Microsoft, clearly stung by the rejection of Windows 8 by enterprise users and eager to repair the damage, has taken the step of releasing the next version of its Windows operating system very early.
The idea is to allow users at all levels, but especially enterprise IT users and managers, a chance to try out the new OS well in advance. This way they can be ready when it's released.
The good news is that the software, which is available in two forms, Pro and Enterprise, is free to download to anyone who wants to use it. But Microsoft wants to make one thing very clear: The Windows 10 Preview is just that--a preview. The code is in a very early form, it's not feature-complete and there are things that don't work.
Getting the Professional version of Windows 10 is pretty simple. Just go to the Windows Website and there it is. Getting Windows 10 Enterprise is just as easy and there's a link on the Windows 10 opening page. In both cases you'll need to join the Windows Insider program, which basically asks for your Microsoft ID and a few other contact-related questions.
Once you've joined, you'll go to a download page where you select your processor type and language and then download the .iso file. You'll need to copy that to a DVD or a USB memory stick. You can upgrade Windows 8.1 by inserting the disk or USB drive with the code into the computer and when it's recognized, click on "Setup."
You'll need to answer a few questions, and then the system will crank away for an hour or so while Windows installs. You'll need to have Windows 8.1 Enterprise to do an in-place upgrade with the Enterprise version of Windows 10.
Microsoft provides a blanket install code for all versions of Windows 10, but I wasn't asked to provide it when installing it over an existing copy of Windows 8.1 Pro. Apparently it's treated as an upgrade rather than a new install.
The advantage is that the installation will retain your existing applications and most of your settings will move to the new OS. If you want to perform a clean install, you'll need to create a bootable DVD or USB drive to install the install code.
At this point in Microsoft's release cycle it may not matter much which version of Windows 10 you decide to test first. If your primary goal is to test application compatibility, then either version will work for you. However, there are differences.
A Microsoft spokesperson explained those differences to eWEEK in an email. "Windows 10 Technical Preview and the Windows 10 Technical Preview for Enterprise have the same functionality. However, the Windows 10 Technical Preview for Enterprise also includes current enterprise capabilities like Windows To Go, DirectAccess, BranchCache and AppLocker. Those added benefits will help businesses evaluate the Windows 10 Technical Preview in their environments while continuing to benefit from the capabilities they currently have with Windows 8.1 Enterprise today."