As announced today on the Windows for Your Business Blog, the Windows 8.1 Enterprise Preview is now available for all IT pros to download. We encourage you to leverage this preview release to get a jump start on your Windows 8.1 deployment project planning, using it with the new deployment tools that are already available to create a fully-functional model of the deployment processes that you will use once Windows 8.1 Enterprise is generally available later this year.
Final versions of the deployment tools, including the Assessment and Deployment Kit for Windows 8.1, Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2013, and System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager, will be available at the same time as Windows 8.1 Enterprise to ensure you can begin deploying this new version of the operating system right away.
For customers presently using Windows 8 Enterprise, the path to Windows 8.1 Enterprise is simple. You can leverage a fully-automated process to update existing Windows 8 systems. This process can be initiated using any software distribution or management tool, just by running “setup.exe /auto:upgrade” from the Windows 8.1 installation files. This time required to perform this update process varies based on computer and network performance, with the fastest configurations taking around 15 minutes. Typical update times will depend on your environment, so test it out in your lab to see how long it will take for you.
For customers currently using an older version of Windows, deploying Windows 8.1 Enterprise can be done using the free Microsoft Deployment Toolkit 2013 or using System Center 2012 R2 Configuration Manager. Either way, you get a completely automated deployment process that can:
- Capture all the data and settings from an existing Windows installation
- Completely remove the old operating system.
- Install the new operating system.
- Reinstall any needed applications.
- Restore the captured data and settings.
This traditional deployment process provides a simple mechanism for migrating all existing computers to Windows 8.1 Enterprise.
But we can’t talk about deploying Windows 8.1 Enterprise without also talking about compatibility, from a few different perspectives:
- Hardware compatibility. Nearly all computers capable of running Windows 7 or Windows 8 will be able to run Windows 8.1. Memory, processor, and disk space requirements are unchanged with the release.
- Desktop application compatibility. While there will always be a few apps that encounter issues when moving to a new operating system version, we expect Windows 8.1 will be able to successfully run a very high percentage the desktop apps that successfully run on Windows 7 and Windows 8.
- Modern app compatibility. The vast majority of Windows Store apps, as well as modern line-of-business apps written for Windows 8, will be compatible with Windows 8.1.
- Internet Explorer compatibility. Windows 8.1 Enterprise will include Internet Explorer 11, which continues the push toward providing the best HTML5 browsing experience while providing compatibility behaviors to ensure websites written for older versions of IE continue to work fine.
For those migrating from Windows 7 or Windows 8, this overall level of compatibility should make Windows 8.1 very easy to deploy. For those migrating from Windows XP, a prudent level of app testing is suggested (using a process like that described in Chris Jackson’s blog), but as the April 8th, 2014 end-of-support date for Windows XP is rapidly approaching, we hope this process is already well underway.
We strongly believe that Windows 8.1 Enterprise will be the new baseline for all enterprises, offering the best mobility, security, performance, and manageability. This is true not only for tablet and other touch-enabled systems, but also for traditional laptops and desktops. All will benefit from the Windows 8.1 improvements.
Senior Product Marketing Manager