No two Windows 10 installation scenarios will be the same since every computing environment is different. Nonetheless, there is a lot to learn from the way IT experts approach installing Windows 10 in their workplaces. Perhaps you are thinking about taking the Window 10 plunge with your IT—and many departments will, according to Spiceworks’ survey numbers. For a snapshot of how an IT pro installs Windows 10 in the workplace, systems administrator CJ Wood details the problems he encountered with his Windows 10 installation, and how he was able to solve them.
CJ Wood, systems administrator: I’ve tracked the development progress of Windows 10 by participating in the Technical Preview for the past year, where I’ve seen it morph and grow into a solid operating system that Microsoft should be proud of. We finally have one OS that is friendly with the growing world of technology; whether you use a tablet with a touch screen, a desktop with a mouse and keyboard, or a convertible ultrabook—that’s best of both worlds. Regardless of what you use, Windows 10 will adapt to you.
Phase I: Making Windows 10 installation preparations
I decided to wait until September to give Microsoft a month to work out the quirks before taking advantage of my free upgrade. This also gave software developers a chance to make their apps compatible with Windows 10 if they weren’t already.
A clean install is always preferred instead of doing an OS upgrade. Microsoft offers this path for those who are interested but you must first install the upgrade before you’re eligible to do a clean install of Windows 10. This is possible because once you install the upgrade, the information of your motherboard is sent to Microsoft, which allows you to reactivate after you reinstall the OS as Microsoft will identify your hardware ID. So similar to an OEM license, your license is tied to the motherboard. This prevents you from using the same license on another computer as the free upgrade is not transferable.
The difference between work and home installations
Since my desktop computer at work is joined to a network domain, the GWX application never ran to ask me to reserve Windows 10. This is for good reason as I didn’t have to worry about users in the office upgrading their computers without my discretion. I had to download the ISO for Windows 10 from Microsoft’s site in order to install the upgrade.
If you’re using a computer at home, you’re most likely not joined to a network domain and can easily upgrade to Windows 10 by using the “Get Windows 10” app in your notification tray. However, you will need to download the ISO from Microsoft’s site if you plan to do a clean install later. You will need to check if your operating system is either 32-bit or 64-bit. You can do this quickly by opening System Properties from the Control Panel.
Pro tip: Another way to find System Properties is hold down the Windows key on your keyboard and press the Pause|Break key (you didn’t think it had a purpose, did you?). Under System Type, it will tell you if you have a 32-bit or 64-bit operating system.
Burn Windows 10 ISO onto optical media
The ISO took about an hour to download. I waited until the end of the day to burn the ISO to a DVD using Windows’ built in utility and ran the upgrade. You do not have to boot into the disk to run the upgrade. This will run perfectly booted into Windows. You will only need to boot into the CD/DVD-ROM when you plan to run the clean install.
Pro tip: I enabled the installer to download and install the latest updates to Windows 10 before installing the upgrade, which is a nifty feature that prevents an additional step later. I then selected to keep my apps and folders.
Minimize the information that Microsoft collects
The final step before the upgrade began was to change permissions of how Windows behaves and sends information to Microsoft. I personally disabled each one except for error reporting. Feel free to use your own judgement here on how you want your information sent to Microsoft. Then the install was underway!
Phase II: Troubleshooting errors after Windows 10 upgrade
There were several things wrong off the bat upon logging into Windows 10 for the first time. The obvious issue was the missing graphics card drivers, as my monitor was forced into 1024 x 768-pixel resolution across a 24-inch monitor! I also noticed that a few of my apps didn’t open on startup— specifically ESET, LogMeIn Hamachi, and Jump Desktop. Everything else was in place, my files and the rest of my apps.
Workaround for unrecognized GPU driver
The first issue I attempted to troubleshoot was the graphics drivers because the stretched, low resolution was disturbing on the eyes. I opened up Device Manager and noticed “Coprocessor” as an unknown device. I opened it and clicked to find the right driver through Windows Updates… then… blimp! a blue screen of death appeared. You’d think they’d make this screen a bit prettier by now, but no, it still looks the same as it ever did. I unfortunately didn’t get a good look of the error before Windows restarted automatically but I assumed it was affiliated with the faulty GPU drivers after the upgrade.
