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Microsoft Gives Windows 11 Planning Advice as First Test Build Released

The first Windows 11 preview build was released this week, along with some tips from Microsoft for businesses planning to move to the new desktop OS.

Preview build 22000.51 was released to the Windows Insider Program's Dev Channel subscribers on Monday. Microsoft redesigned the PC setup process (also called the "out-of-box experience") for in-place upgrades from Windows 10 to Windows 11. It's also possible to "clean install" (wipe and replace) the new OS.

Microsoft is planning three client OS releases in the second half of this year: Windows 10 version 21H2, a new Windows 10 long-term servicing channel product and Windows 11, which is expected to arrive this fall. Notably, Window 11 will have feature updates that are released once per year.  Moreover, these feature update releases will have "24 months of support for Home or Pro editions, and 36 months of support for Enterprise and Education editions," Microsoft indicated. In making that change with Windows 11, Microsoft acknowledged IT pros' grumblings that biannual Windows 10 feature update releases were just too frequent.

Windows 11 will be a free upgrade for users of the latest Windows 10 versions, but their hardware also must also be compatible, which complicates matters. Windows 11 is an all-64-bit OS for x64 and ARM64 processors; there's no 32-bit version for x86 machines being released. IT pros using certain Microsoft tools, such as Endpoint Analytics or Update Compliance, will be able to determine Windows 11 hardware compatibility when Windows 11 reaches general availability commercial release, according to an announcement by John Cable, a program manager on Microsoft's COSINE servicing and delivery team.

Cable noted that Windows 10 will be hitting its end-of-life phase on Oct. 14, 2025. The OS will stop getting updates, including security patches, after that date.

Test Base for Microsoft 365
Microsoft is promising high application compatibility with Windows 11, much like its Windows 10 forebearer. In cases where application incompatibilities are detected, Microsoft has its FastTrack App Assure program, where Microsoft or its partners carry out remediation steps in some circumstances.

Windows Insider Program testers of Windows 11 can use a new Test Base for Microsoft 365 solution to check application compatibility early on, as described in this Microsoft announcement. Test Base for Microsoft 365 is an Azure service that checks applications. It's been at the "private preview" release stage for almost a year and was first rolled out to "critical third-party software vendors," such as makers of "antivirus, VPN and disk encryption" products.

At some point, it'll be possible to use Test Base for Microsoft 365 in Microsoft Endpoint Manager, Microsoft promised, although exact timing wasn't described. "If you are an Intune customer, you will soon be able to find the link to Test Base on the LOB and Win32 application page on the Microsoft Endpoint Manager admin center," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Windows 11 Planning Advice
Microsoft described "best practices" for organizations planning Windows 11 moves, per this announcement.

The announcement admitted that "Windows 11 is based on the Windows 10 code base," but that circumstance means that it'll be "natively compatible" with existing applications, Microsoft suggested.

Microsoft wants organizations to join the Windows Insider Program to review Windows 11. They should validate hardware and software compatibility with Windows 11, and create a deployment plan. Lastly, Microsoft touted Microsoft Endpoint Manager, which can be used to leverage "cloud-based endpoint management capabilities" with Windows 11.

Not only is Microsoft pushing organizations toward more secure hardware with TPM 2.0 chips in Windows 11, it's also suggesting cloud-based alternatives to using Group Policy, per the announcement:

Windows 11 uses modern hardware to deliver the most secure Windows ever, with TPM and virtualization-based security support for everyone. We've also added over 1,000 new management controls to make it easier to move away from older management systems like Group Policy.

Microsoft listed several cloud-based solutions to that effect. Windows Autopilot can set up PCs to be self-provisioned by end users. Microsoft Intune provides controls over settings and apps, and lets organizations require multifactor authentication. Cloud Configuration offers simplified PC provisioning, in cookie-cutter-like fashion, for organizations that don't need custom configurations (Microsoft added this capability to Microsoft Endpoint Manager for Windows 10 back in March ). Lastly, Microsoft touted Endpoint Analytics, a Microsoft Productivity Score solution that measures things like hardware performance for end users.

These tools are discussed in this "Prepare for Windows 11" Microsoft document. The document noted that organizations using Microsoft Windows Server Update Services and Microsoft Endpoint Manager will have to "sync to the new Windows 11 product category" to start managing Windows 11 devices.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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