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.
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.
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.
Windows 10, version 21H2 doesn’t contain any major new features. Instead, Microsoft is concentrating on productivity and security enhancements, including:
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.