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Windows 10 Upgrade Possibilities Explained

A single Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) has been answering Windows 10 upgrade questions this week, even when Microsoft won't.

Windows 10's arrival is planned by Microsoft in late July, so individuals and organizations contemplating upgrades likely will have many questions at this point. Surprisingly, despite its impending arrival, the company mostly hasn't answered direct questions from the press. That circumstance isn't always the case, though. For instance, while Windows 10 pricing information wasn't published, a Microsoft spokesperson did provide the following estimated retail price details to Neowin, saying that Windows 10 edition prices will be the same as those of Windows 8.1. Here are those prices:

  • Windows 10 Home: $119
  • Windows 10 Pro: $199
  • Windows 10 Pro Pack (allows upgrade from Home to Pro): $99

Enterprise edition pricing wasn't mentioned. Microsoft will have Mobile, Industry and Education editions, too, so those details are yet to come.

While Microsoft has mostly stayed mum on Windows 10 upgrade details, that hasn't been the case in in a Microsoft community forum page devoted to that topic. In that forum, Microsoft MVP Andre Da Costa has fielded many basic upgrade questions. Of course, Microsoft's MVP designation is for professionals working outside of Microsoft.

Windows 10 Upgrade Q&A
Here are summarized questions and Da Costa's answers, which may or may not represent Microsoft's positions.

Q: Will the free upgrade to "Windows 10 as a service" mean that it will just be free for a year, and then you'll have to pay for it after that time?
Da Costa said that Windows 10 is not a subscription service and that the free upgrade promotional offer, which is good within a year of Windows 10's release, will not require payments after that initial one year's time. This interpretation, while likely true, may or may not conflict with past Microsoft statements. Many reporters heard Microsoft officials say that the free upgrade was just free for a year, but Microsoft seems to have since deleted those kinds of statements from its blogs and transcripts.

Will it be possible to roll back to the previous OS after installing the Windows 10 update?
Da Costa explained that Windows 10 will have recovery tools that will make it easy to move back to the previous Windows version, although he recommended backing up a system before installing the Windows 10 update.

What are the upgrade paths to Windows 10?
Da Costa posted an "Upgrade Matrix" clip from a Microsoft WinHEC session indicating which Windows 7 and Windows 8/8.1 versions can move to Windows 10. Essentially, users have to upgrade to Windows 7 Service Pack 1 and Windows 8.1 to get the update for desktop devices. There are few details about a Windows Phone 8/8.1 upgrade to Windows 10 at this point, but Microsoft implied back in May that the phone upgrade would arrive later than the July 29 Windows 10 rollout for PCs and laptops. In a blog post, Gabe Aul, lead of the data and fundamentals team for Microsoft's Operating Systems Group, implied that users would have to upgrade to Windows Phone 8.1 first to get the Windows 10 update. "For phones, Windows 10 will arrive later this year -- both on new devices and also upgrades for existing Windows Phone 8.1 devices," Aul wrote. "Even though Windows 10 will be arriving for phones later than it does for PCs, the underlying OS code is still the same."

Will the free Windows 10 upgrade notice be sent to my organization's end users?
Da Costa commented that "domain joined computers should not be receiving the update at all." However, eligible individuals or consumers are already seeing a "reservation app" notice. It appears on the system tray side of a Windows 7 desktop, for instance, and looks like this:

[Click on image for larger view.] The Windows 10 upgrade invite app, which appears on eligible systems. Source: Microsoft blog post.

How can the Windows 10 upgrade notice be eliminated from a system?
Da Costa described uninstalling update KB3035583 to do that.

Will domain-joined machines running Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 Pro editions be eligible for the free upgrade if they're not volume licensed but just run at a small business?
Da Costa said that "they will qualify, but you will have to log into a local Administrator account and initiate the upgrade." He also clarified in another post that organizations with multiple devices to upgrade would need to establish upgrade reservations for "each of your eligible Windows devices." Da Costa noted that while that's "not a suitable procedure … it's the only option available."

What happens to the Windows product key after upgrading to Windows 10?
Da Costa explained that the Windows 10 upgrade is an "in-place upgrade." An OEM license will get "consumed" into the Windows 10 upgrade and will bear those OEM retail rights. In another post, he added that "by default, Windows 10 builds are pre-keyed, meaning, you do not have to enter a product key and should not be prompted to enter one even after Windows 10 has completed setup." This key gets saved in the Windows Store, which is "one of the benefits of the new delivery system," according to Microsoft, per a Paul Thurrott article cited by Da Costa.

Will there be a Windows 10 ISO to install upgrades across multiple machines?
Da Costa said, "Yes, you will be able to download ISO media for Windows 10 RTM," although the installer will have to take care to upgrade those machines to the correct corresponding Windows 10 edition. He wrote this article, which describes how to upgrade using the Windows 10 ISO, when it's available.

