticed battery drain is significant on both the Lumia 920 and Samsung ATIV S, so that's something you should keep in mind if you're looking to force the upgrade.

Other than that, the experience is okay. What's great about forcing Windows 10 Mobile is you get all the latest apps from Microsoft and 3rd party developers, including Instagram, Twitter, Skype Preview, Uber and a whole lot more. A lot of the apps on Windows Phone 8.1 have been abandoned or will be abandoned in due course, so it's nice to have the option of keeping your smartphone up to date for a little while longer. Of course, I wouldn't ever recommend you force an update onto an unsupported device, but the option is there if you're in desperate need for it.

If you are still rocking an older Lumia such as the 920 or Samsung ATIV S, my recommendation would be just get a new phone, even a not-top-end option like the Lumia 550 or 650 which come preloaded with Windows 10. They perform better than the older Snapdragon S4 devices, and will be in support for some time. They're cheap, and a great upgrade option for those of you who can't afford a new flagship from Microsoft.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

211 Comments
  • My lumia 920 with OS build 10.0.14393.576 runs great
  • Wow!!! Flashback Article!.... Remember the days when you would fire up Windows Phone Central, and see a Windows Phone related article??? Well, Thanks, XBOX Central, for the memories💜🌈💜🌈💜🌈💜🌈
  • Bam.
    ROFL.
  • Does take me back to the good ole days.. Sighhhhhh
  • they have to make money somehow.
  • It's not their fault. Windows 10 Mobile really doesn't have anything talk-worthy about it to focus on.
  • How do you upgrade? I want to do it on my L1020.
  • As far as I know, Windows 10 Mobile doesn't support the Lumia 1020's 41 Megapixel camera officially, so I don't recommend upgrading.
  • you can still use LC
  • I upgraded my 1020 earlier this year and it worked pretty well for the most part after the redstone release. Sadly, the one thing that did not work well at all... the camera.  Loading the camera app took slightly longer, and when it did load you could see the screen still working on trying to get ready to take a photo for a second or two more, but processing an actual picture took upwards of 30 seconds (yes, 30!) sometimes.  Most times it would process a photo in like 7 seconds.  The camera on the 1020 was always slow, even on 8.1, but I found it unbearable under Win10 Mobile.  Camera app would crash a lot during photo processing and video start up, too.  Panorama would always crash the app.  Regarding the photos, it would always store only the large version.  Those large files are very hard to share since they are about 5-11MB each.  Couldn't send them through skype on cellular since the skype app would crash, but I could share them, albeit slowly, on wifi.  Zooming in when taking a photo would end up using digital zoom rather than cropping the picture, so you have a 10MB grainy picture, which was never worth it.  That said, I found Win10 Mobile a rather nice experience once redstone was released.  Had it not been for all the issues with the camera, I would've kept using it since the Microsoft apps were getting much better than their 8.1 counterparts.
  • Just use Lumia Camera. Windows Camera doesn't support the 1020.
  • I would if I could install it. It was removed after an upgrade or when I did a reset, and I have not been able to download it ever since.  Says something like this app will not work on my device.
  • Oh I see. So it's better to leave my 1020 on 10586 I think.
  • you have to go the library in your store. then find lumia camera and click on it. if you can install it: great! if not: search for another app (anyone will do). tap 3 times quickly on the install button on this app page and then quickly hit the back button to go back to the lumia camera app page.
    lumia camera will install :)
  • How u can upgrade?
  • Upgrade advisor app
  • Does it still work via the Windows Insider App?
  • No, you have to interlock your device. Search on xda forum and you will find every steps you need to do.
  • They removed support with the Redstone insider builds which actually worked better than threshold. Ugggh.
    Now im happy with a Galaxy s7 edge. The keyboard is still a written in progress for me though .
  • What about performance on a 635 w/ 512 MB RAM? Can you try that out too? I'm hesitant in trying that out myself coz there's no way to go back to even TH2 without hacking again.
  • Probably not a good idea. At least with last officially supported build, apps crash constantly. Even checking out messenger after a reboot with nothing else running would really require multiple attempts. Groove crashed every now and then. Base OS was surprisingly fluid, as was Edge
  • And the battery drains really fast
  • I did this to my sprint Lumia 635 and it worked ok. I didn't try groove but Pandora worked fine. The overall experience was good. I had some apps that would run a little slow or even close on their own but they did that on 8.1 as well. The battery is not as good as it was but that could also just be the wear on the battery itself starting to show. I'm pretty sure you can go back though with the windows device recovery tool. Its been a long time so I'm not 100% sure on that but it would be something to look into. I hope this helps.
