It’s been a few months since my last brain dump about Windows 10 deployments I’m dealing with. Overall, most have been rather unexciting, but that’s actually a very good thing.  Another way to put it would be that it’s pretty well “baked-in” at this point, and consistent.  However, as with all operating system upgrade projects, customers have their own needs and concerns to deal with.  The ones which are fairly common I figured might be of help to others, so here goes.

Don't do this to your environment!

1 – Upgrade vs. Bare Metal

If you can do the in-place upgrade, do it.  It’s so stupid-simple, and works so much better than previous in-place upgrades, that it should be your first option if at all possible.  You can still do the bare metal “wipe-and-load” approach if you like.

The ICD (ADK utility) approach looks interesting but I have not yet had a customer that needed it.  That doesn’t mean it’s bad.  It just means that I don’t have any examples to share on that yet.

2 – Group Policy

This is an interesting area that can easily become a rat hole in which funds vanish before your eyes.  Group Policy Objects tend to be the toughest challenge, but not because of Windows 10 actually.  The actual problem is the most familiar:  too many @#$%ing GPO’s. Insufficient documentation.  Lack of central control. Lack of testing procedures.  No change management process.  No clue as to what they’re still in existence to do, for who, or for what.  On and on and on.  The best analogy is that it can be like building a brand new, modern house on top of a sinkhole.  Fix the ground first, then build on top of it.

In a relatively “clean” AD environment (if there is such a thing), Windows 10 is easy to manage via GPO or GPP settings, as well as the usual array of provisioning tools.  More on that next.

If the AD environment is a GFO, start over.  That’s right.  You heard me (or read me, or whatever).  Almost every crusty, GPO-ailing AD environment I’ve seen, ended up eating more time, more angst and more drain on budgets trying to fix it, than starting a new domain (or sub-domain) and doing it right.  You can only use so much duct tape before it’s time to install a new roof.

If you’re still using login and startup scripts, I strongly recommend that you research replacing them with GPO or GPP settings if possible.  I know that goes counter to what I just said, but there is nothing wrong with a GPO setting if there’s a need for it.  Just be smart about it.  Keep the GPO overhead as minimal as possible.

3 – Configuration Management

As with Windows 8.x, which hardly anyone bothered to roll into mass production, the same approach comes into play when it comes to automating the configuration of things like the Start Menu, Desktop, and Taskbar.  You also have the Notifications panel, the revamped Systray and the sub-surface things like Settings/Control Panel, and File Explorer options.

Until Microsoft gets around to rolling all of that into a cohesive API wrench, you’ll need to deal with PowerShell goodies like Export-StartLayout (and Import-StartLayout), Remove-AppxPackage, as well as assorted local and/or Group Policy settings.  Be sure to take care of the Windows 10 ADMX deployment (use a Central Store if possible), and while you’re at it, roll out the ADMX tools for Office, IE and whatever else is shiney and new at the time.

4 – Provisioning and Automation

If you’re still using Ghost or some other ancient whole-disk imaging process, shoot it in the head, set it on fire, and bury it.  Start using MDT or System Center (or both) if you have the means.  If you don’t have the funding and support for System Center, at least implement MDT and get moving.  It’s incredibly powerful, flexible and free.

As for images, try to get away from “fat” images, which have every application installed in them, regardless of individual needs.  If every, and I mean EVERY, user needs the same applications, that’s fine.  But that’s very rare from my experience.  A smaller image is easier, and quicker, to replicate to remote locations, and faster to install.  Task sequences and scripts can easily handle the rest.

5 – Devices

Oddly enough, very few hardware devices I’ve encountered run into serious issues with Windows 10.  At least from the driver aspect.  When it comes to vendor apps that talk to the driver channel, that can be spotty, but it almost always ties back to the age of the software.  If it was released in the past 3-5 years, and works well on Windows 7 or 8.x, it stands a good chance of running well on Windows 10.  But a test machine is your best bet.  Plug all the stupid crap you have into it, and run the setup compatibility test option to see how it fares.

6 – Get Used to a New World

Updates are going to be more frequent.  But the thing most are surprised to discover is HOW the updates are processed.  Rather than a barrage of individual patches and fixes, they’re rolled into build packages and deployed using the in-place upgrade process.  That’s right.  They back up the current Windows 10 installation into C:\Windows.old (about 10-16 GB of disk space by the way), and install the new build.

Users often bitch about the early morning login greeting “Hello!” followed by “We updated your stupid Facebook surfing box”, even though it offers ideal cover for goofing off while it finishes up (usually within 3-4 minutes).

Be prepared for the whiniest users to ask “can you do anything to stop that ‘Hello!’ mess each time it installs updates?”  Best answer, “No.  STFU and do your job, minion!”  Just kidding.  Actually, multi-syllabic obfuscation works best, especially on the semi-technical or non-technical folk.  Just run a bunch of impressively complicated words together as an explanation and watch them glaze over.

7 – Scripting

I know that I’m not the first person to say “learn PowerShell”.  It’s true.  You don’t have to become a master at it, but start with the basics.  Buy a book or two.  Read some blogs.  Watch some video tutorials, whatever.  It’ll open up a whole new world for getting your daily chores under control.

8 – Problem Patterns

In some environments, it’s not uncommon to run into someone who experiences an unusually high number of issues with their device.  In some cases, the FUD army rolls out and goes to work bashing Windows 10 as “buggy” or “a piece of <fill in your favorite politician’s name>”  Try to calm them down as you gather the facts.  In most cases I’ve found it can be isolated to one of the following:

  • Crappy hardware
  • Crappy applications
  • Crappy drivers
  • Crappy Group Policy Settings
  • Crappy User Habits

Windows 10 is actually very tolerant of hardware, as long as it meets the stated minimum requirements.  But if the applications (third-party or not) are old, or missing updates, or the drivers are out of date, it can make the machine slow or unstable.  If GPO settings are clobbering it to death, that can also turn it into a smelly pile of poo.  Regardless of the possible root cause(s), try to identify a pattern.  Compare with other users, other devices, other AD OU’s, other network segments, whatever.

In all of the situations where machines had problems it was due to rushing too quick into production before analyzing and updating the environment.

9 – Setting Expectations

Users will often complain about change.  Change is evil.  Even when you draw analogies to other aspects of modern life, they hate that too.  The best option for them is pepper spray.  No, I’m just kidding.  Don’t spray them with that until after work, and away from company property.

The thing is, Microsoft has been pushing ahead with massive changes to how they do business, how they offer services and how they support them.  You, as an IT professional, have limited means for changing how that impacts the end users.  Make sure the end users know that, but soften it up with the benefits of the newer products and business model.  If you can’t find the right words, just print something from the Microsoft web site and read from that.  If nothing else, it’ll buy you some time to escape.

Of the projects I’ve been involved with, or watched closely, I’d estimate roughly 90% of the users are happy with Windows 10 within the first few days.  Within a month almost all of them are content.  That says a lot.  I’ve been through Windows 2000, XP and Windows 7 deployments, and the satisfaction percentages were usually not as high.

10 – Little Things

A surprising number of users aren’t not aware of the right-click feature on the Windows 10 Start Menu.  It’s actually a carry-over from previous Windows versions, but still…  I see so many users making shortcuts all over the place, when the app or utility is available with a right-click on the Start Menu button.

I recommend to IT staff that they round up some things like this and hold some brief learning sessions for users.  It goes a long way towards easing their anxiety and making them feel included in the overall project.  It also helps gather direct input from users that can help with your planning and design efforts.

Now – I have to get some sleep.  3 hrs is not enough.

Enjoy!

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