I’ve been running Windows 10 since the launch of the Windows Insider Program and it certainly has changed a lot since launch. Microsoft has had millions of testers on the operating system and they have adjusted the product based on direct feedback from users. If you are an IT pro or a developer and you have been waiting to try Windows 10, now just may be the time for you. The product is available now, and upgrades from Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 are free for many users!
What does the release really mean though? Gone are the days of Microsoft just releasing ISOs and that’s what you are stuck with for a year or two. The concept of a service pack is effectively gone in Windows 10. Instead, Microsoft has replaced it with Servicing Branches. Gone are the days of receiving big updates in bulk once a year. Windows 10 will receive small updates on a regular cadence just like you have come to expect in Office 365. For those of you cautious IT implementers that like to wait; there’s no point. It is time for you stop living in the 90s.
That’s not to say that as an IT organization you can’t control when new Windows 10 features or patches are applied to your desktop. With the Current Branch for Business, you can delay updates as they roll out, but not forever. Microsoft hasn’t stated how long they will allow you to delay, but it does give you some control of the process using Windows Update for Business or System Center Configuration Manager. With the Long Term Servicing Branch, only available for Windows 10 Enterprise, you can delay updates even longer. However, using this could result in your version of Windows 10 looking very different from the consumer version. Eventually your users are going to ask why the experience is different between home and work.
Am I ready?
Am I hinting that you should actually install Windows 10 on your day-to-day device? Yes. If you are an IT administrator or a developer that can handle installing an operating system, then it’s time. A lot of you have multiple devices. If you don’t have time to dedicate to it and try out how the operating system really works in your day-to-day life, then what’s the point? Try it on another device first if you must, but consider installing it on your primary device. I’ve been running off preview releases of operating systems for years and I have managed to escape mostly unscathed.
The installation is relatively quick and you can leave your existing programs and files in tact most of the time. Now before you go and blow up your laptop and then blame me, consider the following questions:
- Have you backed up all of your critical files?
- I keep everything in OneDrive so this was really a non-issue for me.
- Can you reinstall programs if necessary? Do you have the license keys, install files, etc.?
- This shouldn’t be necessary but you never know.
- Do you have time in your day to install the operating system?
- If you are in the middle of a critical phase of a project, now may not be the time.
- Can you tolerate a bug or two?
- While the OS is nearing completion, you still might run into an issue or two.
- Are you dependent on third-party VPN software?
- VPN software is notoriously bad with any new OS release. I have had some success with Cisco AnyConnect and Juniper in Windows 10.
- Are you comfortable reinstalling your previous operating system if necessary?
If you answered yes to the above questions, then you may be ready. If you have a bunch of custom and third-party Windows applications in your organization, you may be a bit wary. Now is the time to test them.
[Editor's note: Windows 10 is now available. If you use Windows 7 or Windows 8, you'll see a prompt on your desktop to take advantage of the free download. We're leaving the rest of this article in Corey's original text.]
Once you decide you want to try out Windows 10, the first step is to join the millions already in the Windows Insider Program. This gives you access to the latest preview build of Windows 10. For the overly cautious, you might think that you should install Windows 10 on a virtual machine. Windows 10 will work well there and this can certainly be a decent way for a developer to start writing code for the platform. However, if you have a device with a touch screen, you won’t be able to experience all Windows 10 has to offer. For example, you’ll have no way to truly experience tablet mode to see how a hybrid device like the Surface Pro 3 transitions from a laptop to a tablet.
Microsoft releases Windows 10 builds in two rings that they call fast and slow. The fast ring has the latest and greatest features as they come out but comes with the chance that things may be less stable. The slow ring has been tested more but doesn’t have the latest changes. If you have never installed Windows 10 before, you will get the latest slow ring build first (10162) which came out last week. By the time you read this, though, there likely could be another build or two.
If you have never installed Windows 10 before, you need to join the Windows Insider Program. Joining is quick and easy. Once you join, you can download the installer to get started upgrading your Windows 8.1, Windows 8, or Windows 7 PC. You should be able to upgrade and your programs and files should be in tact after the upgrade. As always, backup your files before proceeding. Read the Before you install post as well so you know exactly what to expect.
Try it out!
Not sure where to start? Check out the What's new app that comes with Windows 10. The app walks you through all of the new things in Windows 10. You can find it on the start menu under All apps.
After you get familiar with some of the new changes, take time to try some of your old apps and see how they work. In my experience, most apps tend to work just fine.
Whether you are a developer or an IT pro, you are going to want to try out Microsoft Edge. Microsoft Edge is the new default web browser in Windows 10. The browser is truly built for the modern web so if you have dated line-of-business applications, you want to verify compatibility. If there are compatibility issues though, you still have the option of using Internet Explorer 11. I suspect a lot of enterprises will go this route for a while, which is a bit disappointing because there are some nice features in Microsoft Edge. If your organization has applications that will only run on Internet Explorer 8, it is time to update them.
To read more about new features in Microsoft Edge such as Web Notes and Reading view, be sure and check out my deep-dive article.
Office Mobile Preview for Windows 10
You’ll want to be sure and check out the Office Mobile Preview for Windows 10. This includes touch-friendly versions of Word Mobile, Excel Mobile, PowerPoint Mobile and OneNote. While these apps won’t replace traditional desktop use, they provide a great experience when using a Windows 10 device in Tablet mode.
Developers, start writing code
Microsoft has high hopes that developers will embrace Windows 10 and start building apps for it. The Universal Windows platform gives developers the ability to use a single Visual Studio project to deploy against Windows 10 on desktops and tablets as well as Windows Phone. Later that support will expand to include Xbox One. For a game developer, I have to think this would be appealing. To get started you will need Visual Studio 2015 RC as well as the Windows 10 Developer Tools.
If you have interest in the Internet of Things (IoT) and you want to develop on devices like the Raspberry Pi 2, you should look at the Dev Center for Windows IoT. There are many great samples there and it makes it easy to deploy your code from a Windows 10 laptop to a Raspberry Pi 2.
If you are looking for some in-depth training for developing on Windows 10, be sure and head to Microsoft Virtual Academy and check out the course, A Developer’s Guide to Windows 10.
Training for IT pros
Microsoft is already producing documentation and training courses on Microsoft Virtual Academy. IT professionals will want to check out the Getting Started with Windows 10 course.
Just because Microsoft will release Windows 10 on July 29, 2015, that date doesn’t mean Windows 10 is done. The Windows team is going to continue to listen to feedback and make updates to the product. Use the Windows Feedback app to submit your ideas and feedback. You can find the app in your Start menu.
This release of Windows is different. It’s the last one. With Microsoft giving away free upgrades to users of Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, we can expect adoption to be higher than in the past among consumers. With increased adoption at home, those users could expect to see the same features at work. As an IT administrator or a developer, you need to know what’s coming. Now is the time to try Windows 10. In reality, you don’t have to try it on your day-to-day device, but you definitely could.