It’s no secret that in a matter of hours Microsoft will start distributing Windows 10 upgrades with the goal of getting to dump older versions in favor the latest edition.
While it will send out the upgrade automatically, corporate IT managers have control over which of your computers will get the new version of Windows when your organization is ready for it. Microsoft is also parceling out the upgrades so that not everyone is getting upgraded at once.
Furthermore, if you’re using a Windows Enterprise version, systems administrators will control the upgrade. Individual enterprise users won’t be able to get the automatic upgrades being sent out by Microsoft.
For businesses that aren’t running the Enterprise version of Windows, Microsoft will deliver the upgrade for computers running legitimate copies of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. You should have already seen a Windows logo appear in the desktop taskbar, down in the lower right corner of the screen on each computer. If you click on that logo, you’ll be given the opportunity to reserve a free upgrade.
When that upgrade is actually made available by Microsoft depends on two major factors. First, it depends on whether Windows 10 is ready for that specific computer. Not every hardware driver is ready for distribution, and Microsoft will have collected information on your hardware when you reserved the upgrade. You won’t be given the opportunity to upgrade until the package is completely ready.
In addition, Microsoft is using a first-come, first-served approach so that, all other things being equal, those who reserved their upgrades first will get them first. But that doesn’t mean you have to reserve your upgrade right away, or if you’ve reserved it, that you have to pull the trigger on the upgrade right away. In fact, in most companies, you should wait to upgrade most of your computers.
The reason is that virtually every new operating system, not just those from Microsoft, has teething problems. You can assume that there will be glitches that will take a while to fix. You can also assume that at least some of your critical applications will have compatibility issues, especially if they’re custom applications.
With that in mind, here are the steps you should take.
You need to identify a few Windows clients that need to be upgraded immediately so you can test the upgrade. This testing will have two goals. First, you need to make sure it works on your company’s standard hardware and software. Second, you need to determine how much of a learning curve to expect for your company.
If you haven’t already installed the preview version of Windows 10 on your test machines, then reserve your copy now and try to get at least a few copies for testing as soon as you can. If necessary, you can purchase Windows 10 at retail and install it immediately as soon as it arrives in stores.
It’s Time for IT Managers to Prepare a Windows 10 Upgrade Plan
Once you start getting upgrades on your test machines, it’s essential that you test your critical applications. The chances are actually pretty good that everything will run properly.
But it’s certainly possible that some applications make use of specific features of Windows 7 that don’t work in quite the same way on Windows 10. If that happens, you’ll need to get updates to your applications from the vendor before you can start using Windows 10.
Keep in mind that not every computer running Windows 7, for example, will run Windows 10. During my tests of the preview version of Windows 10, I found one type of HP workstation in my lab in which the Xeon processor will not work with Windows 10.
The Windows 10 upgrade logo will appear on computers that aren’t capable of running it before the July 29 release date. However Microsoft plans to enable that logo and the “Get Windows 10 app” after that date so you can check compatibility over time.
Microsoft has a detailed FAQ for Windows 10 available on the company Website. It’s worth the time to take a look at it. However, as your tests progress, and you’re confident that Windows 10 will work on your computers, it’s time to start phasing in the upgrade.
One good way to do this is to schedule the upgrade soon after your staff has completed training on the new version of Windows so that your employees have been acquainted with the differences and the training remains fresh.
For your users already on Windows 8.1, the learning curve will be substantially less than it will be for Windows 7 users. But Microsoft has done a lot to make Windows 10 easy to use for both sets of users. The Windows Desktop is now a permanent feature for computers that don’t have touch-screens, for example, although you can enable the tiled interface that came with Windows 8.
You should be aware that the upgrade to Windows 10 will also affect tablets running Windows 8.1 such as the Surface Pro. But the upgrade is not coming now (and perhaps will never come) for tablets running Windows RT, although they will get an update with some Windows 10 features. Windows 10 is also coming to Windows Phone, but that set of updates depends on your mobile carrier.
The secret to a successful Windows 10 shift for your company is to take things one step at a time, starting with testing, then training, then a phased upgrade. Doing this should help you avoid the trap that happened with Windows XP, where large numbers of users were stuck without a ready upgrade path. But you do have to start planning now.