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.”
Microsoft Seeks to Make Amends With Early Windows 10 Preview
Once you complete the Windows 10 installation, you’ll find that it looks a lot like the desktop interface for Windows 8.1, assuming that you’re using the desktop version. The tiled or “Modern” interface still exists, and if you want to bring it to the screen, you can. If you’re installing Windows 10 on a touch-screen device, then you’ll get that tiled interface installed by default, unless you’re upgrading a computer that already boots into the desktop view.
Perhaps of greatest interest, however, is the return of the Start Menu. In addition to the familiar menu items there’s a smaller and simplified set of tiles which users can add, remove or modify to suit their needs.
On the left side of your screen you should find that the existing icons from your previous Windows 8.1 installation are preserved. If you performed an in-place upgrade from Windows 7, you may find that you need to reinstall some of your applications before they show up. However, your data is preserved.
In addition to the icons that you already had on your screen, you see a new one titled “Welcome to Tech Preview,” which will give you some tips about the new features in Windows 10, along with details about how to use them. The task bar along the bottom of the screen displays several new features, including a search icon and a task view icon.
Clicking the search icon lets you search on both the computer and on the Internet at the same time. The task view shows you the virtual desktops that you’ve created so you can switch easily between them and you can see reduced images of all of your open applications, which makes it easy to switch from one app to the next.
You can open different applications on different virtual desktops. This way you might create a desktop for one aspect of your job, such as network management or budgeting, while on another you have unrelated functions such as email. You might even want to create a desktop for games or personal applications.
Also on the task bar is an icon for the Microsoft Store. Previously that was only available on the Modern interface. Now those apps in the Microsoft Store can run in either interface on Windows 10. In the desktop mode they simply run inside windows just like any other application.
Right now Windows 10 works pretty well considering its preview nature. Some things don’t work, some things have weird glitches and some apps don’t run. This is to be expected. But overall, the Windows 10 Tech Preview version works surprisingly well. It will change over time as Microsoft adds features and makes changes. But it will give you a good platform to determine how to fit the new Windows into your business and enterprise requirements.