  • WDRT will take you back to 8.1, not to W10 TH2.
  • I tried on 520 and it drained the battery very fast as well as it was very slow to launch any app...so back to 8.1, works very well. Using it as MiFi hotspot and music player in my car...works great.... Just for $29.99 it gives much more functionalities...
  • My 520 on 10.586 and back to 8.1 isn't a good experience as the phone regularly freezes with the only option to remove the battery for it to restart.
  • I have that running right next to me. It's a disaster. What's crazy, though, is that the 635 running 8.1 does most things faster than my 950...so...
  • If it wasn't for apps, I'd been running 8.1 now.
  • I'm running Windows 10 on it. Build 10586.
    It's not great - I get some "resuming" and a few apps crash a lot. But basic functions work great. The battery drains quickly which sucks but it makes it through the day. As for Messenger, I recommend you sideload the old 8.1 application instead of the new one, which is completely useless - it doesn't work at all.
  • (Note our company techs have also experimented with WM10 on older devices.) Advice for all still on 10586, if your device has 1GB of RAM, move to 14393. The anniversary build is significantly faster with fewer issues than the 10586 builds on virtually every device we have tested. Stick with the Insider Preview builds of 14393, and do a reset after you get to 14393. The 10586 builds are simply a mess with more driver and functionality issues, and is horribly slow in comparison to 14393. I have even went back to using the Lumia 928 for when I'm in an area with only Verizon, letting other techs/friends have my extra Lumia Icon. (I also still have and HTC One M8, but give it to others I'm with to use in Verizon areas.) So I have been personally daily use testing the 928, and also having faster phones to compare it with, I can say it works really well. I agree with the article that the battery life is not quite as good with WM10, but I would easily argue that WM10 14393 is faster than any version of WP8.1.It is even faster than WP8.1 on the same device, running similar Apps. (Including running Facebook Messenger just fine.) The speed of Edge is surprisingly fast on 14393 on the Lumia 928. We have done some testing, and it on average beats a Samsung S6 Edge in normal use.(Almost shocking as the hardware is several generations behind the S6.) In benchmarks, it even beats the S6 and the S7 on some of the heavier graphical tests, showing how well Edge does. The HTC One M8 and Lumia Icon with 14393, which are a bit closer to the S7, are able to beat the S7 on almost every browser graphical test we threw at it, and both were faster in general browsing tests. (These are not just 'benchmarks' these are also real people usability tests navigation and using several popular sites in Mobile and Desktop modes.) Microsoft did a lot of low level performance and stability improvements with the Anniversary builds of Windows 10, especially with the UWP framework. These improvements can also be seen outside of WM10, as Atom Z37xx and X5 devices running full Windows 10 also run much faster on the anniversary 14393 builds. (Seeing a UWP App crash or close is fairly rare unless there is a major issue on 14393, while UWP crashes still happen on 10586 on both the PC and WM.) PS There are only two issues with the Lumia 928 on WM10 14393. (The same is true of most 920/925 models.) 1) The manual brightness only can be set to High or Automatic. Automatic still works fine, which is the better option as it can go 'brighter' and 'lower' than the manual settings, as is true of all WP devices. (This side note is also why you will see some WP reviews that don't give the Lumia 950XL a high brightness rating, even though it was the brightest phone ever produced when it was released. The reviewers only set the brightness to high. However, Automatic pushes 20-30% brighter than the 'High' setting, especially in bright conditions like sunlight.) 2) The Mobile Hotspot will disconnect when the screen turns off. The fix for this is to remove any 'saved' Access Points in the WiFi settings. (Weird bug, and weird fix.) I don't use the device very often with WiFi, so this is not an issue for me, as I just delete the stored WiFi points after I turn off Wifi or when I need to use the Hotspot feature. You can also set the phone screen to never timeout, and put up a Black picture so you don't burn in the screen (This consumes a bit more battery, but might be a simpler solution for people that have a lot of stored WiFi points.) Final Note to all: For how to get to WM10 or WM10 14393, do a few Bing searches that will lead you to a few simple tools on XDA, that not only make the transition seamless, but also offer additional tweaks and features that you can turn on as it gives you 'root' access to the device, and thus the registry and the ability to do more advanced stuff. There are also a LOT of advantages of running the WM10, specifically 14393 over WP8.x. These include the unified messaging features, and SMS desktop integration, and access to the surge of UWP Apps for Windows 10 in the past six months that also run on WM10. There are also a lot of other cool things I'm not thinking of since I haven't used WP8.x daily for almost a year now. (Thanks for letting me jump in here with a reply to you that is also for everyone reading through the comments.)
