For any IT pro who’s been around for more than five years, déjà vu must be setting in. It’s “scramble to get onto a supported desktop operating system (OS)” time, just as it was in early 2014, when Windows XP’s end-of-support loomed.
This time, however, it could be the last forklift OS upgrade, as Microsoft shifts its OS strategy. That won’t ease the pain today, but in theory, at least, the move from Windows 7 to Windows 10 marks the company’s change from revolution to evolution of its operating systems and applications. It has dubbed this the “Modern Desktop.”
That said, Microsoft provides plenty of resources to get companies over the hump. Chief among them is the Modern Desktop Deployment Center. It provides a checklist of the topics IT must consider for a successful migration to Windows 10 (and to Office 365 – Office 2010 also reaches end-of-life when Windows 7 does, so Microsoft encourages customers to swap it out at the same time).
And lest customers worry about app compatibility with the OS switch, it has developed a program called Desktop App Assure, a service that provides application remediation to customers migrating to Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus at no extra cost through the FastTrack Center benefit. Not that many applications will need remediation – Microsoft says that of the 7,000 applications submitted for evaluation (out of 41,000 that customers had deployed), only 49 needed attention.
The first thing to do when migrating to Windows 10, of course, is inventory existing PCs. There may still be a few knocking around that don’t meet the Windows 10 minimum requirements. They will need replacing if the user needs to be on a supported version of Windows (for security’s sake, that should be everyone). To check out existing PCs for other compatibility issues, run either the Windows 10 Compatibility Scan, or Windows Analytics Upgrade Readiness. Microsoft also encourages the switch from BIOS to UEFI, where possible, and is pushing companies to switch to Azure Active Directory.
Next, think about physical resources: disk space (a bare-bones Windows 10 image needs about 3 GB, a customized one 6 GB or more; both need an additional 100 MB – 1 GB of space for driver packages), and network bandwidth for transferring images, software updates, and restoration of user files, applications, and settings.
Companies using browser-based apps should thoroughly check them out under Microsoft Edge, the default browser in Windows 10. It can be, shall we say, a difficult piece of software (there’s a full revamp of it in the works, to be based on the Chromium engine, so be prepared to do some revalidation once it emerges); fortunately, IT can use Enterprise Mode and Group Policy to force problematic sites and apps to open in Internet Explorer 11 instead.
Microsoft offers several options for migrating user files and settings; it even explains how to use PowerShell to customize Start Menus and Taskbars.
Finally, the deployment centre finishes its checklist with possibly the most important piece: the care and feeding (or at least training) of users. As every IT pro knows, users accept new things more readily when they’ve been kept informed and have some input into the process.
For IT pros looking to check out Windows 10 and Office 365 without having to download and install them, there’s the Modern Desktop Deployment and Management Lab Kit, a virtual lab environment that Microsoft says is “designed to help you plan, test and validate your deployment and management of modern desktops running Windows 10 Enterprise and Office 365 ProPlus. The labs cover the steps and tools outlined in the Modern Desktop Deployment wheel, spanning System Center Configuration Manager, Windows Analytics, Office Customization Tool, OneDrive, Windows Autopilot and more.” And, it’s free.