Microsoft Offers Free Support for Windows 11 and Windows 10 21H2 Commercial Previews
Microsoft announced September 2nd that it is releasing Windows 11 and Windows 10 (version 21H2) commercial previews. Organizations in the Windows Insider Program for Business can access the builds and get free support. The builds are available through the usual channels, like Windows Update, Windows Server Update Services (WSUS), Azure Marketplace, and the Windows Insider Program ISO download page. Microsoft says that free support will allow organizations to rest the releases, along with their preferred deployment method, before general availability.
How to get the commercial preview of Windows 11
To receive the commercial preview of Windows 11 or Windows 10 21H2, your devices need to be in the Release Preview Channel on the Windows Insider Program. But there are a couple of other requirements. Devices targeted for Windows 11 must meet the minimum hardware requirements outlined by Microsoft. Devices must also have KB5005101 installed, which is an optional update at the time of writing, before Windows 11 will be offered via Windows Update.
Microsoft says that the commercial previews of Windows 11 and Windows 10 21H2 will both be offered as optional updates. So, users can choose to stay on their current version of Windows 10. Devices that don’t meet the hardware requirements for Windows 11 will automatically be offered Windows 10 21H2 instead. Devices that are set to send diagnostic data to Microsoft but don’t meet the hardware requirements for Windows 11, will be marked as inapplicable in WSUS for Windows 11 upgrades.
If you are using WSUS, Windows 11 and Windows 10 are now available in the ‘Windows Insider Pre-release’ category and Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager.
Say Goodbye to Traditional PC Lifecycle Management
Traditional IT tools, including Microsoft SCCM, Ghost Solution Suite, and KACE, often require considerable custom configurations by T3 technicians (an expensive and often elusive IT resource) to enable management of a hybrid onsite + remote workforce. In many cases, even with the best resources, organizations are finding that these on-premise tools simply cannot support remote endpoints consistently and reliably due to infrastructure limitations.
Free support is only for commercial devices
Microsoft says that the offer of free support for these prerelease versions of Windows 10 and Windows 11 only applies to commercial devices. Microsoft defines a commercial device as follows:
We consider a device a commercial device if: a) it is not running Windows 10 Home edition; b) it is being managed by an IT administrator (whether via Microsoft Endpoint Manager or other endpoint management solution); or c) it has a volume license key or commercial ID, or is joined to a domain.
What’s new in Windows 10 version 21H2?
Windows 10, version 21H2 doesn’t contain any major new features. Instead, Microsoft is concentrating on productivity and security enhancements, including:
- Adding WPA3 H2E standards support for enhanced Wi-Fi security
- Windows Hello for Business introduces a new deployment method called cloud trust to support simplified passwordless deployments and achieve a deploy-to-run state within a few minutes
- GPU compute support in the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) and Azure IoT Edge for Linux on Windows (EFLOW) deployments for machine learning and other compute intensive workflows
Free support and free testing for Microsoft
For organizations that want or need to start testing these new versions of Windows quickly, then Microsoft’s offer of free support for the prerelease versions is appealing. But getting these builds out to devices in the real world before general availability gives Microsoft a chance to test them more widely. And hopefully, any major problems can be fixed before organizations and consumers start receiving Windows 11 and the 21H2 feature update for Windows 10 in October.