  • I have the latest Anniversary update on my 635, works great! and it is possible to reset using the windows recovery tool...
  • Don't do it! I upgraded my 630 512MB to 10.0.10586.494 and Apps and camera crash all the time. I can no longer run Facebook or even Messenger. There's a reason Microsoft did a Uturn and wouldn't support 512MB. Its a shame that they cheapend out when they made this phone by not including 1GB RAM.
  • Facebook and Messenger crashes half the times even on my 830, so that's not a big surprise
  • They raised the minimum specs to 2 GB of RAM which is ridiculous. It's got to be a mess of code. Really bad.
  • They raised the minimum specs to 2 GB of RAM which is ridiculous. It's got to be a mess of code. Really bad.
  • I have to agree, the 2GB requirement is just silly for a simple App that runs on a phone. I would guess the conversion tools Facebook picked up and are developing are not great. One thing you can see is the 'redraws' and animation 'redraws' as this is being done in the App's code itself, instead of turning these over to the framework and composer technologies. This is where the features of iOS and Android's frameworks are limiting and it shows. (So instead of using one line of code to resize properly and 'flow' or animation as UWP is designed to handle automatically, Facebook is doing all this in the App's code, because it is necessary on iOS and Android to do this in the App.) The 2GB for Messenger is an excepted trend with regard to bloat and RAM even on mobile devices. Considering there is CAD and rather complex software that can run on Windows with only 2GB of RAM, Facebook should be flat out embarrassed. (This is especially crazy when you consider there are several type of technologies in Windows 10's UWP that allow even a complex software to use RAM and get out of the way.)
  • Are there any good alternatives to the Facebook and Messenger apps other than just going to Facebook from the browser?
  • SlimSocial. Kind of like the browser version, but with some nice plus.
  • What are the pluses? Since it doesn't have notifications, I don't think it's worth getting the app if I get pretty much the same from the browser.
  • Noticed that the Facebook app itselft also now has a minimum spec of 2GB... SMH. And you can't even give it a bad rating in the Store, because "your phone doesn't meet the minimum specification" 
  • they crash about 75% of the time on my 950.
  • tried to launch Messenger, after 5th or 6th crash in a row I just uninstalled it, what a garbage app. Only useful thing was the notification sounds, so I could check my FB on PC, but what's the point then?
  • I'm running it on 635 512mb. Runs actually way better than before. NO crashes and not much shower than my L640xl. I was stunned. Battery was already half dead in the 635 when I shelved it last year, so I cannot attest to how good or bad the power draw is on W10M. The anniversary update really improved the experience.
  • Windows 10 in older mobile concept is totally f**king... I am a windows fan boy yet I am compelled to say... Some will obviously give different excuse but that doesn't matter... Now I am waiting for surface phone (whatever) to see how it performs with snapdragon..but personally I think Intel will be much better (though some issues yet) to maintain the flawless performance in upcoming high end windows mobile....
  • First of all, your phone would last half an hour with an Intel core chip... Second, even if they still made Atom chips I'm quite sure the Snapdragon 835 (or beyond, as mentioned) would eat the 💩 out of the best Atom chip...........It's all about ARM going forward.
  • My Lumia 830 still persists that screen tearing and screen flickering issue on Windows 10 mobile. No hope, that MS will fix it. :)
  • I don't think the 830 was ever all that popular. So I agree with you, not getting my hopes up for a fix. It's still usable, just very frustrating sometimes.
  • I need to figure out what to do about my mothers 1020 though. Upgrading it doesn't sound like a good idea. May be switching her to an iPhone or something eventually.
  • Yeah, do not even think 'bout it. Just switch to any affordable Motorola phone or buy an iPhone.
  • You can send it to me :) That will make a perfect Astro Photography Tool :)
  • My mother *really* did not want to switch from Windows, but her old second-hand 920 was failing. Not really into apps, she loved the way it worked and how she could set up the Start screen with the things she uses and people she contacts most. Now she seems quite happy with the 650 so far. I like my Lumia 950 that keeps the camera button.
