A first look at the Windows Server 10 Technical Preview

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Despite this, Microsoft says the new update cadence is coming to Windows Server 10, too. There are no details about exactly how this will happen, how customizable it will be and if it will be possible to opt out. This means it is too soon to come to a conclusion about this service and its impact on your operations.

But the bottom line is that in a couple of decades of working with enterprises and institutions, I have never heard one clamor for more updates of a bulkier, more significant nature delivered and applied automatically without any ability to customize how those updates are deployed. This is an area to watch and an area in which Microsoft needs to tread oh so carefully.

pasteintocmd-windows10-server

You can now cut and paste from the command prompt window -- here, I copied the text in Notepad and used CTRL+V to paste it into the command session.

Again, it is early days yet in the Windows Server 10 development cycle, so these drawbacks may well not apply to the final release, or they may evolve into something different. But they are still points to be aware of as we head into playing with this technical preview.

An option for checking out the preview: Boot to VHD

Let me also take this opportunity to point out how you can test Windows 10 and Windows Server 10 on real hardware to get a sense of performance and usability without resorting to either a virtual machine within another real install or mucking up your daily driver PC. You can boot from a VHD (virtual hard drive) with Windows 10 or Windows Server 10 preinstalled, use your real hardware and then boot back to your real installation.

It is better than a dual-boot because all of your Windows 10-related files, settings, applications and more are contained within one file -- the VHD -- that sits on your drive and can be backed up, moved to other PCs, run as a virtual machine and so on.

To configure boot to VHD, do the following:

  • Download the Windows or Windows Server technical preview ISO from either the Windows Insider site or from your MSDN or TechNet subscription.
  • Use the Windows 7 USB/DVD Download Tool to make a bootable USB flash drive; any drive with 8 GB or more of space should work fine. And yes, this tool works with the preview with no issue despite the fact that the name has not been updated since the days of Windows 7.
  • Open up Windows PowerShell and then type the following command to create a new 60GB VHD in the directory C:\VHD:

New-VHD -Fixed C:\VHD\WindowsTechPreview.vhdx -SizeBytes 60GB

Adjust those inputs as necessary for your own preferences.

  • Reboot your computer using the bootable flash drive you created with the technical preview ISO loaded into it.
  • Navigate through the installation wizard until you get to the "Which type of installation do you want?" screen that has two options on it: Upgrade and customer. Once you are there, hold down Shift and hit F10 to bring up a command prompt within the Windows Preinstallation Environment session.
  • Type dir C: to make sure that Windows sees your volume with the VHD on it. It might also be at D: or E: depending on how your disk is set up.
  • Once you have the right volume, type diskpart to enter the partitioning utility.
  • Enter the following commands:

select vdisk file = c:\VHD\WindowsTechPreview.vhdx

attach vdisk

exit

  • Close the command prompt window.
  • Select the Custom option on the "Which type of installation do you want?" screen.
  • Choose your VHD and click Next, and let Setup complete its process.

When your PC reboots, you will see a startup menu with the technical preview option and your existing OS listed as well. You can toggle between them at will. When you are done looking at the technical preview for good, you can simply boot into your previous OS, delete the VHD file and then use the MSCONFIG utility to adjust the boot menu to get rid of the technical preview option.

The only traces of the technical preview installation when you choose the "boot to VHD option" are the VHDX file itself and the boot menu option. No repartitioning, reinstallation or anything else is necessary.

multipoint-windows10-server

Windows MultiPoint Server, which was a product that let you attach several thin client devices to a single computer that shared sessions, has apparently been rolled into the core Windows Server 10 product. It is available as a separate role to simply install and use.

Final thoughts

I think this preview supports the premise of what we have come to expect from the Windows Server team over the past few years -- lots of great, measured, steady progress across the breadth of the product. There is not a whizbang "buy me now" feature in Windows Server 10, or at least there is not yet. Rather, what we see is a competent, capable server OS taking its next steps into making its technologies available more easily and more scalably.

Windows 10 on the client side has a lot to answer for, given the panning of Windows 8 by large swaths of the Microsoft user base, but on the server side, Windows Server 10 seems in this preview release like a very solid march forward on all fronts.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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