After logging into Windows I opened up Google Chrome and went directly to Nvidia’s site to look up the appropriate drivers. First, I did a manual search and downloaded the driver for the 400 series but that wouldn’t run, as it said it was compatible with my device. Went back to Nvidia’s site and used the auto-detect feature and downloaded that driver. Same results!
I found the disk that came with my motherboard and loaded that into the disk tray and ran the .exe installer for the driver off of the disk…not compatible! What? That for sure worked before! Desperate times called for desperate measures. I opened Device Manager again and browsed to the unknown device and chose to manually update the driver from a file on my computer.
Pro tip: I browsed to the graphics driver folder on the driver disk and loaded the smuc64.inf file. BINGO! The driver loaded and installed successfully. 1920×1080 resolution never looked so good.
Workaround for Windows 10 incompatible software
Now it was time to tackle the issues with ESET, Hamachi, and Jump Desktop. Though my virus database was up-to-date with ESET, my software version was not and wasn’t compatible with Windows 10. After downloading and installed the last version of Smart Security, I was back in business.
LogMeIn Hamachi would open but the service would not start to enable a VLAN tunnel, which was a problem. Again, reinstalling the software resolved the issue.
Jump Desktop would also open but the service would not start automatically. Manually starting the service worked but was only a temporary fix. I did not plan to do a clean install right away, so I had to make the upgrade work in the meantime until I had time to do so. For a week I survived running off the upgrade and it wasn’t pretty. The Event Viewer was plagued with errors, a strange gray screen would blink momentarily before showing the lock screen and task manager, and over 20GB of hard drive space was compromised by old Windows files and upgrade files that remained after the upgrade.
Phase III: Navigating a Windows 10 Clean Install
The process for running the clean install was easy for me since I took advantage of the situation and upgraded from a hard disk drive to a solid state drive, so the install wasn’t in place. However if you plan to do a clean install on your original disk drive, make sure you make good backups of your files. Check everything— twice—because once you run the install, you’ll lose all of your data that was on the drive. I’d recommend moving everything to a blank external disk drive or one that has plenty of free storage. A large USB thumb drive will work too if you don’t have much to transfer.
Pro tip: I would highly recommend upgrading to a solid state drive. It’ll make things easier running a clean install since your data is located on another drive, eliminating mistakes, and you’ll gain incredible system performance, efficiency, and reliability by taking advantage of flash memory. After you’ve moved everything over to the new solid state drive, you can convert your old drive into a local backup! A win/win!
Set up administrator account before logging into fresh Windows 10 install
The clean install process was easy. When I was ready, I loaded the Windows 10 DVD I created for the upgrade into the disk drive and rebooted, choosing the DVD/CD drive as my boot option in BIOS before Windows started to load again. When it asked me for a key, I chose to skip the option. Remember, Microsoft will identify your hardware later. I chose to do a custom install and chose the free storage space available on the solid state drive, without creating any partitions. It took 9 minutes to complete the install before it restarted Windows for first-time setup. It again asked me for a key, which I chose to skip for the last time. I continued with setting up a local administrator account and preferences before logging into a fresh install of Windows 10 for the first time.
The first thing I noticed was that the graphics drivers wasn’t recognized again, which I followed the steps before to manually update the driver. I then checked to see if Windows was activated by opening System Properties again—it was! Perfect! I continued to join our network domain and rebooted. It was a whole 18 seconds between shutdown and logging into a fully loaded OS—got to love an SSD!
Loading applications after clean install without a hitch
After setting up and logging in my own domain account, I transferred my user profile files from my old hard drive to the new drive and let that run overnight. The following morning I installed my everyday apps such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Cloud, ESET, MalwareBytes, and remote support software. The install couldn’t have gone smoother. Now the Event Viewer is clear of errors and Windows runs much more efficiently.
If you’re considering on upgrading to Windows 10, do it. You won’t regret it. There’s no culture shock like upgrading from Windows 7 to 8.1. Regardless of the Windows OS you’re coming from, you’ll feel right at home with a familiar interface.
Installing Windows 10 in the Workplace: a Testimonial is written by CJ Wood, a Maryland-based systems administrator. Mr. Wood is IT Director of Decorating Den Interiors.