  • Had same issue with my 830s screen but was taken aback to find out it also existed on the 650 too and actually was a worse case. Curious how many other handset (640/XL/550/950/XL) incur this same anomaly.
     
  • Well, I do have 830 myself and had the same issue as well before, but for some reason it just stopped some time ago. Are you using Insider Fast/Slow or do you have regular official build? I have latest official one and works well now
  • Regular official build! What's your firmware revision number?
  • ?!
  • FW number?
  • I wouldn't get my hopes up either. They haven't even given the skype app a live tile yet...no message count, just an *, no transparency option....when they want you to use it as your messaging hub for sms and they don't give you basics like that, I wouldn't count on them fixing bugs for older devices. I'm sorry
  • Was just going to ask about the 830. My wife has one, and loves it, but it's still 8.1. She'd like some of the features of 10... but not sure she could handle the glitches.
  • That's a hard one. Your wife will probably not be a fan of those, along with performance and battery life.
  • I used 10M on my 830 for months, in the end its back on 8,1. Its just smoother in every way.
  • Try to find a cheap 650 or 950. I missed out on 650 at MSFT store for mere $120. Gone now. ☹
  • How can i get 14393 on my Lumia 630? Does anyone know?
  • i tried it on my old 630, it bearable except for whatsapp takes 10-15secs to load ....
  • How did u do? Can u plz post a link if u have the instructions?
  • I've upgraded a budget Lumia 535 and 635(1GB) and it works smoothly. Web browsing has improved since the Anniversary Update and its so much better than using Internet Explorer. I wouldn't recommend trying to upgrade a 512mb device.
  • Lumia 638 on 14393.576 is performing good but some bugs are there like screen brightness bug which can be fixed using releasing new firmware. But Microsoft not releasing any new firmware updates to older Lumia devices. We are only getting OS updates..!!
  • Set it to Automatic Brightness then hard reset it, it will come with auto-brightness instead of all low, medium or high no matter which toggle you choose.
  • Thank you for this Zac. I'm glad that you noted the performance and battery life hit because I have experienced that myself. I get why people want to do it, but is it really worth it to try? It seems like we agree on this.
  • The biggest problem I always had when running the Win10 builds on my Lumia 920 was that the wifi hotspot was so unreliable I couldn't take it. I ride a commuter train over an hour each way to work, and use my laptop, so the hotspot is a necessity. Last spring I finally broke down and bought the Lumia 950, and quite happy I did. I still have a pair of Lumia 920s and play with them occasionally, but the 950 with the latest insider build is my daily driver.
  • Does it still get an update?
  • "If you are still rocking an older Lumia such as the 920 or Samsung ATIV S, my recommendation would be just get a new phone, even a not-top-end option like the Lumia 550 or 650 which come preloaded with Windows 10."   Thats very very bad choice. Lumia 920 has much metter display, audio, touch, much better camera, and better graphics chip. I would never change L920 to any low-end phone.  I'm using android now, and iPhone soon, but Lumia 920 is still good, and much better than 650 or 550  
  • Not on W10M, that is. As someone who has tried most of the native W10M phones available stateside, there is a difference in how it runs over older phones like that. Phones like the 1520 are an exception, though.
  • In many ways, the 920 is a better phone, than the 650, but the 650 runs 10 much better than my 920. 
  • "Performance is immediately going to be worse than what if was on Windows Phone 8.1. That was the case with every Windows Phone, including those that are supported officially." Truth. W10M was advertised as being so lightweight that every phone would run it like breeze. My 730 gets stuck in Resuming... loops at least once every couple of days.
    There is literally not a single thing that would count as an "improvement" in performance after the update. UI? Android-y. The hamburger menus and the new list format look like some Android ROM. The smooth, huge font blending as you scroll sideways in 8.1 was iconic. Battery life, worse. App load times, worse. Dial screen, again generic Android. Cortana's orb looks kinda small and cramped. Hell, even the keyboard predictions have gotten dumber (that may be an isolated incident in my case).
  • 730 has best hardware than 650, there are too many app crashes, performance issues in my L730 like you.
  • Nope, you're right about the keyboard. It still needs improving.
  • Agree with everything (same for 640); especially about keyboard. I loved 8.1 keyboard. 10 keyboard is hellish compared to it. I've mentioned this before but no one seemed to have affected by it as much as I am. Before I could type perfectly without even looking and now there's at least one typo every sentence even when I'm paying attention to keyboard.
