Saturday, December 26, 2015

Windows 10 November Update

Microsoft has released the first major update to Windows 10.  In the good old day of previous Windows versions this would have been called a Service Pack but under the new Windows 10 paradigm this is just an update to the continual evolution of Windows.

There are a lot of changes to Windows in this update, many of them are under-the-hood improvements to how the operating system works.  One is that boot times are 30% faster.  My testing has revealed this to be true.  This update has also helped Windows 10 mature for mass deployments.  The business case for upgrading large organizations to Windows 10 continues to grow stronger as these updates are released.

Here are some of the top feature additions and changes you need to be aware of.

For mobile users Windows finally has the native ability to track your laptop or tablet.  This feature relies on the users Microsoft account.  When enabled the device will phone home with its current location allowing you to track the device if it is lost or stolen.  Other operating systems have had this for years and it is good that it has finally come to Windows – especially when you consider how many Windows based devices are mobile.

Another interesting feature is that Windows 10 will now automatically set your default printer to be the last printer you printed to.  This feature is enabled by default once you install the November Update.  I disabled this feature on my work computer as I often print to different printers but don’t want each of those printers to become my default.  This feature has its place but I’m not sure why it is enabled by default when you update.

Windows 10 also adds the ability to automatically set your time zone based on your location.  This may be handy for laptop and tablet users that travel a lot but isn’t very useful for desktop users.  Auto time zones is set to on by default – I’m not sure why.  Does this indicate that Microsoft thinks the majority of Windows 10 users are mobile?  Regardless this did not work well on my desktop.

I live in the part of Indiana that up until 2007 did not observe Daylight Saving Time.  Since the auto time zone setting is turned on by default my desktop set my time zone to Indiana East.  Indiana East was the old time zone we used before 2007 as it did not observe DST and left our computers on Eastern time year round.  Now that we observe DST our time zone setting is Eastern but the auto time zone didn’t get that right.  For desktop users is it probably best to turn auto time zone off to avoid a potential calendar nightmare.  (Getting rid of Daylight Saving Time all together is another way to solve this issue but that’s a different topic for a different time.)

Microsoft Edge also receives several additional features. While still not supporting extensions the new browser in Windows 10 now syncs favorites and reading lists through the users Microsoft account.  Edge can now import favorites from other browsers and then keep them in sync across all machines the user logs in to.

Several visual improvements are also included in the November Update.  The right click contexts menus on the Start Menu are much easier to read and navigate.  The Start Menu itself can also handle more shortcuts and now allows for additional shortcuts to be arranged into each section.  Windows also now applies the default windows color to the title bars making windows easier to see.

The Start Menu also gains the ability to show advertisements.  This is turned on by default but can easily be turned off – which I recommend.  I’m not really concerned that Microsoft is starting to insert ads into Windows 10 – so long as the users always have the ability to turn them off.

One feature that is still lacking is the ability to customize the login screen.  The November Update allows you to set a solid background color for the login screen but does not allow you to set a custom image.  There are hacks available for doing this online but hopefully the next Windows 10 update will allow for full login screen customization.

The upgrade process was simple enough but varies based on whether or not your machine is part of a domain.  For a non-domain joined machine the upgrade was seamless.  The November Update appeared in Windows Update on the Surface Pro 2 I tested and the update process took around 15 minutes.  When it was done Windows worked as it did before without any issues relating to the update.

On a domain joined machine I did not have as much luck.  Domain joined machines will not receive the update via Windows Update.  To update a domain machine you have to download and install the November Update ISO from Microsoft.  On the desktop machine I tested the upgrade process took over an hour.  This could have been due in part to the desktop machine not having solid start hard drives.

Once the update completed there were several issues to fix.  Several of my default programs had been changed.  PDF files were changed from Acrobat to Edge and the file associations for OneNote were gone.  These were easy to fix but I’m not sure why this only happened on the domain joined machine.

In addition, all of the server admin tools I had installed were wiped out.  Active Directory Management and Group Policy Administration still had shortcuts but the applications were gone.  I had to download and reinstall the Server Administration Toolkit from Microsoft to get them back.

Despite these issues the Windows 10 November Update is a step in the right direction.  If Microsoft, or any software developer waited until their software was perfect to release it then we wouldn’t have any software at all.  Fortunately, Microsoft is keeping with the new Windows paradigm and continuing to improve Windows 10.

If you are looking to deploy Windows 10 and want to use the latest edition, make sure you download the Windows 10 ISO with the November Update built in.