Will it be possible to install the Windows 10 upgrade in a dual-boot configuration?
Da Costa said "No."

What are the Windows 10 Editions and features?
There will be three editions -- Home, Pro and Enterprise -- with some Mobile, Industry (embedded) and Education variants, although their specific features weren't described in any great detail at the time when Microsoft announced the edition names. However, Da Costa produced this table with far more details about the Windows 10 edition features than previously described by Microsoft. For instance, his table shows that Windows 10 Pro will have features such as BitLocker, Remote Access Services, a Group Policy editor and Windows Update for Business. Windows 10 Enterprise will have those features plus a Long Term Servicing Branch option and Device Guard. Da Costa also indicated that organizations will have greater flexibility with Windows 10 licensing when buying machines with OEM licenses: "For the first time, Microsoft will make it possible for managed IT environments to upgrade factory preinstalled OEM licenses whether it is consumer or business editions to volume license upgrades without formatting the device."

Will Windows Insider testers of the Windows 10 preview be able to upgrade to the final release?
Da Costa said it will be a free upgrade for Windows Insiders testers to the RTM (release to manufacturing) build of Windows 10. However, to qualify for a free upgrade to the final Windows 10 version, users need to upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1.

Will the Windows 10 Upgrade cause me to lose my data?
Da Costa said that "upgrading from Windows 7 or a later version will preserve your personal files, applications and settings." However, see the next response.

Which features won't be available after upgrading to Windows 10?
Da Costa listed them as follows:

  • Windows Media Center
  • DVD playback
  • Desktop gadgets
  • Preinstalled games
  • Floppy drive support
  • Windows Live Essentials (Windows Essentials)
  • Windows Updates
  • Windows Virtual PC with Windows XP Mode

He added that there's no substitute for Media Center, but Microsoft will provide a "free DVD playback app" in Windows 10. He also suggested using Hyper-V or Oracle VirtualBox as a substitute for Virtual PC with Windows XP Mode. Also, the free Windows 10 upgrade removes the traditional Windows Update control by end users over which updates get installed.

Will upgraders to Windows 10 have recovery media?
Da Costa indicated that users will be able to create their own recovery media.

What can be done about compatibility issues?
Da Costa recommended checking hardware and software vendors for the latest updates before performing the Windows 10 upgrade. Microsoft's "reservation app" may indicate the incompatibilities in advance, but users "can always run Windows Update after installing Windows 10 and download the latest drivers," he explained. He wrote an article on how to install Windows 10 drivers at this page.

What if a system's disk drive dies after upgrading to Windows 10?
Da Costa said that the upgrade product key is stored on Microsoft's servers, so users just have to reinstall Windows 10 on a new storage device.

Which Microsoft Office suites will run on Windows 10?
Da Costa indicated that these versions with the latest service packs are confirmed as Windows 10 compatible: "Office 2016 Preview, Office 2013/Office 365, Office 2010 and Office 2007." He added that "older versions … might work using compatibility mode." In another post, he noted that Microsoft Office doesn't come free with Windows 10, although there will be free Windows 10 Office apps that have limited features. Microsoft typically offers more complete Office apps for Windows systems through its Office 365 subscription plans, which is the expected route for commercial use of those apps.

Will antivirus programs be compatible with the Windows 10 upgrade?
Da Costa noted that existing antivirus programs on Windows machines likely will not be compatible with the upgrade if not designed for Windows 10. However, he thought that "most antivirus utilities should be upgraded by the time Windows 10 launches." He recommended uninstalling antivirus programs before initiating the Windows 10 upgrade process.

Known Windows 10 Info
Microsoft officially announced a date of July 29 for the commercial release of Windows 10 and described its main features. The company also has described the system requirements, which are essentially unchanged since Windows Vista. Microsoft claims that "if your PC can run Windows 8.1, you're good to go." Microsoft has disclosed the edition names of Windows 10, but so far it has not spelled out exactly which features will be associated with those editions (but see Da Costa's more detailed description here).

Windows 10 will arrive with automatic update system turned on, with only the Pro and Enterprise edition users having the capability to defer feature updates. Microsoft described three new Windows 10 servicing models at its Ignite conference last month. The "current branch" update model will be like the automatic Windows Update service familiar to consumers for Home and Pro edition Windows 10 users. There also will be a "current branch for business" approach (available for Pro and Enterprise editions) that will allow organizations to defer feature updates to a degree. Lastly, there will be a "long-term servicing branch" (Enterprise edition only) that allows features to deferred for about two or three years but not security updates.

Microsoft has suggested that most apps that ran on Windows 7 are expected to work on Windows 10. However, some apps won't be available after the upgrade to Windows 10, namely Media Center, Windows 7 desktop gadgets and Windows Live Essentials.

More details can be found in Da Costa's Windows 10 FAQ.

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