  • The keyboard issue is one of the most persistent, troubling problems with 10. On 8.x, the typing experience was fantastic. It is wretched on 10.
  • Different device, but my 950 performs better than my 925 did running 8.1.
  • I also noticed the downgrade in keyboard quality. I never made mistakes on any of my win8 phones. Typing errors all the time when I got my 950
  • The keyboard used to learn my own added vocabulary from other languages quite fast but now it even struggles in English prediction. What a slow learner it has become haha
  • Yeah, it's about time they fix it!
  • I personally prefer Windows 3.1. So much better UI. /s
  • For you millennials out there, that was before you were born....
    I miss MS-DOS too. I stuck to it till W98.
  • I miss that UI, Lumia 1520 has almost broken my thumb off trying to reach the hamburgers. Though I'm slowly getting used to long pressing the windows button to minimize the screen.
  • This just reminds me how much I miss WP8.1. I need to get my 920 up and running again. I love that phone.
  • It works very well on my old Lumia 1520 even on Fast Ring builds.
  • My Lumia 1520 works very well too, even thought it gets insanely hot some times, specially with apps like Facebook, Messenger and Instagram..
  • 10 minutes on Facebook is enough for the phone to warm the house. I uninstalled it and now it tells me that my phone does not meet the requirements to use the app (a 1520 does not meet the requirements to use a Facebook app) wonders shall never end in Win10Mob
  • The facebook app on Win10 is a mess nowadays. Really lousy coding IMO. Use "Slim Social" instead.
  • I have been searching for a Facebook client for days now, thank you!
  • You're welcome. Was happy too when I found it :)
  • I'm not the one who likes the kind of web apps necessarily, but I use it from time to time at nights for it's dark mode.
  • Recent build is as smooth as butter in my L730, but lot of app crashes including outlook, contacts. I did soft reset, went back to 8.1 tested it there for few weeks and came back. 8.1 has zero app crashes but 10 has lot of app crashes.
    Everyday i need to do soft reset atleast 3-4 times to run the crashed app....
    When i reset my mobile the battery discharges 10-15%. I thought it is battery problem, did same in 8.1 where it only discharged 2-5%.
    I am trying to find genuine new battery for my Lumia 730, no stock available in the market.
  • I just have to restart my phone two or three times daily 😅...but i am using it as daily driver with other..because my 720 is having great design and camera being old
    #lumia 720
  • Same here, too many app crashes. But OS is very smooth. When u leave a app and try it to resume it, it takes lot of time to recover. In 8.1 it resumes in seconds
  • haha, sure its smooth.. know why? 1. Because you restart it 2 - 3times/day 2. app not working as they should which leads to 1. restarting the device 2 - 3x/day
  • I'm sorry but this sounds very chaotic to deal with and I'm amazed that you do. What is the point of a phone that has to be restarted so much?
  • Well last insider build is quite bad on any device, new or older, does not matter. To get new w10 device, may be for price after big discount. Definitely its not worth now to invest money to top models.
  • I used W10M on L720 for around 8 months until one day when I decided to switch back. Screen would freeze abruptly, internet sharing would stop when screen gets locked, camera was very sluggish and even receiving calls when doing something else on phone was a challenge.
    I was about to buy a new phone but instead I switched to WP8.1 and it has been an awesome experience. WP8.1 is the best OS for Windows smartphone till date. It's lightening fast and I got back all my favourite apps like HERE City Lens and Lumia Creative Studio. I feel as if I could use this device for another couple of years!
  • 8.1 is fast... because it lacks 90% of any modern function. Its like the old Nokia S60 devices
  • I'll take fast and efficient over whatever modern functionality you are referring to. My 920 could do anything my 950 can do. Maybe your demands are greater?
  • Your 950 can do much more than your 920 could. You are obviously the one who keeps it from utilizing its full potential.
  • Such as....
  • Does your 920 have scanners and continuum functionality? Ask meaningful queries.
  • Those are extraneous to phone functionality and are in no way worth the efficiency trade off. I was assuming I was missing out on some basic functions. Texting is better on 8.1 navigating the OS is faster on 8.1. the store works better on 8.1.
    So maybe if I were someone always away from a computer but needing that function it would be great to have continuum or if I needed more security such as an iris scanner then t