Microsoft releases its first major update to Windows 10 today, bringing performance and stability improvements and some notable new features for business.
The mammoth patch will be just under 4GB in size for some users and, according to Microsoft, will significantly boost Windows 10’s boot times over Windows 7.
Following this latest update, Microsoft is claiming that Windows 10 machines will start up to 30 percent faster than if they were running Windows 7 – based on figures from a third party report.
“There’s a bunch of things under the hood that we’ve improved with this update to make it an even better experience,” said Jeremy Korst, general manager of the Windows and Devices team at Microsoft.
The message seems to be part of Microsoft’s increasingly aggressive campaign to get Windows 7 and 8.1 users to take advantage of the free upgrade to Windows 10.
The drive to build on the more than 110-million devices running Windows 10 has prompted Microsoft to make changes that will mean that Windows 10 will automatically begin installing on most Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 machines from next year.
Users will still need to confirm the installation manually for it to continue. If they choose not to proceed, Korst said “the customer will have the ability to delay it for some period”.
He was unable to clarify how long users would be able to delay the upgrade for but added that people who didn’t like Windows 10 would be able to roll back to their previous OS within 31 days.
“We’ll be taking customer feedback throughout this process and the intent really is to make the upgrade even easier for customers,” he said.
What may be concerning Microsoft are third-party figures suggesting that after an initial rush to upgrade, there are a significant number of Windows 7 and 8.1 users not choosing to upgrade to Windows 10.
An issue that a number of users will also want to see addressed by today’s update to Windows 10 is increased stability.
In September, ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley echoed complaints from various Windows 10 users, saying “too many moving parts are making for an unstable computing experience for me”.
However, despite the numerous posts complaining about buggy behaviour, Korst claimed that Microsoft was hearing a different story from those who had made the switch.
“Our upgrade satisfaction is very high and our Windows 7 and 8 customers worldwide are showing better customer satisfaction with Windows 10 versus Windows 7 and Windows 8,” he said, adding that today’s update “provides a bunch of new components” that make the OS “even more compatible and more stable”.
Better for business
The most significant changes in today’s update are for business users – with the introduction of an off-switch for telemetry, a new way of delaying updates and a simplified approach for deploying apps.
The Windows Update for Business portal will allow admins to stagger the deployment of Windows updates to company PCs, allowing admins to create groups of machines that update at different points and to set specific dates and times when updates should occur.
Meanwhile the new Windows Store for Business should make it easier for firms to deploy apps to staff.
Organisations will be able buy apps in bulk and create a private version of the Windows Store that offers employees a bespoke list of apps, both pre-approved Windows Store and custom line-of-business software. Admins will also be able to assign apps to specific employees.
To use the store users will need to be running the Pro or Enterprise versions of Windows 10 and have an Azure Active Directory ID.
“It provides a great additional capability for administrators to distribute these type of applications,” said Korst.
Also new for business users are features to help companies to manage devices.
Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) Join allows IT to maintain one cloud-based directory and identity management service that will let company employees have a single login and securely sync their Windows settings and data across all of their Windows 10 devices.
Users will also be able to gain single sign-on access to in-house services from personal Windows devices by linking that Windows machine to a work account managed with Azure Active Directory.
The update also expands the OS’ capabilities around mobile device management (MDM), enabling MDM servers to enroll and configure Windows phone, computers and tablets, as well as applying updates and enforcing the latest in-house policies governing usage.
On the security front, Credential Guard will will offer additional security for login details by storing derived credentials – NTLM hashes and Kerberos tickets and the process that manages them in a secured isolated container that uses Hyper-V and virtualization-based security. Microsoft says the feature breaks the popular “pass the hash” approach used in many major breaches.
Another new feature, Device Guard allows devices to be restricted to running only trusted software – whether it’s traditional desktop, Windows store or in-house apps. Device Guard is designed to prevent intruders from installing malware and uses Trusted Boot to keep company devices secure.
Korst also trailed a forthcoming security feature for business called Enterprise Data Protection, which will be rolled out to people testing Windows under the Insider Program early next year.
Enterprise Data Protection will allow companies to separate work and personal data on devices using containerisation file techniques. It will also encrypt data as it moves around the organisation – helping to ensure data isn’t accessed by the wrong people.
Tweaks to Cortana
Alongside these new features are some more minor changes. Windows 10’s virtual assistant Cortana gains the ability to recognize phone numbers, email and physical addresses from handwritten notes on devices such as the Microsoft Surface, allowing users to scribble down reminders.
Cortana will also now watch your email to keep track of event and movie bookings in your calendar and notify you when they’re coming up, with the option of also booking an Uber driver in the US.
Cortana is also now available in English in Japan, Australia, and Canada and India.
Meanwhile the Microsoft Edge browser gets a bump to performance and better security, as well as a tab preview feature, which allows users to hover over tabs to get a preview of the open website.
Edge also syncs your Favorites and Reading list items across devices. However, support for extensions to enhance the abilities of the browser are not present, with Korst saying they will arrive early next year for testers in the Windows Insider program.